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‘Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes,’ by Stephen Goodwin

By: Dr. John Wagner


A few days ago I received three new books from Cybergolf’s editor to read and review. I started out by reading a few pages of each one to see if any of them really piqued my interest. The third book I tried was “Dream Golf, The Making of Bandon Dunes” by Stephen Goodwin. I have been to Bandon several times, played all three courses, and love the place.

I met “Shoe” on my first trip there through a mutual friend and heard lots of stories then about how the course got started. Shoe is the official greeter at Bandon. His real name is Gaspar, but he was given the nickname after one of Mike's friends said he looked like Willie Shoemaker, the jockey. During one of my trips there I also played the “Goat Ranch,” the very private course built by Bandon Dunes’ developer Mike Keiser for himself and special guests.

More background: In 2005, we held the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes and I got to work with the general manager, Hank Hickox, and director of golf, Matt Allen (who happens to be an Evans Scholar). We set up a giant tent outside the lodge as over 150 golfers and officials needed to eat all at one time. It was the best food I’ve ever had at a buffet, and Hickox and Allen ran a great tournament. The 2006 Curtis Cup teams, slated to play at Bandon Dunes on July 29-30, are in good hands.

I thought I knew a lot about the place. But, boy, was I wrong after reading this book, which starts out so enticingly I couldn’t put it down.

This is the story of Mike Keiser, his dream and how he helped make Bandon Dunes a Mecca for golfers around the world. If you’ve been to Bandon, you’ll love the story. If not, read it for the thrill of someday visiting this magical place.

Much like the "Greatest Game Ever Played," the book is a non-fiction account that reads like a powerful novel. My compliments to Goodwin for his smooth style. He takes us back to the first course that Mike built in Michigan, the Dunes Club, considered by many as the finest nine-hole course in the U.S.

Goodwin then relates how Keiser ended up in Bandon. A plumber who was fixing a leak at a realtor’s home mentioned working at Keiser’s other place south of Bandon. The plumber mentioned that Keiser was looking for more property. The real estate lady was coincidentally handling the sale of the current Bandon Dunes Resort property for its Seattle owners. She called Keiser that Saturday night about the land, and the rest is history.

Goodwin also provides interesting background of the town of Bandon, Ore., and the arrival of gorse to the Pacific coastline. The latter is a true story that relates how the land was cleared for both the original Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes – the second course designed by Tom Doak.

Another of my favorite tales is how the chef was chosen for the resort and why the menu is what it is today. Goodwin also does a nice section on playing each course with the designers (David McLay Kidd, who did the original Bandon Dunes, and Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw, the team that designed Pacific Trails), and why they crafted these award-winning courses as they did based on the topography at their disposal. The section is almost like a conversation in which Goodwin allows us to enter the minds of the architects.

Before this big-time golf resort came along, Bandon and environs were very depressed areas with high unemployment rates. Many residents never finished high school and even fewer attended college. The book covers the resort’s positive economic benefits and how many people it now employs. Also, its caddie program has helped many high school-age students qualify for the Evans Program, putting them in positions to earn a full scholarships to the University of Oregon, each of which is worth over $30,000.

But the real enjoyment of the book is Keiser’s story. His love of the game and old-style links courses, how he worked with people and oversaw all the twists and turns to realize a dream make this one of the best golf books I’ve ever read.

The only thing I can think of that would be more fun than the book would be a round of golf at Bandon with Mike and a meatloaf dinner afterwards.

As I say about the especially good ones, get this book and put it in your library. Now back to the other two.

“Dream Golf: The Making of Bandon Dunes,” by Stephen Goodwin, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2006, 320 pages, $24.95 (hardcover), ISBN 1-565-12530-4

Dr. John Wagner has been a Seattle dentist for 37 years. He’s been published in several dental journals as well as had several articles appear in the turf magazine for Pacific Northwest golf course superintendents. John has served as a guest lecturer at the University of Washington Business School for several years and as a guest lecturer for several dental societies. Dr. Wagner is the co-designer (with Steve Shea of the Berger Partnership) of a golf course in Japan that cost over $120 million and was built by Wadsworth Golf Construction. He’s a Past President of the Washington State Golf Association and a Trustee of the Pacific Coast Golf Association. John is currently a Member of the USGA Green Section and a Director of the WSGA.