The Perfect 18 Holes at Bandon Dunes

The Bandon Dunes Fantasy Course

The argument over the best course at Bandon Dunes and the ranking of the courses can go on forever because there are no wrong answers [we discussed that topic HERE].  At the end of our recent trip to golf mecca, our group decided to dive down an even deeper rabbit hole: creating the perfect 18 holes at Bandon Dunes.  Here’s what we came up with.

The Rule

The only rule that we imposed was that every hole had to be used in its original position.  That is to say, we couldn’t make #16 at Bandon Dunes the third hole on our fantasy course.

The Process

Each member of our panel created their own 18 hole course.  Lists were compared, majority ruled.  The ties were resolved through an…enthusiastic…Zoom call.

The Course

#1 – Sheep Ranch – Par 5 – 517 yards

This was one of four holes that was unanimously selected by our panel.  It’s a perfect opening hole.  There’s plenty of width off the tee, the reveal of the Pacific Ocean is breathtaking, and it gives you an opportunity to start your round under par.

#2 – Bandon Trails – Par 3 – 166 yards

The last hole before you’re enveloped in the forest at Bandon Trails, this tee shot demands total control of your ball from left to right.  Too much fade or draw and you’ll be in a bunker or worse.

#3 – Old MacDonald – Par 4 – 345 yards

The second of our unanimous selections is home to the Ghost Tree, which is reason enough for it to appear on this list.  This hole provides two great thrills: hitting your tee shot over the ridge and past the Ghost Tree, and then cresting the ridge to see the vastness of Old Mac laid out in front of you.

#4 – Bandon Dunes – Par 4 – 362 yards

While #4 at Bandon Dunes was one of the holes that I knew had to be on this list, it did face some extremely stiff competition.  The fourth holes at Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails are outstanding which made this a tough decision.  In the end, however, #4 at Bandon Dunes is too pivotal to the round, too memorable, and just too damn good to not make the cut.

#5 – Sheep Ranch – Par 3 – 166 yards 

The longest par 3 at Sheep Ranch looks benign, but subtle, devious contours will repel short or off target shots.  A large putting surface makes it easy to hit the green in regulation and still walk away with a bogey.

#6 – Sheep Ranch – Par 4 – 431 yards

Our third unanimous selection is here largely on the strength of the tee shot.  The drive is cape hole-esque as you get to decide how much of the coastline you think you can bite off.  Even after a well-placed tee ball, your work isn’t done because this green falls off to the front and back.

#7 – Old MacDonald – Par 4 – 345 yards

I’m not sure what’s tougher: the second shot on “Ocean” or the walk that follows it.  Either way, you’re rewarded for getting to the green with spectacular views and an opportunity to stop at the snack shack before playing the downhill Biarritz par 3.

#8 – Bandon Trails – Par 4 – 299 yards

The more accessible of the two driveable par 4s at Bandon Trails, this hole begs you to take a chance.  With bunkers on three sides, this isn’t an easy approach even with a wedge, so you might as well try to leave with a good story.

#9 – Sheep Ranch – Par 4 – 386 yards

Playing to the very corner of the property, #9 asks you to hit your approach to an infinity green that appears to fall off the cliff and into the Pacific Ocean.  Leaving that shot short is an understandable error.

#10 – Pacific Dunes – Par 3 – 163 yards

This par 3 has two sets of tees, and the hole is beautiful and challenging from either one.  Playing from high on the hill, as you see above, you have an awkward angle into the green.  From the lower tee, you approach the hole straight on but are faced with a bigger forced carry.  Though this isn’t a long hole, the wind can make you second guess your club selection, over swing, and write down an ugly number.

#11 – Sheep Ranch – Par 5 – 506 yards

The best par 5 at Sheep Ranch would have been another unanimous selection were it not for Dylan’s obsession with Pacific Dunes, but I digress.  This is as far as Sheep Ranch gets from the ocean, but that doesn’t mean it lacks for drama.  Approaching the green means navigating “The Volcano” – the highest point on the course – and a shot that is much longer than it looks.

