Ask Golf Advisor: The ideal itinerary at Bandon Dunes?

With five courses and a short course, it's hard to pack it all in visiting Bandon Dunes.
The 460-yard sixth is the longest par 4 at the Sheep Ranch, almost identical in yardage to the 464-yard, par-5 18th.

It's a question that plagues every golfer preparing to visit Bandon Dunes: How do I get the most out of limited time?

As the saying goes, it's definitely a #firstworld problem. With five Top 100-caliber courses and a can't-miss short course, Bandon Dunes is an embarrassment of golf riches. The longer you stay, the better. So what do you do with only three nights sandwiched between two long travel days? I'll do my best to answer this conundrum brought up by a user who sent us the comment in a story about the resort:

"What itinerary would you recommend to get the most out of three night stay for four guys driving up from Monterey. We would be capable of walking two rounds in one day. Thank you."
Curtis Montgomery

Montgomery doesn't share the full details of his trip, like what time of day his group will arrive and what time the crew will leave, so I'll answer this #AskGolfAdvisor query as best I can, knowing that driving up from Monterey will be a full 10-hour haul, whether it's the shorter Pacific Coast Highway route (580 miles along 101) or the longer but probably faster I-5 route (620 miles).

Arrival day

You can see the Pacific Ocean on all 13 holes on Bandon Preserve at Bandon Dunes.

Everybody will be stiff from being crammed in a car, but the euphoria of a safe journey deserves a celebration at the end of the day: A putting contest on the Punchbowl, the 100,000-square-foot putting course designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. If there's still time before sunset, head to Shorty's, a nine-hole short course by David McLay Kidd at the practice center that will get you in tune with the bump-and-run shots needed the next several days. Both are free and easy. A beer and quick meal at McKee's Pub will send everyone to bed in short order.

If the crew arrives in time for some "real" golf, the 13-hole Bandon Preserve short course at sunset will be spectacular. To save your legs and some money, it might even be wise to replace one of the big courses with this short course at some point over the next two-plus days. It's that good.

Day 2

There's really no "perfect" order for which courses to play which days, but I'm operating under the assumption you should play them all. Since walking 36 a day isn't an issue, start out on Old MacDonald, the tribute to C.B. MacDonald by Urbina/Doak. Playing it in the morning hopefully gives your foursome a break from the winds that might kick up that afternoon.

Head over to Bandon Trails for lunch at Trail's End. That afternoon, play what more than a few golfers believe to be the best course on property, Bandon Trails by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw. The trees should hopefully help block out the wind or weather if it kicks up. Dinner should be low key because there's another 15 miles worth of steps waiting tomorrow.

Day 3

Again, pick whichever order you wish, but this is the day everybody dreams of ... Bandon Dunes by Kidd and Pacific Dunes by Doak back to back. The debate about which links is better can be debated the entire drive home. Pacific Dunes might be tougher, but it's also more spectacular. Whether it's for lunch or dinner, a meal at the Pacific Grill should be part of the day.

By playing the second round at Bandon Dunes, you get to experience perhaps the best part about the resort - you don't have to get all dressed up for dinner. Feel free to show up in the Bunker Bar or The Gallery with the same clothes that accompanied your 36-hole marathon. No one will care.

Departure day

Check out early and pack the car in advance for the grand finale. I haven't played the Sheep Ranch yet, so I can't proclaim it's greatness yet. However, the photos look out of this world. Its epic clifftop setting and shots should inspire tired legs to keep walking. An early tee time might beat the winds that forced Coore and Crenshaw to design a course without bunkers. And if they don't, just look around. Millions of golfers would love to take your place. Have a great trip. I'm jelly!

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
5 Comments
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Commented on

are you required to stay at the resort? or is it just less expensive? am planning to go before april 14

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What about those of us who can’t walk the 20 plus miles of walking necessary
to complete the 5 rounds of golf? I hear there are no motorized golf carts available?
No accommodations for the senior golfer?

Commented on

I believe you can reserve a cart with a Doctor's note. In the past you'd have to have a looper drive it.

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Good suggestions! I have played the Sheep Ranch and it is worth all the hype! (I was in the fortunate few who were able to play preview rounds, as owner of Bandon Crossings down the road). It is also wildly busy, so I would recommend trying to get on in the morning (those winds may get rough on there on the edge of the Pacific) but play it whichever day you CAN!

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My legs and back hurt already, but the pain will be worth the memories. Enjoy!

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Ask Golf Advisor: The ideal itinerary at Bandon Dunes?