BANDON, Ore. — There’s a long-standing tradition that says if one visits Bandon Dunes, one must post about it for all of Golf Twitter to see ... and fawn over.
For as long as I’ve been able to understand how special Bandon is, I’ve been one of those suckers. That is, until I was traveling for work last summer and got a phone call from my husband.
He wondered: once I got back home to San Francisco, would I like to set out again, this time with him, to take a road trip north, up to Oregon, to play Bandon for a few days?
Yes, I know - greatest husband ever.
I checked to see how quickly I could leave New York to embark on one of golf’s ultimate pilgrimages.
On the way from San Francisco, our car laden with snacks, golf gear and fly-fishing rods, we stopped in a little town called Dunsmuir to fish on the McCloud River, my husband’s price for a golf trip (I knew this had strings attached).
I had never been that far north in my state and, much to my surprise, it was breathtaking. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by, even if fishing isn’t for you. The towering Mount Shasta volcano is nearby, and there are tons of options for outdoor activities depending on what time of year you visit.
After a dose of good ol’ Americana in Dunsmuir and delicious food (I recommend the pesto cream sauce mussels at the town’s brewery), we were back on the road for the rest of the six-hour journey to Bandon.
My Bandon Dunes itinerary
People get into heated arguments about which of the five 18-hole courses at Bandon is their favorite. We only had three days of golf, so this was our itinerary:
Day 1: Bandon Dunes
It was warm, I played well and I made some really exciting putts right into the perfect orange burning glow of the setting sun. For those reasons, and probably from the sheer joy of just being there, Bandon Dunes sticks in my mind as my personal favorite course. I’ve never gotten to play links style golf in Scotland, but if I did, I imagine it would look a lot like Bandon Dunes. The word that comes to mind to describe it is “pure.”
Day 2: Sheep Ranch
Most people tend to obsess with the newly-unveiled Sheep Ranch, and I certainly understand why! Even though Sheep Ranch is just down the road from Bandon Dunes, it has a completely different feel and being able to see the ocean from every hole is pretty lovely too. We played on a gloomier day, but it took nothing away from the experience. In fact, it added to the awe of the ghost trees and created a grand reveal once the morning fog burned off, just as we made the turn and could see golfers and beautiful architecture sprawling every which way.
Day 3: Bandon Trails
Bandon Trails is not right on the ocean. Instead, it takes you into gorgeous trees which really makes you feel like you’re in the Pacific Northwest. Jimmy, our caddie, claims Trails as his favorite. And I would listen to Jimmy; he’s a stick. Fair warning though: the course is quite challenging, but worth it for moments like the vista at the top of the downhill, driveable par-4 14th, which is absolutely breathtaking.
(Side note: Not if, but when you go, ask for Andrew Kimbell or Jimmy Kelley to caddie for you and prepare for a grand ol’ time.)
When I looked around to see who else was enjoying Bandon, I saw plenty of men-only buddies’ trips, but also several other couples, so I certainly wasn’t the only woman on the premises. Our caddies said that they see several large groups of women each year, but that they don’t show up in the same numbers as the men.
So here is my pitch to the lady golfers out there who have ever thought about taking a group golf trip to Bandon, or anywhere at all, for that matter:
Bandon is a perfect destination for the reimagined ladies’ buddies’ trip if you can make it happen.
I just felt comfortable while I was there. Sometimes when you show up to a renowned resort, you can feel nervous and weary of your surroundings. Am I wearing the right clothing? Are they going to judge me if hit a bad shot? Can I be where I’m standing?
Thankfully, the welcoming staff went above and beyond to put us at ease. Golf can be seen as formal and intimidating, but that perception is loathsome to the folks at Bandon Dunes. They really just want you to be happy. And if playing golf makes you happy, Bandon really should be on your list.
As my friend Ashley Mayo, the head of brand for 8AM Golf (who even got engaged at Bandon), put it, “It's for people who want to play golf, golf, golf,” - men and women alike.
Abby Liebenthal, founder of Fore the Ladies, a New Jersey-based organization that provides golf resources for women and plans women’s golf trips and clinics, agrees. Though she’s never been there herself, Bandon is high on her list for an upcoming trip. What draws Liebenthal to Bandon is the way it allows golfers to “disconnect from everything but you, your playing partners and the golf.”
She’s also intrigued by the accommodations. Hotels are lovely, but sometimes it’s nice to have a place all to yourself with your friends. A whole group can stay in one of Bandon's on-site cottages. They allow you and your friends to go back in time to slumber parties – but for adults.
And for those who prefer a hotel, perhaps for couples traveling together, the hotel-style rooms at Bandon are equally comfy and enjoyable.
To be honest, my main priority, outside of golf, was the food. I was quite happy enjoying a glass of wine and a personal pizza by the fire at McKee’s Pub, while the restaurant at Bandon Trails, Trails End, features some Korean-fusion dishes that I still dream about. The resort has seven restaurants for you to choose from during your stay, so there are plenty of choices for a long weekend visit.
Although this has been a pitch for golfers, if a non-golfer happens to stow away, they won’t be bored. There are 10 miles of hiking trails on the resort property and even more trail options along the Oregon coast nearby. And hey, a visit to the resort spa for a massage would be great for anyone, especially after a long day of golf.
When it comes down to it, there is nothing better than friends around a fire pit with fantastic food and drinks – and the peace and quiet and the chance to look up at the gorgeous stars (although if I’m traveling there with my girlfriends there won’t be much peace and quiet).
At Bandon, I felt like I was on an island, away from everyday life’s twists and turns. Ladies, take it from me: you won’t regret it. Hopefully I'll see you there!