The Best Course at Bandon Dunes Is…
Among the most enjoyable debates in golf is, “What is the best course at Bandon Dunes?” What makes it fun is that there is no bad answer. All five of the full length courses are world class. Any golfer would be thrilled to call one of them their home track.
With that said – and with tongue planted firmly in cheek – we present to you our vigorous arguments for which course at Bandon Dunes deserves top billing.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Bandon Dunes
By: Matt Saternus
Show some damn respect for the OG. These other courses don’t even get built without Bandon Dunes. And looking beyond Oregon to the wider golf world, Bandon Dunes is the course you can thank for all the width that makes modern courses so much fun. But please, I’d love to hear your opinions on why Oasis is better than the Beatles.
Leaving aside the historical importance, a round at Bandon Dunes has better rhythm and pace than at any of the other courses. It opens with a gentle par 4, a tough par 3, and a medium length par 5 before hitting you with the big reveal of the Pacific. From there it takes you to and from the coast before building to a crescendo at #16 and then finishing with two strong but scoreable holes.
Finally, Bandon Dunes has the highest highs of any course on the property. The reveal on #4 takes my breath away every time, even though I know it’s coming. And no hole on the property is as photographed, discussed, or memorable as #16. Whether glorious or disastrous, every golfer who plays Bandon Dunes can tell you what they did on that hole.
Bandon Dunes is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Pacific Dunes
By: Dylan Thaemert
I love cheeseburgers. I really do. But if you put a juicy, beautiful steak in front of me and ask me to choose between the two, there’s really no contest. Both are delicious, yet one is on another level. And to bring this analogy to its logical conclusion, Pacific Dunes is the Peter Luger of golf courses. Let me explain why.
The scenery represents the best of what Bandon’s expansive property has to offer. It’s a sensuous distillation of everything golfers flock to Bandon for: exceptional golf holes and jaw-dropping coastal landscapes. At any juncture during your walk, you can stop and look around and take in a visual feast of native plants, trees, gorse, and the humps and hollows of the fairways and green complexes. Not to mention the artful and ruggedly natural bunkering. As an experience, it is cohesive and unrelentingly beautiful in a way that golf courses rarely are.
The golf holes aren’t bad, either. The variety of holes and routing in which you encounter them is truly exceptional. There are elements of surprise and delight such as 9 with its blind tee shot and approach to an upper or lower green, depending on the day, followed by the corresponding upper or lower tee on 10. Then there’s the stunning back to back par 3s of 10 & 11, both featuring incredible ocean views. There are no weak holes, the green to tee walks are enjoyable, and each hole feels like an experience unto itself. There are great golf courses and then there is the rare tour de force. This is one of those.
Pacific Dunes is a stunning golf course that has few equals. It stands head and shoulders above the other courses at the resort, each of which is excellent in its own right. And while it’s definitely true that I’ve eaten more cheeseburgers than steaks in my life, it’s only the very best steaks that have stuck with me as exceptional, one might say “the best” dining experience one can have. This is the experience golfers have when they are lucky enough to tee it up on Pacific Dunes.
Pacific Dunes is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Bandon Trails
By: Michael Feland
Why would you travel all the way to the beautiful Oregon coast and pick a favorite course that has no ocean views? Because Bandon Trails is that strong. No, you will not get your fancy Instagram beauty shot of the sun setting over the ocean, but what you will get is eighteen of the best holes that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have designed.
Bandon Trails offers plenty of “Wow” moments walking up to each tee box. Dramatic elevation changes and scenic views are around almost every corner. I would describe Bandon Trails as Carolina mountain golf with some amazing west coast sand dunes thrown on top.
Bandon Trails is also the hardest course at Bandon Dunes. There is not a lot of room for error, and it will challenge all of your shot making abilities. Sorry if you can’t handle that.
Trails is full of risk/reward holes, but none quite like the signature hole, #14. The elevation change is so severe that you have to take a cart up a hill to the teeing ground. Coming in at only 306 yards from the green tees, this one is both a beauty and, if you don’t hit the fairway, a beast.
Bandon Trails is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Old MacDonald
By: Matt Saternus
Would you like to play golf on the moon? I would. Would you like to play golf on the moon while getting a lesson in golf history and course architecture? I would like that even more. And if you would, too, then you must concur that Old Mac is the best course at Bandon Dunes.
First, the scale of Old Mac is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It has the largest greens in the world, and these greens are so undulating that they make most putting surfaces look like dinner tables. The fairways are enormous, even compared to Bandon’s other courses. Its sand traps are massive and threatening. Every element of Old Mac is taken to 11.
