Review: Pacific Dunes

Information:

  • Bandon, Oregon
  • Public – Daily Fee
  • Tom Doak (2001)
  • 17th in the US (Golf Digest), 2nd public in the US (Golf Digest)

By now, everyone knows anything worth knowing about Bandon. It completely changed the game, and before the resort was built in 1999, there was one main attraction on the West Coast: Pebble Beach’s resort.

In 2001, Doak opened Pacific Dunes, a stunner on the Pacific Ocean rivalling Pebble Beach in pro shop debates and rankings (Pebble is usually 1, then Pacific Dunes at 2 for the best public tracks in the country). As of writing this in May, 2019, Pacific Dunes is the best golf course I’ve played, and is quite the round. What I truly loved about this golf course is the oceanside holes are amazing, but the inland holes are awesome too, and feature some really interesting designs.


The course starts out generous (which is key–this golf course is hard, but fair), as the first plays 370 from the back tees. The hole is straight, usually with a fade wind off the Pacific, left.

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It’s certainly not the most breathtaking hole here, but the green complex at the 1st is fun and sporty, almost quirky. Some mounds and hummocks short right, and then a bunker long and left are the main defences. It is smaller, so a well struck wedge is key here.

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We then make the journey towards the Pacific at the 368 yard, par 4, 2nd. This was one of my favorite strategic holes. One centreline bunker and two bunkers left are the main defences here, and usually plays right into the face of the wind. Note: when it blows here, it blows. I played just over a year ago in April, 2018 and it was gusting up to 65MPH, with a constant 48MPH.

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The second utilizes one of my personal favorite design elements. The bunkers in the driving zone are all the left, but the green complex is guarded short right. Either way, even on a 370 par 4, you’ll have a tough shot. It just depends if you want a wedge or short iron over the bunker, or if you want to challenge the bunkers with the tee shot.

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The greens are undulated, and I mean really crazy when I say that here throughout the course, as you can even see on the picture above from the middle of the fairway at 2.

The third is the first par 5 at Pacific Dunes, playing one yard shy of 500 due west.

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Once again, the key is navigating the fairway bunkers. They’re all on the left side of the hole, and that’s kinda where you have to go if you want a chance at getting home in two (although it was impossible the day I played). If you don’t want to get there in two, play it out to the right and make it a three shot hole.

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The green is bunkered short right featuring wild contours. I wish I could find words to describe the green complexes and help everyone visualize what they play like, but the problem is they’re that wild that I can’t think of the best way to describe them. The only one I know how to describe is the 17th later in the round because it’s a redan!

Getting back on track here with the routing, the 4th plays up against and cozy to the Pacific Ocean, now on the right side. At 463 yards on the card, it’s no slouch, but I’m told the predominant wind is actually off the Pacific, so hit a high draw type shot off the Pacific and watch it fly. Pacific Dunes plays so firm that when you get a favoring wind you can literally hit it 400 yards. But when it’s into the wind, good luck.

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The green is accessible in the front, guarded by a bunker left and the ocean right.

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One of Pacific’s best qualities is the ability to cater to every skill level with a ton of options. You won’t see any 20 handicap struggling to get it over bunkers here, there’s always an alternative way to get on the surface here.

After the fourth, we make our way back inland for a few holes starting with the 199 yard, par 3, 5th. This is a really cool 3 that feels like it’s neighbour course, Bandon Trails.  Through the dunes, bunkers hug both sides of the green complex.

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Heading back north, the 6th is a really funky drivable par 4 that if you aren’t careful, you could end up making a 10–seriously. Below is the tee shot, and apologies in advance for the idiot who walked in front of me while taking a picture here. We were not on good terms after this for the rest of the round.

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It’s 316 on the card, so there’s no doubt it’s enticing, but that massive bunker that he’s standing in front of on the left isn’t even the biggest issue green-side, featuring a massive run off area on the right that I unfortunately forgot to get a picture of.

Below, however, is the layup area. It’s no easy wedge either, playing up and over the bunker to a blind green complex. The first time player here has no idea what line to take, and doesn’t even know about the fall off area right. A very stern 316 yards from Doak.

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The 7th plays through some of the shrubbery back south. A fairly uneventful tee shot after 2, 3, 4, 6, so let it rip on the 464 yard par 4.

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I was a big fan of the green surrounds here, though, making up for the mild tee shot. This is one of the few approach shots that feels like it should be hoisted up into the air, as opposed to almost every other approach shot here that feels best either skipping it in or with a mid ball flight. The rock outcropping(s) and the bunkering here really make a cool look.

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The 8th is a mid length 4, playing 400 on the nose. A fairway bunker on the right is in play because it plays ever-so-slightly into the fan off the left, so it requires the attention of the player.IMG_1993 2.JPG

The design element I mentioned on 2 and 3, where you have to play towards the bunker to get the best angle, is flipped here. The left side is the better option, as a bunker hugs the right side of the green that’s already built at an angle towards the back right.

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I think the 9th at Pacific Dunes is my favorite hole, and maybe of any course I’ve played so far. A double green feels tacky at other courses I’ve played, but at the 9th it felt right. Two different holes, with a shared fairway, playing different depending on the grounds grew that day. It’s only 406 yards on the tee, but it plays semi-blind to the fairway.

