50 Words or Less
Pacific Dunes, located on the coast of Oregon, is the most highly-rated course at Bandon Dunes. With jaw-dropping views and a fun, unconventional layout, it’s not hard to understand why.
If you ask golfers to rank the four full-length courses at Bandon Dunes, you’ll hear every possible combination. Those that make the Top 100 lists, however, speak with one voice: Pacific Dunes is the best at Bandon and one of the best anywhere. I happen to agree with them.
One thing that makes Pacific Dunes unique from the other courses is The Punchbowl. Located steps from the Pacific Dunes clubhouse, The Punchbowl is a 100,000 square foot putting course designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, the same team that created Pacific Dunes and Old MacDonald. It’s free for resort guests – just put your ball in line, grab a drink, and enjoy rolling putts through some of the wildest undulations imaginable. You can play two holes to warm up for Pacific Dunes, or you can spend an entire day going round and round, listening to the dramatic cheers and groans that accompany bets won and lost.
Pacific Dunes is located just a wedge shot from the Bandon Dunes Practice Center. I discuss the Practice Center in full detail in my Bandon Dunes review HERE.
Customer Service & Amenities
Pacific Dunes’ clubhouse is home to Pacific Grill, one of the more upscale dining options at Bandon Dunes. Breakfast and lunch are casual, but dinner features fresh regional seafood and an excellent wine selection. There is also drink service on The Punchbowl during the afternoon.
If you want the full rundown on Bandon Dunes’ exquisite customer service, click HERE.
Finally, the turn stand at Pacific Dunes deserves a mention. The fare is expected – sandwiches, snacks, drinks – but you don’t need standout food when you have views like this.
Beauty & Scenery
The views at Pacific Dunes are without peer at Bandon Dunes…or, perhaps, anywhere. Tom Doak gets the most out of the Oregon coastline by using elevation to create ocean views on a number of inland holes.
It’s not just the ocean that makes Pacific Dunes such a beauty – it’s the elevation changes, the movement of the fairways, the enormous dunes, the gorse and the shore pines. Just like Bandon Dunes, there’s such a beautiful rhythm to the routing that every hole can be appreciated for its unique qualities. The ocean holes are more impactful because of the tree-lined inland holes.
Mike Keiser, the founder of Bandon Dunes, gave Tom Doak a lot of room to be unconventional at Pacific Dunes, and the course is better and more memorable for it. A quick glance at the scorecard starts to tell the story: seven par 4s on the front side and four par 3s on the back along with three par 5s.
You might think that seven par 4s would make the front nine boring; it’s anything but. The variety within the par 4s – long, short, easy, brutal, the dual-greens on #9 – means that you may not even realize you’re not playing many 3s or 5s.
In addition to the variety, what I love about Pacific Dunes is the balance. A lot of it is “obvious” – the short par 3s have small greens, the long ones have bigger greens – but it’s stuff that other courses don’t always get right. At Pacific, any time I was getting beat up, the course gave me something. Any time I got too high, it knocked me down a peg.
Similar to Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes offers loads of width off the tee, which is necessary given the winds. Unlike Bandon Dunes, there are places where you can lose a golf ball. They’re not numerous, but if your driver is going sideways, you can make some big numbers.
Another thing that separates Pacific Dunes from Bandon Dunes is that Pacific has more holes where you don’t need to hit driver. The course doesn’t take driver out of your hands, but it does give you options.
Your biggest opponent in hitting GIRs at Pacific Dunes is the wind. We played both round in wind that was never below 10 MPH and often exceeded 20. The greens appear to be generous targets, but you’ll need all that square footage to save shots that get redirected by the breeze.
The key to success at Pacific Dunes is giving yourself the right angle into the greens. If you set yourself up with proper drives, most holes will allow you to run the ball onto the green or give you a bail out area. When you’re out of position, you will have obstructed views and lines filled with hazards.
Greens & Surrounds
The greens are Pacific Dunes are large by any standard, but they are slightly smaller than at Bandon Dunes. While your first putt may be a little shorter here, it’s likely to be wilder. Most of the greens have at least one significant ridge or mound in addition to the myriad devious wrinkles.
A final difference between Bandon and Pacific is that Pacific has fewer good areas to miss around the greens. Bandon Dunes has short grass stretching in all directions; Pacific Dunes has more bunkers, gorse, and steep elevations. You cannot expect to get up and down easily at this course.
As much as any course I can think of, picking just three holes at Pacific Dunes feels ridiculous. I could easily pick a different trio and feel just as good about it. That said, here are the three I love most at the time of this writing.
#13 – Par 4
On two attempts, I made zero good scores on this hole, but I absolutely love the giant dune right of the green.
#3 – Par 5
The first two holes are solid starters, but for me, this is where Pacific Dunes really turns it on. The fairway is a mile wide, but the four bunkers give you something to think about. You get a look at the Pacific Ocean after the tee shot, and the hole closes with a fantastic green.
#14 – Par 3
I could just as easily pick #10 or #11, but #14 edges them out at this moment. You’re slightly off the coast, but the elevation brings even more wind into play as you try to get a piece of a fairly narrow green.
If you combined the views at Pacific Dunes with a mediocre layout, it would be in the Top 100. If you took the holes at Pacific Dunes and put them against a backdrop of landfills, it would be a Top 100 course. When you have these holes with these views, you have a golf experience that cannot be bettered.