Second, Old Mac is a walk through the history of golf architecture. Each hole is a Tom Doak adaptation of one of the famous “template holes” used most famously by C.B. MacDonald (the course’s namesake) at places like Chicago Golf Club and National Golf Links of America. And unlike those courses, Old Mac is available to all golfers. But this is not a copy-and-paste golf course; each template is given a fully modern update.
Finally, Old Mac has the Ghost Tree. It’s the single best icon in golf. I’d say more about it, but I don’t need to.
Old MacDonald is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Sheep Ranch
By: Zack Buechner
Obviously Sheep Ranch is the top course at Bandon Dunes, not just because it’s the newest addition but because it has the best logo: a shepherd’s crook splitting the course’s initials. Let’s be honest: you’re only going to buy the gear with your favorite logo, and I’ve solved that dilemma for you. Sheep also gets the top spot because of its 19th hole views. You can see the entire course and the Pacific while you sip on a Bandon IPA. Ok fine, these aren’t the real reasons why Sheep Ranch is the best course at Bandon, but they certainly don’t hurt its case!
Why is Sheep Ranch the best of the Bandon courses? First, it has the most consistent views of the Pacific Ocean. It starts with the best “reveal” hole on the property with the par 5 1st. After your drive, you turn a corner to the spectacular sight of the 1st green with miles of Pacific Ocean as the backdrop. With the exception of roughly half of one hole, there’s a view of the ocean from every spot on the course. I’ve also never seen so many infinity greens that ride out over the cliffs. And it’s not just one linear cliff either. The cliff and coastline weave in and out and become integrated into the course.
This brings me to my second reason to choosing Sheep Ranch – the cliffs become part of your round and navigating them well is vital to scoring. A perfect example is my favorite hole, the par 4 6th, which requires a drive over the massive gorge. Bite off more than you can chew and you can kiss that ball goodbye. However, there is a reward for cutting across the coastline and getting to hit a wedge or short iron versus the hybrid your weaker playing partners are hitting behind you. The risk/reward at Sheep makes this course so much fun.
Reason number 3 – it has the perfect mix of holes. Our group played one tee up from the tips and we had one par 3 that played less than 100 yards, a few drivable par 4s, and reachable par 5s. Of course, all of these holes are wind-dependent because of how exposed they are on this piece of property. We played Sheep Ranch twice during the same day – once in the morning and again that evening. On the par 3 16th I hit a 53 degree wedge in the morning round and an 8 iron in the afternoon. The good news is that no matter how much breeze is present, it will help you on the same number of holes that it will hurt you.
My final reason for Sheep Ranch being the best course at Bandon is that it’s the easiest walk. I know this seems like a poor reason to rank a course high, but when you’re at Bandon with no carts and playing 36+ holes per day, it makes a difference when it’s 5 PM and you feel like you can go around one more time.
Sheep Ranch is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
The Best Course at Bandon Dunes is Bandon Preserve
By: Matt Saternus
Why do we play golf? We play golf because it’s fun. No course at Bandon Dunes offers more fun per square foot than Bandon Preserve, so it’s obviously the best course.
If you doubt what I say, go to Bandon Preserve, park yourself somewhere in the middle of the course, and close your eyes. It won’t take long before you hear exhilarated shouts, near-miss groans, and thunderous high fives. While I won’t deny that the other courses provide these sounds as well, they’re far more common at the Preserve.
The case for Bandon Preserve extends beyond fun. It has non-stop ocean views. Green fees support the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance. It’s an easy walk with just a handful of clubs required. The course is sneaky tough if you miss the green or get out of position. It gives you 13 real chances to make that elusive ace. But mainly, it’s a lot fun.
Bandon Preserve is the best golf course at Bandon Dunes.
Plugged In Golf Staff Bandon Dunes Course Rankings
1-Sheep Ranch 2-Pacific Dunes 3-Old Mac 4-Bandon Dunes 5-Bandon Preserve 6-Bandon Trails
1-Pacific Dunes 2-Bandon Trails 3-Sheep Ranch 4-Bandon Dunes 5-Old Mac 6-Bandon Preserve
1-Bandon Trails 2-Pacific Dunes 3-Sheep Ranch 4-Old Mac 5-Bandon Dunes 6-Bandon Preserve
1-Sheep Ranch 2-Pacific Dunes 3-Old Mac 4-Bandon Dunes 5-Bandon Preserve 6-Bandon Trails
What’s your favorite course at Bandon Dunes?
Share your thoughts in the comments section.
