This calendar year has been rough on everybody, but 2020 has been big for Bandon Dunes.
A few months after opening its final course, the Sheep Ranch, the famous resort on the Oregon Coast will host its most prestigious event, the 2020 U.S. Amateur. Golf Channel and Peacock will tag-team coverage beginning 6 p.m. ET Wednesday. Click here for the TV schedule.
Bandon Dunes deserves this moment in the televised spotlight. It has reshaped the entire golf resort industry since opening in 1999. Architect David McLay Kidd's original Bandon Dunes course and Bandon Trails host the stroke-play portion of the event Monday and Tuesday before the original links takes center stage for match play Wednesday through Sunday.
Owner Mike Keiser's decision to build a golf resort in the middle of nowhere in southwest Oregon and hire McLay Kidd, a young, unheralded Scotsman, proved to be incredible foresight. Bandon Dunes has matured into the premier golf resort in the world, home to six courses, including five treasured American links.
Every expansion over the past two-plus decades has been calculated and noteworthy, often setting trends still resonating throughout the industry. Resorts across North American continue to copy the Bandon blueprint. Here are the five most prominent ways Bandon Dunes has influenced the world of golf travel:
Walking-only golf with caddies
It's not fair to The American Club in Destination Kohler to say Bandon Dunes invented the walking-only resort course. The first was the Straits course at Whistling Straits, the monstrous Pete Dye faux links on the shores of Lake Michigan that debuted in 1998. But Bandon Dunes was the first golf destination that embraced walking as its heart and soul.
Resorts like Kohler, Kiawah Island and Pinehurst promote walking but have various cart options. You won't see a single cart on any of the six courses at Bandon Dunes. Walking with a caddie at Bandon Dunes is an experience beyond just a round of golf.
Following suit, Erin Hills Golf Course (2006) in Wisconsin became a U.S. Open venue, and Streamsong Resort in Florida - walking-only in peak season - has blossomed since 2012 into a 54-hole outpost that might be the best resort in golf-rich Florida. The latest edition to Keiser's walking-only club, Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin, matured in just three short years, boasting Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw's original Sand Valley course, Mammoth Dunes by McLay Kidd and soon, a Tom Doak course. North of the border, the walking-only Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs in Inverness, Nova Scotia, have taken over as Canada's No. 1 golf destination.
I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the two famous major championship munis that are walking-only: Bethpage Black (a major redesign in 1998) on New York's Long Island and Chambers Bay (2007) outside of Seattle.
Resorts in remote destinations
Resorts have always been built in beautiful, remote locations. The Fairmont Hotels at Jasper Park Lodge and Banff Springs in Alberta, Canada, were built almost a century ago. Bandon Dunes, though, took the concept next level. It made buddies trips to remote locations cool. Getting there isn't necessarily fun, but the trip feels more like a religious pilgrimage than just your average golf vacation.
Developers like Keiser are more willing than ever to give a remote destination with good land/scenery a shot at becoming the next coveted golf getaway. Who would have thought a decade ago that obscure addresses in Nova Scotia (Cabot), central Wisconsin (Sand Valley) or central Florida (Streamsong) would be flourishing as golf destinations? Inverness on Cape Breton Island and Bowling Green, Fla., only previously existed on the map as mining operations.
It's possible that none of these remote resorts exist without Bandon Dunes first blazing the trail: Forest Dunes (2002) in northern Michigan, Lajitas (2002) in western Texas; The Prairie Club (2010) in Nebraska and Silvies Valley Ranch (2017) in eastern Oregon three hours from Bend.Seneca, OregonResort2.06122857148Seneca, OregonResort2.06122857148
Short courses with an odd number of holes
Perhaps Bandon's greatest invention is its brand of short course, one with an odd number of holes. Created to deliver a quick, fun round before or after walking 18 regulation holes is where Bandon Preserve breaks the mold. C&C didn't skimp on anything when designing 13 holes for Bandon Preserve in 2012. It's located on premier dunesland with views of the Pacific Ocean. The final hole can be - and should be - played with putter off the tee. That's the definition of different.
