At GOLF.com, our hobby is also our job. That means, just like you, we spend much of the year teeing it up high, swinging hard and trying to avoid double bogeys. But some courses we stumble upon are simply more memorable than others. Here, in a breakdown of the best public courses our staff played over the past 12 months, are those spots.
Trapped in a bunker, I was thrown a lifeline. Or, in this case, a more-lofted sand wedge.
Over Labor Day weekend, I was fortunate enough to have made my first trip to Bandon Dunes, and over three days, I was fortunate enough to have played five of the six courses on the Bandon, Oregon property. (I missed just Old Macdonald.) And fortunately for me, Tyson was along for the ride. Especially deep into the back nine, and deep in the sand, at Bandon Trails.
“Here, use this,” Tyson said, handing me a wedge.
“Thank … Wait, that’s not mine,” I said as I reached for the club — from my playing partner’s bag.
“Trust me,” Tyson said. “Trust me. Just take it.”
Despite knowing I was about to *bend* a rule of golf (fine, break), I grabbed it, dropped my third shot to within 3 feet and got up and down for a par five. Before tapping in, I walked over to Tyson.
“Wow, thanks, man. I think that’s the best shot I hit out of the sand in about five years,” I said.
Tyson laughed. And told me to buy my own, like, yesterday.
Bandon, as written on these pages and elsewhere, has been described glowingly, and I’ll very succinctly add that, yes, every word you have read is true, you need to go if you haven’t, and you need to go back if you have. (I plan to.) But to me, two things made a great trip even greater. We were lined up with the same caddie for four of our five rounds. (I carried my own at Bandon Preserve, a par-3.) And Tyson was the caddie with whom we were paired.
A little bit about our bagman. He’s originally from the Akron, Ohio, area. He played basketball against LeBron James in high school, and his team lost by a point. He once caddied for the former president who had a book written about his potentially dishonest ways on the course (coincidentally, the author of that book was also at Bandon the same weekend we were), but when we asked Tyson for some gossip, all he did was smile. What happens with a caddie stays with a caddie, it seems.
The play on the Las Vegas slogan is intentional. I won’t soon forget this exchange, either. Talking about vacation spots after discussing folks’ zeal for Bandon (they’re booked already for all of next year), we asked Tyson where he wanted to go with his well-deserved time off.
“Vegas,” he said. “Never been.”
“I love it there,” I said. “The gambling, the pools … “
“No, I’m planning on going to some places you haven’t been,” he said. And I’m still trying to figure out whether that was a compliment or a dig.
And that’s the thing. Yes, he shouldered our bags. As fog set in from the Pacific during our round at Sheep Ranch, he also pointed out lines and, at one point, even positioned himself about 150 yards up the fairway so we knew where to hit. (A brave man, indeed.) But the camaraderie was less handing over clubs and reading putts and more B.S.’ing and hand-slapping.
It was at Sheep, too, where we played our last round together. The touch of being paired up with the same caddie throughout the stay was that the looper can actually best make sense of your game, then help you best make sense of the property. Yes, that’s a caddie’s job, and, by all accounts, the Bandon bunch does it better than most. But Tyson genuinely was excited. After the 18 at Sheep, he knew that we each shot our lowest rounds of the trip.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “That’s why I’m doing this.”
He said it twice more.
We then gave our hugs, settled the payment and went down our different fairways. After a short 16 hours together, over a short two days, after stories of LeBron and a president, after either a dig or a compliment, after two low rounds, leaving was all a bit more depressing than a bullet shot out of a bunker.
Which I now know how to better avoid.
Thanks again, Tyson.