Golf trips to Scotland are a bucket list item for many golfers. The game was born near the wind-swept beaches of Scotland and many golf enthusiasts maintain that the purest form of golf is Scottish links golf. There are no tree-lined fairways nor lush green teeboxes like you would typically find in the United States. Links golf is played between the short grass and the long grass, with the wind coming off the ocean being the biggest obstacle from tee to green due to the fact that there are no trees in sight.
After a Scottish golf experience without having to hop the pond? You can experience it at Bandon Dunes. The idea behind Bandon Dunes is simple. What if there could be an authentic links golf experience in the United States? It would require a wind-swept beach, and when developer Mike Keiser stood on a piece of property just north of Bandon, Oregon, he knew he had found his spot. He hired a Scottish golf course architect to design an authentic links golf course, and Bandon Dunes was born. The course opened to the public in 1999.
Of course, Keiser had no idea how popular Bandon Dunes would become. When one links golf course could not handle the demand, he opened another course on the property. And then another. And then another. And what was originally one lodge on the property has grown to five different lodging options. It is truly one of the top golfing destinations in the United States.
Here are some tips for planning a once-in-a-lifetime golf vacation to Bandon Dunes.
1. Fly Into Southwest Oregon Regional Airport
The closest major airport is Portland International Airport, and the drive from the airport to Bandon Dunes is approximately 4.5 hours. But United Airlines now has daily flights to Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend, just 25 miles from Bandon Dunes. These flights originate from both the San Francisco (SFO) and Denver (DIA) airports, so flights can be booked from many destinations through one of those two airports to North Bend.
There are also regional airports in Eugene, Oregon (2.5 hours away), and Medford, Oregon (3 hours away), which carry flights from Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, and United Airlines.
If your flight is to one of these regional airports, the drive down the Oregon coast on Highway 101 has some of the most spectacular coastal highway views in America. If flying into Eugene, a stop at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, approximately halfway between Eugene and Bandon Dunes, could be the perfect mid-drive respite.
2. Stay On The Property
There are five different lodging options on the Bandon Dunes property. Those who visited Bandon Dunes when it first opened may not be familiar with all of the lodging options that have opened in the last 10 years.
The largest accommodation on the property is The Inn. This lodge features both single- and double-occupancy rooms as well as a bar area with a view of the 18th green of the Bandon Dunes course. Next door to The Inn is The Lodge, which has both single-bed hotel rooms and four-bedroom suites.
There are also cabin-style accommodations at Bandon Dunes. The Grove cottages were built with golf groups in mind. Each cabin has four bedrooms. Chrome Lake is a series of 21 individual buildings with three hotel rooms in each. The most affordable options on the property are the Lily Pond cottages. If you’re traveling with a foursome, all four players can stay in one room with two queen beds, a sitting area, and a private deck.
3. Give Yourself Enough Time To Play All The Courses
Many people are unaware that there are four courses at Bandon Dunes, plus a 13-hole par-3 course and an 18-hole putting course. Each is a unique golf experience, which is why a longer trip to Bandon is always preferred.
Bandon Dunes, built in 1999, is the original course on the property and is the one must-play course in Bandon. There are differing opinions on which is the “best” course on the property but there is no disputing that Bandon Dunes is central to the Bandon experience.
Due to the success of the Bandon Dunes course, Pacific Dunes was built two years later and opened in 2001. Designed by American golf course architect Tom Doak, Pacific Dunes is very similar to the Bandon Dunes course. Like Scottish links,the course has no trees. There are sandy waste areas and vast views of the Pacific Ocean.
The Bandon Trails course, designed by former PGA golfer Ben Crenshaw and his design partner Bill Coore, provides a completely different golf experience on the property. Bandon Trails is further inland, away from the ocean and tucked up into a pine and spruce forest. Yes, trees. This course is much more like the typical American golf experience with fairways framed by trees and meadows.
The most difficult course on the property, with a USGA course rating of 74.4, is Old Macdonald. Named for renowned golf course architect C.B. Macdonald, designer of such courses as the St. Louis Country Club, the Chicago Golf Club, and The Old White Course at The Greenbrier, Old Macdonald was designed by Tom Doak to pay homage to the style of C.B. Macdonald.
There are also two more golf experiences on the property designed for those who might not want to walk 18 holes of golf but want to experience Bandon Dunes. Bandon Preserve is a 13-hole par-3 course near the ocean that invites golfers to experience golf at Bandon without the full 18-hole commitment. Finally, The Punchbowl is a putting course on the property. There are 18 holes on this massive putting green and a “course” laid out for putting from hole to hole.
4. Get A Caddy
The golf courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort do not have carts. Much like the links courses in Scotland, the only option is to walk the course. Caddies and push-carts are available for all golfers, so don’t think that this will be 18 holes of carrying your golf bag around.
Links golf is different from the type of golf many golfers are used to in the United States, so in addition to facilitating movement around the course, a local caddy can help you learn how to play on this unique terrain. Caddies are available at the course and golfers pay the caddies directly. Many groups will utilize the caddies as double-bag caddies (meaning they’ll carry two golf bags), so each golfer splits the cost of the caddy with his or her playing partner.
5. Eat At The Restaurants On The Property
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has six restaurants on the property. Options range from the Bunker Bar, a typical post-round bar with drinks and snacks, and the Tufted Puffin Lounge, with bar food and drinks, to The Gallery Restaurant with it’s Wine Spectator award-winning wine list. Several restaurants on site serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so golfers truly never have to leave the property.
6. Spend A Day In Coos Bay And North Bend
If you do want to venture out to explore the area, Coos Bay and North Bend, about a 25-minute drive north, are the best destinations for restaurants. Options range from Hilltop House, a higher-end restaurant with many local seafood dishes in North Bend, to 7 Devils Brewing Company, a microbrewery in Coos Bay that serves pub food. Both Coos Bay and its sister city North Bend sit on Coos Bay, the largest bay along the Oregon coast, so many restaurants have fantastic views of the water.
Be sure to stop at Shore Acres State Park on the drive to or from Bandon. Shore Acres is the former estate of timber baron Louis Simpson. You can tour the grounds and visit all of the manicured gardens on the property, then follow the path to the ocean overlook to watch the waves crash against the rocky shores. Shore Acres is adjacent to two other state parks -- Sunset Bay State Park and Cape Arago State Park. All three parks offer spectacular views of the Oregon coast.
7. Bring Your Rain Gear
This is the Oregon coast. Keep in mind that you won’t be golfing along a beach in the Virgin Islands. Winds can be heavy at times, and rain can come in off the ocean quite often. It is a good idea to pack rain gear for every round as well as long-sleeve shirts and pants. Bandon can be golfed in the typical golf polo and shorts or skirt, but when the weather changes, it changes quickly.
That said, stormy skies can clear at a moment’s notice, leaving you with a perfect sunset over the ocean as you sip your post-round cocktail on one of the many patios overlooking the course and the waves.
Whether it’s a weekend trip to play one of the courses or a full week to play every 18-hole course plus Bandon’s par-3, golfers keep coming back to the area, and Bandon keeps adding golf courses with a fifth course currently in the works.
All four Bandon courses made the latest Golf Digest rankings of the top 100 golf courses in the United States. The highest rated course is Pacific Dunes, 17th on their list. Bandon Dunes comes in at number 36. Old Macdonald is ranked 50th and Bandon Trails is ranked number 69. The ability to play four Golf Digest top 100 golf courses on one property is unmatched anywhere in the United States and makes this far-flung collection of sand dunes in a remote corner of Oregon one of the top golf destinations in the United States.