May 30, 2014 in Sports

Picture perfect golf

Two days, 72 holes and lasting memories at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes
By The Spokesman-Review
Jim Meehan photo

Yardage books and caddies are highly recommended.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Golf Digest’s greatest 100 courses in America

19). Pacific Dunes

38). Bandon Dunes

49). Old Macdonald

70). Bandon Trails

Golf Digest’s greatest 100 public courses

3). Pacific Dunes

6). Bandon Dunes

12). Old Macdonald

16). Bandon Trails

Golf Magazine’s top 100 courses in the world

20). Pacific Dunes

63). Bandon Dunes

88). Old Macdonald

I changed the screensaver on my computer shortly after returning from a two-day, 72-hole golf marathon last month at Bandon Dunes.

It wasn’t an easy decision. I took a bunch of pictures. My older brothers Jack, Pat and Mike took a bunch of pictures. We had starters take the obligatory pictures of our foursome standing with drivers in hand on several tee boxes.

We have dozens of snaps of greens framed by stunning Pacific Ocean backdrops. We have pictures of rolling hills of gorse bordering the humps and bumps of a twisting fairway. We have visual evidence of bunkers meandering along the edges of cliffs high above the ocean. We have one of a stately Rolex clock near the practice center. We photographed three deer wandering along a path.

The first picture I snapped was on our first hole, a par-4 at Old Macdonald. My drive was a tad left and all I saw in front of me was a raised bunker that made the bottom section of the flagstick disappear. The last one I took was from the side of the 18th green at Bandon Dunes with our hotel in the background.

I’m not much of a picture-taker but this place simply demands it. There’s no place in the U.S. that compares to Bandon and its four 18-hole links courses, 13-hole par-3 track and massive Punchbowl putting course.

The four courses have their own identities. Green fees are the same at all four, which speaks to the excellence of each course. All four have earned their share of accolades.

“There’s nothing better than having four guys together at the bar and they’re arguing which course is better,” director of golf Jeff Simonds said. “And none of them are backing down.”

It’s pure links golf, or as the motto above one of the pro shops reads, “Golf as it was meant to be.” Players come from all over the world to play at Bandon. States represented the most, in no particular order, are California, Illinois, Oregon, Texas and Washington. Florida and New York are close behind.

“The most common response I get (from British and Scottish golfers) is, ‘You guys are every bit as authentic as we’d heard,’ ” Simonds said. “They say, ‘We felt like we were playing at home.’ ”

It was roughly a 10-hour drive for me and about 7 hours for Jack, who lives in western Washington. Flying into Portland, which leaves about 4½ hours of drive time, or into Eugene, which leaves about 2½ hours behind the wheel, can shorten your travel day.

It’s the longest trip I’ve taken by car for a golf story. I once drove, played two rounds at Suncadia in Cle Elum and drove back home, 18 hours. I once drove, played three courses near I-90 and drove back home, 16 hours. I’ve driven to western Washington to play Chambers Bay, another links gem that will host the 2015 U.S. Open. I’ve made that drive four times now, another clue that I’m a huge fan of links golf.

It was mid April, mostly sunny and the temperatures were comfortable in Bandon. Calm morning winds gave way to steady breezes in the afternoon. We thought it was windy. Everyone at Bandon Dunes informed us the conditions were pretty tame.

My right knee, which is in need of an upgrade, is about the only thing that voiced objections to this 2,400-acre masterpiece along the southern Oregon coast. It prevented us from sampling the par-3 course before our journey home. I wasn’t able to play golf for the next two weeks, but it was worth every swing and every step.

I’m certain of two things. One, I’ll go back to Bandon someday. Two, I went with a screensaver of No. 6 at Bandon Dunes, a 161-yard par 3 with a spectacular ocean view. The coastline jags along the left edge, red flag starched on a green with several distinct swales. A couple of yellow flags from Pacific Trails can be seen in the distance.

Just one of 72 holes worth remembering.

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