The short course craze has since gone gangbusters. Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri has added two, the nine-hole Top of the Rock in 2014, and the 17-hole Mountain Top by Gary Player in 2017. Tiger Woods is making a name for himself designing par-3 courses. He started at the 12-hole Oasis at Diamante Cabo San Lucas in 2016 and took the concept private with the Playgrounds at Bluejack National outside Houston. Now he's redesigning the nine-hole Peter Hay at Pebble Beach Resorts set to open next year.
Now every hot architect and resort wants in on the fun. From 2017-18, so many debuted: Gil Hanse's nine-hole The Cradle at Pinehurst and flexible six-hole Roundabout at Streamsong Black; C&C's 17-hole Sandbox at Sand Valley; the nine-hole Ashford by Kelly Schumate at The Greenbrier; and Dan Hixson's nine-hole Chief Egan and seven-hole McVeigh's Gauntlet at Silvies.
New in 2020 are 10-hole courses at Forest Dunes by Riley Johns and Keith Rhebb and The Nest at Cabot by Rod Whitman and Dave Axland. Coming in 2021 are the 14-hole Quicksands at Gamble Sands by McLay Kidd and the 10-hole Baths at Blackwolf Run by Chris Lutzke. Quicksands will join The Cradle with music piped in to liven up the mood.
Who's next?Seneca, OregonResort4.01
Putting courses as entertainment
Like short courses, putting courses are en vogue. They're free and a good way for guys to bond and bet at any point in the day, pre- or post-round. At certain resorts, they can grow the game, attracting families and beginners.
The Punchbowl, which opened at Bandon Dunes in 2014, can't take all the credit for this movement. The origin of the putting course dates back to The Himalayas at St. Andrews in Scotland (there's also a smaller version of the same name at Treetops Resort in northern Michigan). Pinehurst actually beat Bandon Dunes to the punch (see what I did there?) by incorporating Thistle Du in 2012. That putting course moved and expanded to 75,000 square feet in 2017 when The Cradle was built.
You'll see many of the same places, again, hoping to replicate the Punchbowl. Some of these newer putting "courses" are disguised as oversized putting greens, while others are actually played as individual holes like all-grass mini-golf. Both formats can work if designed properly.Notable putting courses around the worldThe Thistle Du at Pinehurst Resort was rebuilt in 2017, expanding to 75,000 square feet of putting fun. Courtesy photoEnjoy a drink and some fun on the Little Meadows Putting Course, which opened in 2020 to celebrate the 50th anniversary at Black Butte Ranch in Oregon. Courtesy photoThe "putting island" putting course at Bucks Run in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Buck's Run GCThe Himalayas Putting Course, right next to the Old Course, can be played by anyone at St. Andrews. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorIn Texas, the Whitewater Putting Course features 18 holes of grass putting as well as fountains and sand bunkers. Brandon Tucker/Golf AdvisorPutting course at Eagle Crest golf club in Redmond, Oregon. TripAdvisorTreetops' Himalayas putting course in Gaylord, Michigan. Treetops ResortA popular new addition to Sea Island: The Driftwood putting course. Matt Ginella/Golf AdvisorIn the Palm Springs area, the putting course at Indian Wells stands out at night. Mike Bailey/Golf AdvisorTom Watson Putting Course at Big Cedar Lodge in Ridgedale, Missouri. Big Cedar LodgeA view of the putting course at Gamble Sands from the facility's lodging. Back9Ben, Local Golf AdvisorPeople playing on the little hawk putting course at Hawk Hollow Golf Course in Bath, Michigan. Lansing.orgThe miniature golf course designed by Peter and Alice Dye outside the Children's Museum in Indianapolis. SYLawnThe Gauntlet putting course is part of the great clubhouse complex at Streamsong Black. Courtesy of StreamsongIn creating the Punchbowl, Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser took inspiration from the putting courses at St. Andrews and Pinehurst. Courtesy of Bandon DunesIn addition to the putting green, there's also a Putting Course right next to the Meadows Course at Sunriver Resort. Mike Bailey/Golf AdvisorThe nine-hole putting course winds through Quail Lodge & Golf Club. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf AdvisorA sunny day view of Putting Course at Marina Bay Golf Course. Marina Bay GCMackinac Greens Putting Course at Mission Point Resort Mackinac.com
A putting course called the Commons was added at the private Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club and now features 18 topsy-turvy holes. Brandon Tucker/Golf Advisor19 Greens Premier Putting Course in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada lit up at night. 19 Greens Premier Putting CourseA view from a tee at 18 Hole Putting Course from Thunersee Golf Club. Thunersee GCThe HillTop Putting Course at Forest Dunes GC in Roscommon, Michigan is free of charge and doesn't require a tee time to play. Forest Dunes GCThe free 18-hole putting course is another way to entertain children at Crystal Springs Golf Resort in Hamburg, New Jersey. Jason Scott Deegan/Golf AdvisorA view of the putting course at Angel Park Golf Club
* The Old Wagon Putting Course debuted in 2015, stretching 150 yards just steps from the Lodge at The Prairie Club.