#12 – Bandon Dunes – Par 3 – 153 yards

Much like #10 at Pacific Dunes, the wind makes this hole much tougher than the scorecard indicates.  Add to that a very shallow green and one of the meanest bunkers on the property and you have a hole that will make you very happy with a 3.

#13 – Bandon Preserve – Par 3 – 109 yards

This is the first hole that caused a real fight among the committee.  #13 at Pacific was a very strong contender, but the contingent arguing for the inclusion of the Preserve carried the day.  The winning argument was that you can’t omit the most memorable, talked about holes, an argument that was also relevant on #14…

#14 – Bandon Trails – Par 4 – 306 yards

This hole, along with #4, presented the toughest choices.  The group was divided between Bandon Trails and Old MacDonald, with Pacific Dunes and Bandon Dunes each offering compelling options, too.  Ultimately, as with #13, we decided that you can’t tell the story of Bandon Dunes without this love-it-or-hate-it short par 4.

#15 – Old MacDonald – Par 5- 482 yards

A solid, mid-length par 5 plays uphill and toward the ocean before the course turns to wrap back around the ridge.  A very fun hole, if not the most visually dramatic.

#16 – Bandon Dunes – Par 4 – 345 yards

Our final unanimous choice is perhaps the most famous hole at the entire resort.  Even though four full length courses have come after Bandon Dunes, some on arguably better pieces of property, I’m not sure that any hole is as beautiful, exciting, and inspiring as the driveable par 4 that sits at the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

#17 – Bandon Trails – Par 3 – 159 yards

Our Trails-stans were pleased to see the inclusion of the best par 3 at their favorite course.  This is a picturesque hole with a fantastic green and plenty of challenge.

#18 – Sheep Ranch – Par 5 – 436 yards

In a fitting end to this exercise, everyone on our group picked a different closing hole.  Sheep Ranch won by virtue of being my first pick and everyone else’s second choice.  The group noted that, interestingly, #18 was one of the weaker groups and, if we were ignoring hole numbers, none of these would appear on our top 18.  Nonetheless, the closing hole at Sheep Ranch offers a nice bookend to our opening hole and another chance to make birdie or eagle.

By the Numbers

Our fantasy course plays to a par of 70 with a green tee yardage of 5,676 yards.  There are six par 3s, eight par 4s, and four par 5s.

The course features 3 holes from Bandon Dunes, 1 from Pacific Dunes, 4 from Bandon Trails, 3 from Old MacDonald, 6 from Sheep Ranch, and 1 from Bandon Preserve.  Pacific Dunes feels horribly underrepresented for a course that we all agree is at least the second best on the property.  Were we to reveal our second choice for each hole, I think Pacific Dunes would have the most by a mile.

Thoughts on the Process

Not allowing ourselves to renumber holes led to some interesting insights.  It struck me that there are certain numbers (#3, #4, #8, #14, #16) that were packed with great holes and others that were, by Bandon standards, lackluster.  It felt a bit like the NCAA Tournament – because of where you fall in the bracket, some great holes are left out and some that aren’t even the best on their course make it through.

Another way to pick the best 18 would be to rank every hole at Bandon Dunes, which would be a daunting, though enjoyable, task.  We may do that in the future if only to see how that list differs from this one.  Some changes would definitely be made, which leads us to…

Toughest Omissions

Dylan was outraged at the exclusion of #13 at Pacific Dunes.  I was shocked at the omission of #12 on Pacific Dunes and #5 at Bandon Dunes.

More Fun with Numbers

The shortest fantasy course belong to Mike – his inclusion of seven par 3s made his track a par 68.  I created the longest course with 5 par 5s and only 3 par 3s.  On average, our group selected 3.25 par 5s, 10.25 par 4s, and 4.5 par 3s.

Mike had the course that most closely resembled our final product with 15 “correct” selections.

