15 Photos

Field guide: Bandon Dunes goes from great to grand with addition of Sheep Ranch

Ed. note: As GOLF’s chief photographer and visual editor, Christian Hafer visits some of the most gorgeous and exclusive golf courses and properties in the world. Here, in his Field Guide, he’ll take you along for the ride. Lucky for us, Christian never leaves home without his camera. Follow Christian Hafer on Instagram here.

Way out west, hard against the Pacific Ocean, sits a collection of golf holes unrivaled by any other in the world. Twenty-one years ago when it first opened, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort changed American golfers’ perception of what a golf resort could be.

Rugged and remote, the first course, Bandon Dunes, created by then-unknown Scottish architect David McLay Kidd, was an instant hit. More dynamite courses from other accomplished architects came next: Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald. On June 1, comes the latest installment in the Sheep Ranch (but more on that later).

A view of one of the greens at Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Christian Hafer

There’s also the Punchbowl, a massive 100,000-square-foot putting green with more options and undulations than you know what to do with. But my favorite place on the property might be The Preserve, a 13-hole par-3 course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw that’s the perfect way to start, end or break up a day at Bandon.

Bandon is remote, but getting there is actually much easier than people think. I’d gladly travel twice the distance for a trip to Bandon. There are flights into Portland (four hours north), Eugene (two hours north) and North Bend (45 minutes away), and once on property you never have to leave. Everything is designed to let golf be the principle focus and encourage as much golf as possible — 36 holes a day, 54, you name it. Just make sure to snag some of Bandon’s famous protein balls. Oh, and dinner without the meatloaf at McKee’s would be a borderline sin, especially after a rainy wind-whipped day on the links.

The Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes officially opens on June 1. Christian Hafer
The Sheep Ranch is the second 18-hole Coore & Crenshaw course at Bandon. Christian Hafer

If you gave me one last place to visit on this earth, I’d pick Bandon. Hands down. Maybe I’d consider Scotland or something else overseas, but after playing Bandon’s offerings once again and then experiencing the Sheep Ranch, I’m all in. Once a “secret” Tom Doak course famous for its lack of yardages, the course in its rogue state encouraged you to make up holes on the fly. Today the property boasts the best views in Bandon — and some of the most dramatic green locations I have ever seen. Sheep Ranch is also the windiest site among Bandon’s courses, meaning keeping sand in bunkers wouldn’t be realistic, so architects Coore & Crenshaw opted to shape a few bunkers, leave them be and let the turf do its thing.

What’s beautiful about Bandon is that everyone has their own course ranking. The variety, quality and location of the golf all makes for an unmatched experience. Sure, it rains and it’s windy (you could also get gorgeous sunny weather), but that’s part of the experience. If you’ve never been to Scotland to play golf, Bandon will take you there. I’ve sat under the moonlight, sunset and sunrise just to take a break from the world. We play golf to escape and have fun, and we play golf to travel and experience life. There’s no better place in the world to check those boxes than on the Oregon Coast.