* The Gauntlet debuted in 2017 at Streamsong Black as a cool hang outside of the course's modern, all-glass clubhouse.
* The Tom Watson Putting Course at Big Cedar Lodge was added in 2017 as a part of Mountain Top's facilities.
* The Driftwood Putting Course at Sea Island was created in 2018 during the major resort investment that added cottages and redesigned the award-winning Golf Performance Center.
* The Cascade Putting Course at Gamble Sands came to life when the Inn at Gamble Sands was built in 2018.
* Opening in 2020, The Drumlin is lit for night-time play as one of the new amenities for overnight guests at Erin Hills.
* The Hilltop was revived at Forest Dunes in 2020 after being dormant for years.
* The 90,000-square-foot Breaks Putting Course at Turtle Bay on Oahu's north shore launched earlier this year adjacent to the clubhouse's pro shop and Lei Lei’s Bar & Grill.
* The Little Meadow Putting Course at the Big Meadow Golf Course at Black Butte Ranch also debuted in 2020, the 50th anniversary of this unique Oregon resort.
* New putting courses at Pebble Beach's Peter Hay and Kohler's The Baths will debut next year as part of their short course projects.
Even older putting courses are improving. The Whitewater Putting Course, which winds through rock and sand in the heart of Horseshoe Bay Resort in Texas, got a recent facelift, including lights for evening rounds. A new sportsbar built in the center of it all delivers "good food and a nice vibe," according to Brandon Tucker's review.
Fescue turf in America
Once again, the Straits course beat out Bandon Dunes. It was the first to introduce fescue fairways to America's resort golf scene in an effort to replicate the playing conditions of an overseas links. The fairways and primary rough at both Whistling Straits courses are a blend of three fescue cultivars, according to the resort website, while the deep rough is a blend of four. A cultivar is a variety of plant, in this case fescue, created by selective breeding.
Although Bandon Dunes wasn't first in adopting fescue, the unwavering success growing and maintaining pristine fescue in the mild, yet temperamental, coastal conditions of Bandon, Oregon, is what gave owners and architects at other new U.S. course construction projects the guts to give it a try at their sites ... often at a heavy risk.
Both Erin Hills and Chambers Bay were able to hold U.S. Opens despite issues with their fescue turf. The much-maligned fescue greens at Chambers Bay have since been replaced by poa annua. The change last year is being universally praised. Although turf wasn't a huge issue during its lone major, Erin Hills has decided to replace its fescue fairways with bentgrass, reseeding all 18 holes this summer.
By most accounts, the fescue turf at Gamble Sands and The Loop, Doak's reversible course at Forest Dunes, continue to fare well. That's good news to golfers and architects who love bouncy, firm conditions.
"I personally think, it’s the finest golfing turf surface ever," Coore said. "Even to this day, I know of no other turf that enables the ball to react so well like it does on fescue fairways."Ginella: Tips for playing Bandon Dunes