Published on Tuesday, August 16th, 2016 in Features

Old MacDonald, No. 7

Old MacDonald, No. 7

Story by Brian Beaky
Photos by Wood Sabold

Forty-seven days.

That was the day, for me, that the countdown began — the first day that I looked at the calendar and started thinking, How many days until I get to go to Bandon?

That’s what a trip to Bandon Dunes — the now-legendary golf resort on the southern Oregon coast — does to you. You’ll be sitting at your desk, just working away, when suddenly an image of a pin backdropped by the Pacific Ocean, or a giant sandy dune turning purple in the setting sun, will come into your head, and you’ll look at the calendar, do a quick calculation and say to yourself … “Forty-seven days.” The next time, it’s 41. Then 35. Then 30. Then 26. By the time you hit the three-week mark, you’re counting down every single day, your mind wandering constantly to those rolling fairways and towering cliffs. You start to smell the salt spray from the sea, and feel the wind raising the goose bumps on your arms as it blows hard across the fairways.

At two weeks, you feel a breeze blow through your hair and think, I’d better get to the range and work on my punch shots. At one week, you see tall grass on the side of the highway and think, I should get my wedges re-sharpened before I go. By the last few days, you’re barely functional, working for 5-10 minutes at a time before staring out the window, your body still present, but your mind already standing on the first tee. You wake up at 6 a.m. every day, fully alert, ready to get through the day as quickly as possible, so as to bring the countdown one day closer.

Then, one day, it’s “The Day.” And when you wake up on that day, it’s like no day you’ve ever lived before.

Any trip to Bandon starts with an early wake-up call. Whether driving (between 7-8 hours from the Seattle area) or flying (connecting through Portland to North Bend, Ore., about a half-hour cab or shuttle ride from the resort), there’s no shortcut to Bandon Dunes. And truthfully, that’s part of what makes it special; driving to play golf on the Peninsula or in Central Washington is a brief flirtation — you can have your fun, and still be home for dinner. Going to Bandon is a commitment.

Our hardy foursome opted to drive, both to save money and to have the option to drive into town in the evenings. You certainly don’t need a car at the resort — three of the four golf course clubhouses have restaurants serving a variety of fare, while McKee’s Pub, by the Bandon Dunes pro shop, is filled nightly with golfers rehashing the day’s wonders over reasonably priced burgers ($10), beer ($5-$7), pizza ($12) and other goodies. Complimentary shuttles, meanwhile, ferry golfers from resort lodging to the courses, practice area and restaurants. But, having a car gives you the option to head into town, or for non-golfers in your party to explore the nearby Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, or the shops, restaurants, fishing excursions and other highlights of Bandon-By-The-Sea.

The resort has all sorts of accommodations — from more affordable single and double rooms, to 1-4 bedroom condos. We stayed in a set of two-bedroom condos overlooking a quiet lake, in rooms that were modern, if austere — with large, comfortable beds, large bathrooms, free wi-fi, a wine fridge, TVs and … not much else, there’s just enough to keep you comfortable from sundown to sunrise, without too many extra frills.

The reality is, you won’t spend much time in your room anyway — because at Bandon Dunes, it’s all about the golf.

All four of Bandon’s 18-hole championship courses rank in the top-15 of Golf Digest’s most recent list of America’s top public courses, with Pacific Dunes trailing only Pebble Beach for the top spot. Nearly every golfer who visits Bandon Dunes plays more than one course each day — either 36 holes of championship golf, or 18 followed by a round at the 13-hole, par-3, Bandon Preserve. Replay rates drop by 50 percent for your second round; squeeze a third one in, and you can play for free. All of the courses are walking-only, though (with special exceptions if required), so come prepared to test your physical limits — when you’re pushing your (complimentary) push cart uphill, into the wind, for what seems like the 36th consecutive hole, you’ll understand why golfers say that mental and physical endurance is key to success at Bandon Dunes. Needless to say, this is no place to break in a new pair of shoes.

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