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The Building of the Par-3 Course at Bandon Dunes

By: Blaine Newnham


Little seems to stand still at Bandon Dunes, which this spring included us. We played golf as wind gusts hit 80 miles per hour. Just as fluid is the changing face of the resort as evidenced by the addition of the 39-room Inn just south of No. 18 on the original course.

A Future Hole at Bandon Dunes'
new Par-3 Course

Or the introduction, of course, of the wildly popular Old Macdonald as the fourth course, a layout so different in its treeless stretches that it was recently named the No. 3 best course built in the U.S. since 1960 by GolfWeek magazine, trailing only Sand Hills in Nebraska and Pacific Dunes right next door.

I left the Inn one morning and walked a path toward the clubhouse at Bandon Trails. I could hear the roar of construction just beyond the first tee at Trails, out in the pocket dunes that ripple magnificently toward the Ocean. Just maybe the best land for golf at the resort.

First person I saw was Ben Crenshaw. A man at work. The design team of Crenshaw and Bill Coore, who collaborated on Sand Hills and Bandon Trails, is doing more of owner Mike Keiser's work, gently carving out what was to be a 12-hole par-3 course.

Construction Underway (again) at Bandon Dunes

"We've found a 13th hole," said Crenshaw. "What a piece of property."

They expect the shaping of the par-3 course - which may be called Bandon Preserve - to be finished by the start of summer and in full play the following summer.

"What Mike Keiser wanted," said Coore, "was a collection of holes that could stand up to the par-3s on the big courses, holes like No. 11 at Pacific Dunes and No. 2 at Bandon Trails. Real golf on a smaller scale."

Coore confirmed that there would indeed be 13 holes, even though 12 makes more sense, you know, par-36 for the course rather than par-39. But Keiser, whose instincts have been incredibly sharp in this venture, wouldn't let convention stand in the way of good golf, the same philosophy he had when allowing Tom Doak to have back-to-back par-3s at Pacific Dunes and only two par-4s on the incoming nine.

"Mike said to me, 'If we can get one more interesting hole, then let's do it,' "said Coore.

Ben Crenshaw on the Job Site at
"Bandon Preserve"

The holes will be as long as 175 yards and as short as 75. The first hole will use as its green the upper putting green at Trails, while the last hole will be near Cut Creek and the Inn. The first hole won't be completed until after the men's and women's Public Links championships, which will be staged on Trails and Old Macdonald in late June and early July.

In the process, there will be a new putting green built for Trails.

Coore said that while there will be forced carries on every hole, over the beach grasses and sand, in many cases the distance of the carry might be 30 to 50 yards.

Crenshaw looked at one hole and cited the bailout position for the average player. "The course is supposed to be fun," said Crenshaw, "an afternoon of golf after 18 holes in the morning."

The course occupies 27 acres south and west of the resort but fewer than 10 acres will be used for tee boxes, greens and approaches around greens. The remainder will be saved for a native plant conservancy. The concern is for a plant called silvery phacelia, which on much of the Oregon Coast has been threatened by the encroachment of beach grasses and gorse.

Coore said that in the building of Bandon Trails every time they removed gorse and created an open sandy area the silvery phacelia appeared, and thrived.

Keiser has said that playing the new course will cost $100 a round and that a portion of the money will go toward beach conservation. One idea is that golfers will use afternoons to play the new course rather than go another 18 on the regulation layouts.

"I was riding one of the shuttles and eavesdropping on some good players," said Coore. "One of them said he would play the par-3 course first on every visit to get used to the tight lies around the greens."

Coore said he and Crenshaw had looked at the land stretching toward the ocean for some of the early holes at Bandon Trails, but that the dunes were so close together longer holes would have been forced into the landscape.

"This is perfect, a par-3 course that fits," said Coore.

Blaine Newnham has covered golf for 50 years. He still cherishes the memory of following Ben Hogan for 18 holes during the first round of the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He worked then for the Oakland Tribune, where he covered the Oakland Raiders during the first three seasons of head coach John Madden. Blaine moved on to Eugene, Ore., in 1971 as sports editor and columnist, covering the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He covered five Olympics all together - Mexico City, Munich, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Athens - before retiring in early 2005 from the Seattle Times. He covered his first Masters in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman, and his last in 2005 when Tiger Woods chip dramatically teetered on the lip at No. 16 and rolled in. He saw Woods' four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, and Payne Stewart's birdie putt to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Blaine now plays golf at Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where his current index is 12.6. In 2005, Blaine received the Northwest Golf Media Association's Distinguished Service Award. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wash., where the Dungeness crabs outnumber the people.