By Blaine Newnham
We played it once, and so mesmerized by the beauty of the place, walked it a second time, time to really appreciate the art that had been sculpted out of the dunes on the edge of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Now in its second decade, Bandon continues to push golf's envelope, even in a sour economy when much of the world waits to see what's next.
Owner Mike Keiser waits for no one. In May he will open the fifth course at the resort, the beguiling Bandon Preserve, 13 holes of par-3 golf on the southwest edge of the property where the dunes are as daunting as they come.
The Preserve is cute - really cute - but is far from the grab-a-couple-of-clubs-and-a-beer-cute the way Shorty's, at the south edge of the practice center, is.
The Preserve's first green is located on sand that was previously part of the putting green at Bandon Trails. Indeed, Trails serves as clubhouse for both courses.
The scorecard tells you that no hole is longer than 152 yards, and five are fewer than 125 yards, even from the back tees.
So much for the scorecard. The first hole, near the Inn, is listed at 138 yards. To a back pin and into a 30-mile-per-hour wind, it took at least 180-yard shot to get there.
"What Mike Keiser wanted,'' said architect Bill Coore, "was a collection of holes that could stand up to the par 3s on the big courses, holes like No. 11 at Pacific Dunes and No. 2 at Bandon Trails.
"Real golf on a smaller scale.''
Coore admitted that he and Crenshaw had wanted to use the dunes near the ocean in the building of Trails, but that Keiser had pushed for more of an inland course as a respite from the winds and weather of the other Bandon courses.
"In the end,'' said Coore, "the pockets of dunes didn't lend themselves to longer holes. It is a very special piece of property.''
The Preserve didn't look the way I thought it would after listening to both Coore and Keiser describe what they were after, holes like No. 2 at Bandon Trails, a green surrounded by sand and trees.
As they tell the story around the resort, Keiser pushed for as much grass as he could get, areas not only on which to land a golf ball, but to be walked and enjoyed.
What has transpired is a magic land of dunes and hillocks circled by grass paths, kind of a great place for an Easter egg hunt as well as 13 holes in an afternoon after you'd played Pacific Dunes in the morning.
"Yes,'' said Coore, "there is more grass than we originally thought, but not an inordinate amount. It also allows us to move mowers through the property for maintenance.''
The greens are large, the bunkers are large. Even though the holes are small. Each hole has many tees, some layered from front to back, some in tiny areas along the edge of a dune, some on paths that aren't in play until they are.
Holes dart out to the ocean and back. The mysterious 13th hole - it was originally going to be a 12-hole course - heads north into the prevailing wind. You use all the requisite shots, and then some.
It's all fun, a beautiful environment for golf with the Pacific Ocean as well as the 17th and 18th holes at Bandon in the distance.
During the prime season, the green fees are $100 at the Preserve, where some of the money will go to preserving the coastal land and vegetation, particular the silvery phacelia that on much of the Oregon Coast has been threatened by the encroachment of beach grasses and gorse.
Coore said that in the building of Bandon Trails every time they removed gorse and created an open sandy area the silvery phacelia appeared, and thrived.
The idea is that golfers will use afternoons to play the new course if they are unable to go another 18 on the regulation layouts.
"I was riding one of the shuttles and eavesdropping on some good players,'' said Coore. ``One of them said he would play the par-3 course first on every visit to get used to the tight lies around the greens.''
With the Preserve all but done, Keiser is looking to complete a land transfer with Coos County that would allow him - acclaimed architect Gil Hanse has already drawn preliminary plans - to build a 27-hole public course a few miles south of the town of Bandon.
The new course would be apart of the resort and run by KemperSports. It would apparently be available to locals - county residents - for as little as $25, but escalate to more than $200 for prime-time guests of the resort.
In another development, the resort revealed that Bandon Trails will be shut down next winter for a couple of months while Coore and Crenshaw do some work on the 18th green.
"Personally, I've watched too many balls do a U turn and roll 30 yards down the hill in front of the 18th green,'' said Coore. ``I don't think we ever realized how fast the fairways on Trails would get.''
Coore said the plan is to lower and soften the front of the green to keep balls on it, especially when the winds howls from the north and into the face of an oncoming shot.
It is also possible, while the course is closed, that Coore will make some slight adjustments to the 15th green.
"You won't notice it if we do,'' he said.
Revised: 04/18/2012 - Article Viewed 21,928 Times - View Golf Course Profile
Written By: Blaine Newnham
Thirty five years as a sports columnist - last 23 in Seattle - during which he witnessed five Olympic Games as well as Tiger Woods four consecutive major championship victories. He covered Willie Mays when he played for the San Francisco Giants, Steve Prefontaine when he ran for Oregon, Ken Griffey Jr. when he debuted for the Seattle Mariners. He walked 18 holes with Ben Hogan at the 1966 U.S. Open, and saw Larry Mize chip in to beat Greg Norman at the Masters. He has written two books, including Golf Basics for Barnes and Noble and played everywhere from Ballybunion to Bandon Dunes, his most recent trip in May, a nine-rounds-in-seven-days gambol from Dublin to Northern Ireland and back. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wa.
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