50 Words or Less
Bandon Trails is the local favorite at Bandon Dunes. Even without ocean views, this Coore & Crenshaw masterpiece stands shoulder-to-shoulder with its coastal brothers.
In the months leading up to my trip to Bandon Dunes, I consumed everything I could about the resort. One trend I noticed was that, among people whose opinions I respect, Bandon Trails was the choice as their favorite course. I found that sentiment shared by an even larger percentage of the locals. Having now played the course myself, it’s easy to see why so many pick Bandon Trails as the course they want to play again and again.
A few steps from the clubhouse, on your way to the first tee, you’ll find a practice green. It’s a perfect mirror of the greens on the course, but your warm up should include all aspects of your game. Bandon Trails demands a lot from your iron play, so a stop at the Practice Center is strongly recommended.
For a full description of the Practice Center at Bandon Dunes, click HERE.
Customer Service & Amenities
The clubhouse at Bandon Trails is home to another one of Bandon’s restaurants, Trails End. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and has its own unique menu items. On the recommendation of our caddie, Dane, I got the Wagyu Beef Sliders, which were excellent. Trails End also has a private gazebo for hosting large private dinners.
For more on the excellent customer service and amenities at Bandon Dunes, click HERE.
Beauty & Scenery
Bandon Trails is unlike any other course at Bandon Dunes because it’s not on the coast. However, just like Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, and Old MacDonald, Bandon Trails has a routing that tours a variety of landscapes and leaves you in awe of the diversity of its natural beauty.
The course opens with two holes played among the sand dunes before turning into the woods. After climbing up, down, and through the forests, the course again opens up to the dunes on #18.
Throughout the round, golfers will appreciate the rugged, untouched aesthetic that is common to Coore & Crenshaw designs. The bunkers have slightly ragged edges, and the vegetation is allowed to grow into them. Where borders require definition, it’s provided by bare, twisted tree branches that fit the vibe so perfectly one might believe they were manufactured for the role.
Though Bandon Trails is the least windy of the courses, it still gives golfers very wide fairways. That generosity is balanced against the fact that most holes are tree-lined, so you can lose balls with wild drives.
If you’re playing from the appropriate tees, there will be plenty of opportunities to hit something other than driver off the tee. While distance is always an advantage, this is a course that rewards precision more than power. Driving it into the right spot can mean a better view of the green, an approach free of hazards, or extra yardage via the sloped fairways.
Our caddie, Dane, said that Bandon Trails is his favorite course because of the way it “rewards good shots and punishes bad shots.” This applies primarily to the approach shots, especially on the back nine. Holes 11, 13, and 15 have some of the best-protected greens on the property, utilizing sand, water, and aggressive slopes.
While Bandon Trails does not have the wind to defend it, golfers are tested on their ability to judge elevation. There are very few flat shots, and some approaches can play dramatically uphill.
Though elevation and bunkers provide plenty of difficulty, the thinking golfer can avoid a lot of trouble. The greens are sizable – most are over 40 yards deep – and there are safe areas if you can keep your eyes off the flag.
Greens & Surrounds
While Tom Doak tends to get most of the praise (and criticism) for designing wild greens, Coore and Crenshaw’s work at Bandon Trails should not be overlooked. The greens here are anything but ordinary, loaded with ridges, shelves, and valleys. At Bandon Trails, you will need solid play to get to the green, and you can’t let your focus slip once you’re there.
The surrounds at Bandon Trails are the most challenging on the property. Unlike Bandon Dunes where most greens have tight grass in every direction, Bandon Trails tends to give you only one area to miss. Even if you do avoid the bunkers, the slopes around the green make up and downs anything but a given.
#14 – Par 4
This is easily the most-discussed hole at Bandon Trails. On the scorecard, it looks like another short par 4. On the tee, you realize that you’re dealing with a wildly sloped fairway and the smallest green on the course. Unless you play a precise drive, your second shot will be a challenge. My suggestion: rip driver, embrace the difficulty of the second shot, and be thrilled if you walk away with par.
#5 – Par 3
The shortest par 3 at Bandon Trails tops out at 133 yards, but it’s all carry to a multi-tiered green. If your tee shot doesn’t find the same level as the pin, par is unlikely.
#8 – Par 4
Yes, I’m picking another short par 4. And yes, I’m probably biased because I drove the green. But in all seriousness, I like this hole because it’s a quick breather before you get tossed into the gauntlet of the back nine. It’s much more reward than risk, so swing hard and try to get an eagle putt.
If you’re thinking about skipping Bandon Trails because it’s not on the water or because the list-makers rate it below the other courses at Bandon Dunes, don’t. Trails is the most complete golf course at Bandon – every facet of your game will be tested. Whether or not you agree with the locals and name it your favorite, no one can argue that it doesn’t deserve to be considered among the best courses in Oregon or anywhere.
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