On average, our panel selected 3.25 holes from Bandon Dunes, 3 from Pacific Dunes, 2.5 from Bandon Trails, 3 from Old MacDonald, 5.5 from Sheep Ranch, and 0.75 from Bandon Preserve.

What are your favorite holes at Bandon Dunes?

Tell us in the comments section!

Matt Saternus
Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

10 Comments

  1. Matt, I respectfully disagree with your choice of Sheep Ranch’s 18th hole as it’s NOT a par-5 at 436 yards sorry or even at 464 yards from the tips. The 18th hole at Pacific Dunes is a much stronger hole and the best par-5 on property and it’s not even close.

    • Love this. Did my own from a trip this summer
      1 Sheep
      2 Pacific
      3 Old Mac
      4 Pacific
      5 Bandon
      6 Old Mac
      7 Old Mac
      8 Old Mac
      9 Sheep
      10 Pacfic
      11 Pacific
      12 Bandon
      13 Pacfic
      14 Trails
      15 Trails
      16 Bandon
      17 Sheep
      18 Pacific

    • Half-par holes are fun… you “should” make birdie, but I didn’t until I finally figured out that driving up the left side seems better but leaves you with a difficult sidehill lie for a long iron, so going the longer route down the right side worked better and resulted in a 4.

  2. Dan Sullivan

    I did this exercise as well. I do feel like there may be some recency bias in the Sheep Ranch picks … but I mean… can you really be wrong in the exercise ? No way!

    My stray observation: I have a lot more Old Mac holes than I thought — even though I wouldn’t rush to play it twice if I was tight on time for a trip or could play any other course twice .

    Also, interesting how my individual play on each hole may have shaped my preference. I am a lefty with a hard miss to the right . Pacific 4 was horrifying off the tee , but I hit the fairway and made par. I botched my tee shot at Bandon #4 and made double . Maybe if I striped one into the fairway and happily walked to the green , Bandon 4 edges out Pacific …

    My breakdown by course :
    Sheep Ranch: 3 holes (#1, #6, #15)
    Bandon: 3 holes (#5, #16, #18)
    Pacific: 4 holes (#4, #11, #12, #13)
    Trails: 4 holes (#2, #9, #14, #17)
    Old Mac: 4 holes (#3, #7, #8, #10)

  3. Need more Pacific and less of Sheep’s.

  4. Need more Pac and zero Old Mac. All the Oregon locals hate Old Mac. So overrated. Old Mac three putt.

  5. Just got back from 8 straight days of 36/day at BR, and I’m very “surprised” by a few of these choices:
    *8 Bandon Trails? Punchbowl even has better 8th holes, as does Preserve… 8 Trails is my least favorite #8 on property. And how many drivable 4s do we need on the same fictional course? (3 Mac, 16 BD, 14 BT). Even your description above feels half hearted.
    *5 Sheep Ranch? Hello, 5 Bandon Dunes? If you need a par 3 then #5 at Pac, Mac and BD are all better and more memorable than 5 Sheep Ranch.
    *7 Old Mac? Bench behind 8th tee is my favorite spot on property (besides the miles and miles of coast you can also see virtually every hole on Sheep Ranch, all but 4 holes on Old Mac, and about 4 holes on Pac). 7 Old Mac is a solid and interesting hole… but I prefer 7 Pac and even 7 Preserve, and 7 BD is more strategic than 7 Mac.
    Awesome article and concept! Can’t wait for the next article: top 18 regardless of hole number. It’s even more fun if you put them in the order you would play front9 back9 (BD 4 is a great opener!). My caddie and I had some good discussions on this!

  6. john corman

    I enjoyed trying to anticipate the results for each hole until you got to #13. You failed to mention in your “rules and process” that The Preserve was in play. If not for that I’d guess the answer would have been Pac Dunes 13. The architects of Sheep Ranch designed #18 as a par 4 but the resort decision makers made it a par 5 instead. Same hole either way.

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