Review: Bandon Trails

Information:

  • Bandon, Oregon
  • Public – Daily Fee
  • Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (2005)
  • 70th in US (Golf Digest)

Technically, Bandon Trails is considered to be the worst 18 hole course at the famous Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. However, when you arrive at the Bandon Trials clubhouse (there’s three separate clubhouses) you are told the opposite, as most that I talked to actually preferred Trails over Old Macdonald, Bandon and Pacific Dunes. I was in for a treat.

This was my first introduction to true “links golf,” and I know Trails technically is closer to the parkland setting I’ve become accustom to, but it fits the bill.

The first hole is a short par 4, playing 8 yards under 400 yards. The fairway looks like the ocean waves rolling in on high tide; rumpled and unpredictable. A huge blowout bunker that’s 287 or so to carry pretty much takes driver out of play, but you’ll likely still get wedge in thanks to the firm and fast playing conditions.

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The second is a 214 yard par 3, playing a club downhill. I felt like the visuals here were a little weird, as from the tee you can’t see the entire hole. No issues here from me, but it felt a little strange this early in the round.

 

 

The third is one of the holes you see from the road driving in, and is a beautiful 549 yard par 5. The tee shot really only has one bunker in play, which is the middle bunker, so swing away and avoid that. Anything less than driver brings the bunkering left in play.

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After getting it in the fairway, your main objective on either your second or third shot is to avoid going long. There’s a harsh run off area, so anything middle green is ideal. If you avoid that, it’s smooth sailing.

I feel like the fourth is fairly underrated. It’s a really high quality 408 yard par 4 with some really good fairway topography that makes the tee shot interesting; go left with a blind landing area, or go right with a tougher tee shot but blind approach.

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The approach shot is a cool little downhill wedge shot that can be dumped short of the green and let the slopes take it towards the green complex.

The fifth is a cool little short par 3 with a crazy green complex. Maxing out at 133 yards, it’s just a wedge, but big bunkers guard the front and getting on the correct tier is essential.

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The 6th is a very interesting hole. I felt like the tee shot played awkward on the first time around, however, with time I could see this being the most fun tee shot on the course. A middle bunker is in play with iron or wood, but driver takes it out of play. The landing area with driver is blind, and severely slopes to the left, so it’s a definite risk-reward tee shot.

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The 7th is probably the most picturesque hole so far, but I didn’t like the hole as much as the first six. The hole plays more than it’s 440 yardage as it’s uphill. IMG_1826.JPG

The 8th is the first of the drivable par 4’s at Bandon Trails. A typical Coore/Crenshaw course has at least shortie that most players can at least get to the front edge. It’s a fairly standard hole, moving slightly to the left on a fairly flat piece of land.

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The 9th was enjoyable, however it was pretty boring. At 567 yards, it’s not really a reachable par 5, so it’s a standard three shot hole. The hole is dead flat, and doglegs to the left. It’s a fairly benign hole.

The 8th and 9th aren’t standout holes, and continue the most boring stretch on the course. The 418 yard 10th continues that, as it’s just a solid hole. It’s not really memorable, but isn’t a drawback at all. I felt like the green complex was the best part of the dogleg left par 4, as the tee shot is very wide and offers little penalty for a mishit shot.

The 11th was a really great hole, and is probably my favorite hole all round. 445 yards, doglegging down and to the right around some bunkering carved into the hillside, the tee shot was awesome, and with the green complex guarded on the right by water, the player is forced to hug the inside corner bunker complex for the ideal angle.

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I’m not really sure if the hazard on the right is manmade or natural, but either way, that’s the beauty. It fits in so well that you can’t really tell because it feels right. No rock walls, waterfalls or perfectly blue water, just a good ‘ol pond.

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The 12th is the token long par 3 on the course. For a 6788 yard course, it felt a little out of place for a par 3 to play 242 yards. I feel like they could’ve kept the hole’s integrity the same at, say, 225 yards, but either way, I didn’t mind the hole.

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The 13th is a good 401 yard, par 4. The hole is a snake shape, moving to the left, then slightly back to the right. The tee shot is pretty boring, but the green complex is among the best on the course. A sharp drop off on the right, as well as a chipping area left and a false front short make this green have a lot of character.

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After the almost out of place walk up to the 14th tee, you’re met with arguably the most controversial hole at the resort. At 325 yards, it’s reachable for every player since it usually plays a little downwind and downhill. The fairway is crazy, though, and is a either “love it or hate it” situation. Two green side bunkers are the main guard to this hole, and split the hole in half; on the right, the lower level, and on the left, the upper level that runs into the front left tongue.

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From the upper tier, it’s a pretty easy pitch or full wedge, if you elect to layup, but if you hit it to the lower tier, you are left with a very difficult wedge shot to either the back right tongue or the front left tongue. I don’t think the controversy is just. It’s a good hole that features some really severe land, but at 325 yards, and most players approaching the green with a wedge, if you’re out of place you’re punished. It’s a great hole, I think!IMG_1897.JPG

Also a good note: don’t go long, it’s nasty. Below is the view from the 15th tee looking back at the 14th green.IMG_1900.JPG

After the 14th, you make the trek back towards the clubhouse, starting with a 406 yard par 4. Bunkering in the middle fo the fairway likely takes driver out of the hand, but it’s a short hole so no worries. The green is angled towards the back right so the play is to aim for the left side of the fairway. IMG_1905 2.JPG

The 16th is among my best par 5’s I’ve played, featuring some really good topography that the 530 yard hole rolls over. IMG_1911.JPG

The fairway is generous, so swing away. A good tee shot leaves you a chance to go for this green in two, but the approach plays significantly uphill, with bunkering short right.

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If the 14th isn’t the signature hole, 17 is. A mid length par 3 at 182 yards, A sharp false front and some aggressive contours on the green are the main defence here. When the winds up, which it always seems to be in Bandon, the bunkering everywhere around the green seems easier to hit than the green.IMG_1920.JPG

The 18th brings us back to the oceanside, windswept dunes. It’s one of the longer par 4’s at 420 (!) yards, moving ever-so-slightly to the right. It’s a good tee shot to open up and hit a big one.

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The green complex is nice, but nothing noteworthy. It’s at the base of some smaller dunes that are on the left, with some short grass to the right.


Overall, Bandon Trails is a good golf course. It’s a great walk, and overall a spectacular experience. It’s one of the more enjoyable, and fun rounds of golf I’ve played, and I would return for sure. I’ll have to play Old Macdonald and Bandon Dunes before I make an assessment of which course is the best and worst at the resort, but if Trails is the worst course here, well, the bar is set really high. A good tip I heard is a lot of people play Old Macdonald, Pacific Dunes, and Bandon Dunes in the morning, and move to Trails in the afternoon to avoid the wind since it’s the only non-oceanside course here. Make sure you get to the resort as soon as you can and experience some of the most fun golf you can find!

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