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Bandon Dunes Update

By: Jeff Shelley


I, along with several other media types from the Northwest, did a whirlwind, three-day trip to Bandon Dunes last week. Here's a recap.

The purpose was twofold: one, we checked out the new 13-hole par-3 course now under construction, and, two, we were part of a presser involving USGA officials who came to the 72-hole resort from around the U.S. to discuss the upcoming U.S. Amateur Public Links - for both men and women - which will be held concurrently June 27 through July 2 on the Bandon Trails and new Old Macdonald courses at the facility.

Along with other dignitaries, also on hand was Jim Urbina, Tom Doak's former lead associate who was involved in the design and construction of Pacific Dunes and "Old Mac," which opened last June.

Par-3 Course Review

Designed by the team of Coore-Crenshaw, which also crafted Bandon Trails, the new par-3 track at Bandon Dunes promises to be a doozy. Situated on spectacular dunelands between Trails and the Pacific Ocean, the layout - with 13 holes ranging from 65 to 180 yards - will offer some of the resort's best vistas (if that's possible) of the ocean when it debuts in June 2012.

Dave Zinkand, Coore-Crenshaw's on-site design associate, is working closely with Bandon Dunes' director of agronomy Ken Nice in weaving the tidy track over, around and between some impressive sand hills. Throughout construction the duo has diligently protected an endangered plant, the silvery phacelia, a species unique to the Oregon coast.

As expected for a place that owes much of its heritage to the great links of Ireland and Scotland, the new par-3 course - tentatively to be called "The Preserve" for its integration and protection of the low-growing and quite lovely silvery phacelia - involves a double-green a la St. Andrews Old Course and a punchbowl green that pays homage to Lahinch in Ireland.

Occupying a mere 20 acres (it seems a lot more than that) of the 3,300-acre resort, the Preserve will be a great addition to this venue on Oregon's southern coast. (One problem I have is the projected $100 green fee. This would be a great place for guys and gals to go with a beer in hand after a round on one of the regulation tracks to complete their day. We'll see if that price point holds after the course opens.)

Another Big National Event Coming to Bandon

One of the biggest challenges for any organizing body hosting a national golf championship at Bandon Dunes is its remoteness. There's simply no easy way to get here, though there are flights into Eugene - roughly 100 miles to the northeast - and plenty of places to stay upon arrival.

Bill McCarthy, the USGA's Championship Director of the Men's Public Links, rattled off all the needs for a big tournament -proximity to local housing, dining, airports, population and the quality of the golf courses. He then chuckled before saying only the latter criteria is met by Bandon Dunes.

The resort's general manager, Hank Hickox, said there are many hotel rooms and restaurants in nearby Bandon (five miles south on Highway 101) and Coos Bay-North Bend (25 miles north), not to mention the housing and dining facilities at the resort itself. "Not a problem," he said, noting that the resort now has 280 rooms.

As for the two courses selected for the championships, McCarthy said, "We wanted challenging courses in which they will need to pull every club out of their bags during the round. We chose these two courses (Trails and Old Macdonald) because they are so different from each other, and the champions will need a variety of skills to win.''

McCarthy added that he's hoping that the two courses will present varied challenges depending on the time of the day. "We will be playing in the morning and afternoon, so the winds will be different."

Bandon Dunes is no babe in the big-tournament woods. The two national public links events in 2011 will be the third and fourth USGA national championships played at the resort. They were preceded by the 2006 Curtis Cup Matches played on Pacific Dunes (won by the U.S.) and the '07 U.S. Mid-Amateur, contested at Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails.

As for this year's championships, which will involve 500 staff members and 200 caddies - not to mention the 312 players, family members of the contestants and galleries, Hickox says, "This is the biggest thing to happen to us ever."

Notes

Urbina outlined what Doak's and his mission was at Old Mac. "We were asked to create (Macdonald's) vision," Urbina said of the man who created National Golf Links of America and other shining examples of golf's Golden Age of Architecture. "We had the same ideal for his holes, the same inspiration."

He added that "We wanted to do everything differently than the other golf courses at Bandon. It was all about creating bold features. It was going to be different because of the scale; the site's so much bigger. Ken Nice talked us into using pure fescue grass."

We played the neighboring Pacific Dunes first. From several holes on that track, which ranked 15th in Golf Digest's 2011 list of "100 Greatest Courses," you can glimpse portions of Old Mac to the west.

From this vantage point Old Mac looks flat. Not so, and that's proven when you play it. Urbina said that unlike Pacific Dunes, where 20,000 yards of dirt or sand was shifted to craft the holes, Old Mac's construction process - like that at 10th-ranked National Golf Links - involved repositioning 150,000 to 160,000 yards.

Jim Urbina

The burly Colorado native paid his dues before venturing off on his own. He started working with Pete Dye in the 1980s, at which time he met Doak, who was also working with the legendary designer. For the past 17 years Urbina worked closely with Doak, known for his minimalist designs and honest, equal treatment of the press, developers and golfers in general.

In addition to Pacific Dunes and Old Mac, the two crafted 44th-rated Sebonack, along with a host of other new projects. Urbina was also an integral part of highly regarded renovations at Pasatiempo, Yeamans Hall, The Valley Club of Montecito and San Francisco Golf Club.

Urbina is now out on his own (the parting was amicable). A big project of his now underway is a major renovation of the former Dellwood Country Club in New City, New York. Originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast and opened in the 1920s, the private venue was built by movie producer Adolf Zukor, who founded Paramount Pictures.

In conjunction with Urbina's restoration of many of "Tilly's" original design features, the facility is being renamed Paramount in honor of its founder.

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