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It feels like you’re supposed to go left off the tee, which you can. But the green I played, and I’m pretty sure the most common location for the flag to be is the right green, so you have to pay attention and hit it to the right side. Besides, even to the left green being up top is probably better, so keep the tee shot on the right. Below is a view of the lower green.

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On the 9th I hit it dead centre, literally in the middle of the fairway, and had a blind approach to the pin on the upper green. Like I said, keep it right off the tee!

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Once you get up to the top level, you see the green complex is quite easy to access, but from the middle or left side of the hole it’s quite intimidating.

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One of the most tasteful features of the double green at the 9th is the use of a double tee at the 10th. If you play to the lower green that day, the lower tee for the 10th is where it’s set up. Likewise, upper to upper, which gave us the best view of the 206 yard par 3, 10th.

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Playing northwest into the Pacific Ocean, the 10th is a spectacular hole, and the first of back-to-back par 3’s (really). This hole is so good you don’t even realize there’s no bunkers until you either read this, played it, or looked back at pictures (me, literally as I’m writing this. I didn’t notice there was no bunkers here).

After what I would consider a long par 3 at 210 into the breeze, you made the turn dead north at the 148 yard par 3, 11th, which is likely the signature hole at Pacific Dunes.

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The tee shot is breathtaking here, and one of the best spots in golf. But the hole isn’t over; the green is amazing as well, and I actually managed to get a good picture of the green complex here.

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I’m certain we had the hardest pin on the course here the day we played!

After the all world stretch of 9-11, you get a bit of a breather at the 529 yard par 5, 12th, moving a bit back inland. A fairly generous tee shot here, just one bunker in the driving zone if I remember correctly.

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The green complex here is another winner, with a massive bunker short left and a fairway bunker on the right side right where you want to layup. Another exciting green complex!

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From the left side of the hole it’s virtually impossible to get it close to any pin location with the big bunker and the green sloping off that.

The 13th is back on the ocean, going the opposite way the 4th went. 444 yards with ocean all down the left, this is another great hole.

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The tee shot allows you ample room to get one in play, in fact, the entire hole is fairly generous, if you hit your shots. Right is in some really harsh bunkers, and left has environmentalists complaining about the effects a lost golf ball has on a pack of Orca Whales (sorry bad joke I love animals), but it gives you a lot of options. Even into the green complex, which plays slightly uphill from the fairway, you can choose to fly it in or bump it up.

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My advice: if there’s wind at all, you’re best to keep it low and bounce it up. The ocean on the left is a lot closer than you think, especially if the ball gets up in the air its anyones game, and the massive sand dune right is almost just as bad.

The 14th is the shortest par 3 at Pacific Dunes, maxing out at 145 yards.

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Missing the green complex is almost a certain bogey, but it’s a big green so a good strike will you get on the floor. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this hole because I rattled it off the flagstick in search for my first ace. What a place it would’ve been to get that!

The 15th makes the trek back up to the clubhouse, covering 539 yards of it.

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Playing straight downwind the day I played, with a generous tee shot, this basically became a par 4 the day I was there, but I imagine it’s a good risk-reward hole with the cool green complex.

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From what I imagine is a normal spot to hit the tee shot

Like I previously mentioned, I thought this green  complex was cool, and likely makes for some cool risk-reward options coming in.

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The 16th is probably the quirkiest hole here. At only 338 yards, it’s quite short, and actually drivable with the prevailing wind. I hit 2 iron here because I wasn’t really sure what to do and I was about 20 yards short so driver is likely too much club depending on the day.

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The green surrounds is what happens when you leave a moist tee shirt out in the sun too long. Rumbled and rambunctious is the best way I can describe the contours, making it a really fun green!

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After the 16th, 17-18 is as good of finish as it gets. The 17th is a 208 yard redan built perfectly for the terrain given.

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For those who are new to golf architecture, a redan is a template style of hole that slopes front right to the back, with the green at a 45 degree or so angle, bunkering guarding the left side of the green, and sometimes/usually, a bunker at the start of the fairway or over the line you should take. There’s also ‘reverse redans,’ that goes the other way. It’s styled after a hole at Scotland’s North Berwick.

The hole here is actually quite severe, and requires a shot bled out to the right in order to stay on the green. I don’t think there’s a pin here you could fly the ball to unless Bandon got a huge rain storm the morning of.

The 18th is the longest hole on the course at 591 yards. A massive bunker is on the inside corner of the dogleg, like really, really massive should be avoided at all costs. Even left of the bunker is better than in the bunker–somehow.

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The green is well-guarded, but if I remember correctly it plays a bit downwind, so it feels shorter. It’s a possibility to get home in two on the home hole, but you need to hit a good one to navigate this green surround.

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A great finishing hole on a fantastic golf course.


To recap, Pacific Dunes is breathtaking. The options are abundant, the golfer is never bored, and the oceanside holes are spread out throughout the round. Doak used the property as best as he could to create a truly world class golf experience, and a round of golf nobody could forget.

Aside from the golf course, the resort is out of this world as well. You feel like it’s a different planet or era, it’s seriously something that cool. If you haven’t, get to Bandon ASAP!

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