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Golf has many useful sites for information but at the end of the day I always go back to PluggedinGolf. I appreciate your philosophy of ‘saying more by saying less’. Not a wasted word.
Thank you, sir!
Bandon Trails – the deafening silence as you play through that forest. The contrast of dark evergreens, bright green fescue and 180-600yds away, that deep orange flag like a beacon. And the course architecture is so amazing, the holes so unique and a good score there feels like you really Played well. Not just my favorite course at Bandon, but ever.
Great article! I always say if Bandon Trails were any place else, it would be respected on an entirely different level…Heading down to play the new course soon, but for now, my order is:
Unrated – Sheep Ranch
1. Pacific 2. Bandon 3. Old Mac 4. Trails 5. Preserve
The sum of the parts though is what really sets the whole thing apart. From the rooms, the service, the food, the unpretentious vibe, the fire place outside McKee’s.. all make the golf that much better. I have more fun on Bandon, but Pacific deserves the respect of being #1. Oh, and the new Old Mac logo (ghost tree) wins best logo.
Best course at Bandon Dunes is the Punch Bowl.
I enjoyed every course, so why pick? I say I liked every course, with the exception Old Mac, that is, until i played it with a caddy, a GOOD caddy. Wow, did that change my perspective!! Old Mac became the Old Course and all the great courses of Scotland. A caddy, a GOOD caddy who knows where the pins are located on their mammoth greens can help you position your tee shots to give you the best opportunity to score. I had skipped Old Mac for several years but came away with a new appreciation for it’s design.
With only one round played at Sheep Ranch, I believe I’ll need another round to confirm what I believe, which is, this is my favorite on property, but I can agree 1000% with Zack, it has one of the best logos I’ve ever seen. I never believed my manhole size ball marker from The State Department, a gift from one of my passengers, would ever be replaced but it has!!!
Pacific Dunes. If I had only one course left to play in life it would be Pacific Dunes. It has everything! If I wound up in he’ll, and only had to play one course every day, it would be Old Mac. If I only had one Crenshaw – Coore Course to play it would be Bandon Trails. It has it all from and in-land course point of view.
I’ve played all of the courses 7 + times and just last week played sheep ranch for the first time. As a 1 handicap my opinion is for scenery pacific is#1. With sheep ranch a close #2 and Bandon Dunes 3rd. For all around golf my ranking is preserve #1, dunes 2, trails3, sheep 4, pacific 5 and old mac considerably down at 6. Now all of the courses are great so it is hard to rank them but to me preserve stands alone at 1 and old mac is at the bottom but the others are practically even.
I just got back from Bandon and played them all in four days. I liked Sheep Ranch so much I played it again. It’s the new #1 on my list – narrowly edging out Pebble Beach.
My rankings: 1. Sheep Ranch. 2. Pacific Dunes 3. Bandon Dunes 4. Old Mac. 5. Bandon Trails
After over 50 rounds over 14 years at Bandon I was excited to play the Sheep Ranch. Bandon Trails has been my favorite course but after the Ranch I can say in 5 years it will be #1 in the US for courses open to everyone. The ocean views never get old. Can’t wait for next year.
The Best golf course in Oregon is Not at Bandon Dunes!! This could be true—-In Theory! Mike Keiser (owner of Bandon) said Pacific Gales (30 miles south of Bandon) is quite possibly the best piece of land for golf in North America. The current owners of the property don’t have the money to develop the property. Mike has said all they need to do is pick up the phone and call him. There’s a great interview on Erik anders Lang YouTube channel. I made the 30 mile drive down the coast last July and it did not disappoint. The Dunes were much higher and the land had more elevation changes. Hopefully this comes to fruition!
I saw the same interview. The Pacific Gales project has languished for so long that I can’t see it coming to fruition. They would probably need to partner with a deep pockets developer like Keiser to get it built. They’d have to decide between giving up some control on design, etc. versus abandoning their efforts altogether. Anyway, don’t hold your breath waiting to see it built.
Just returned from Bandon, 121 holes in 4 days (played Trails twice). I go this order: Bandon Trails, Old Mac, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Dunes and finally Sheep Ranch. Got it with Sheep being all on the coast, but it seemed too crowded for me, holes on top of each other. Played Pacific and Old Mac in 25 mph winds – made it brutal. My only gripe was pace of play. Early AM tee times are supposed to be “pace setter” and averaging 4 hours per round – all our AM rounds were 4:30, we waited on every shot. But still a great time!
Played all of them several times. Rankings 1. Pacific 2. Bandon 3. Bandon Trails 4. Sheep Ranch 5. Old Mc. Had a hole in one on the 5th hole @ Pacfic Dunes