PIG Pro Travel Tips: Bandon Dunes

Tips from the Travel Pros

One of the goals of Plugged In Golf is flattening the learning curve for this game.  We’re going to start applying that to golf travel in our first installment of PIG Pro Travel Tips.  This edition is focused on our favorite destination, Bandon Dunes.  We’ve spent hours arguing about this list and have narrowed it down to eight tips, listed in order of importance.

Please note that packing for Bandon Dunes is not mentioned because it is its own topic.  You can find our packing advice HERE.

PIG Pro Tip #1: Get a Caddie

Having a caddie will improve everything about your Bandon Dunes experience.  On a practical level, they’ll guide you through the course.  They know the best ways to shave strokes (and steps) off your round.  They’ll also help you preserve your energy and your joints.

Beyond the practical, caddies will add to your enjoyment.  These guys and girls are all characters in their own right, full of stories and the history of Bandon Dunes.  Plus, no praise is more meaningful than a sincere, “Good shot” from a caddie who’s seen it all.

If you’ve never golfed with a caddie before, click HERE.

Pro Tip #1A: Get your bag down to a fighting weight by removing extra clubs, balls, training aids, etc.  If you don’t, the caddie may do it for you.

Pro Tip #1B: Do whatever your caddie says.  Play the tees they recommend, putt the lines they tell you to.  Trust me, trust them.

PIG Pro Tip #2: Play Punchbowl and Preserve

It may seem crazy to allot some of your precious time to a giant putting green and a par 3 course, but any Bandonista will tell you that the Punchbowl and Preserve are as much a part of the experience as any of the “real” courses.

The overall atmosphere at Bandon is great, but the vibe is strongest at The Punchbowl.  The recipe simply can’t be beat: 100,000 square feet of rollercoaster putts, some friendly wagers, a couple adult beverages, and the chance to interact with golfers outside of your group.

The Preserve, a Coore & Crenshaw designed, 13-hole par 3 course, may be the most beautiful short course on Earth.  Combine the views with the unique challenges of these holes and the omnipresent possibility of an ace and you have an experience that’s unforgettable.

Pro Tip #2A: Use your putter on Preserve #13.

PIG Pro Tip #3: Play Every Course

To quote Dylan, “If your answer to, ‘What’s your ranking of the Bandon courses?’ includes the words ‘didn’t play’ you did it wrong, full stop.  Do not call me to play golf anymore.”

While that may be a little harsh, the spirit of it is correct.  You’ve come this far, you need to play all of the courses.  That may mean playing 36 holes/day, so you need to get in shape before you go.

You can read more about preparing yourself for the trip HERE.

Pro Tip #3A: If you’re doing 36 holes in a day, make Bandon Trails your morning round.  It’s the most demanding course on the property, so you’ll want to face it with your A game.

PIG Pro Tip #4: Meet The Wizard

Grant Rogers, the Director of Instruction at Bandon Dunes, is not only a spectacular player and a great instructor, he’s one of the best storytellers you’ll ever meet.  Convince your group to book a lesson with him so that you can learn how to play links golf from a true master and pick up some stories that you’ll be re-telling for years to come.

Get a taste of Grant’s wisdom and humor HERE.

PIG Pro Tip #5: Eat Everywhere

The variety of golf at Bandon Dunes is equaled only by the variety of ways to fill your belly.  Just as with the courses, we suggest you try them all.

For many Bandonistas, McKee’s Pub is the quintessential dining experience.  It’s laid back and has the welcoming vibe that envelopes the resort.  Getting the meatloaf is a must-do.

Pacific Grill has a seafood focus and spectacular nighttime views.  For lunch, the Tufted Puffin, with its views of the original course, cannot be beat.  Trails End, at Bandon Trails, is the smallest eatery and can be reserved for private group dining.  The Gallery will get your day off to a strong start with a breakfast buffet.

Finally, while the Bunker Bar is a great spot for a nightcap, don’t overindulge.  Adding a hangover to a twelve mile walk is not recommended.

PIG Pro Tip #6: Start Your Day at the Practice Center

Our oldest team member pushed back on this one, telling us he “only has so many swings.”  You may be thinking the same thing, but hear me out.  You don’t need to go to the Practice Center to beat thousands of balls.  You need to go there, much like the Punchbowl, for the vibe.  When you get off the shuttle at sunrise, you’ll be surrounded by dozens of other adults who are equally geeked out about a full day of amazing golf.  It’s the essence of Bandon Dunes – shared enthusiasm for this beautiful game.

If you are feeling ambitious, you can check out Shorty’s, too.  Shorty’s is a 9-hole short course designed by David McLay Kidd which is open Thursday through Sunday from 2PM until the Practice Center closes.  While it’s technically free to resort guests, there’s an “Honor Box” for donations to Bandon’s Junior Golf and Evan’s Caddie programs.

PIG Pro Tip #7: Stay on Property, Use the Shuttles

Bandon Dunes is the adult Disney World in many ways.  One practical way in which this is true is that you’ll have the best time by staying on property and letting them handle the day-to-day logistics.

Bandon runs a complimentary shuttle service that will pick you up and drop you off anywhere on the property.  We never waited more than a few minutes for a shuttle.  Not only are the shuttles convenient, they give you a chance to chat with the shuttle drivers and other golfers.

PIG Pro Tip #8: Rep Your Squad

We’re not telling you that your crew needs to do the whole matching outfits thing, but broadcasting your allegiances is a great way to make friends.  Our LSU Tiger, Mike, is always meeting fellow alums thanks to his purple and gold outfits.  I met Plugged In Golf readers because I was wearing a PIG hat.  Whatever allegiances you have, wear them on your sleeve as an easy way to make new friends.

If you haven’t picked up on the theme here, let me spell it out: the more chances you give yourself to interact with the people at Bandon, the better time you’ll have.  The golf is phenomenal but only by combining it with fellow golfers will you get the true Bandon experience.

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Matt Saternus

Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Plugged In Golf. He's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Matt lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

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