Walking The Bandon Trails

Course Notes, Links Golf

Words, photos and video by Jeff Marsh

Bandon Dunes is widely known as a links golf mecca, with violent exposure to the ocean and its elements. But one course isn’t quite like the rest.

Bandon Trails.

The name likely comes from the presence of miles of meandering walking trails throughout the property. And the course itself does just that. It meanders. But nowhere near the coast line. Well, save for the first hole, a dogleg-right par-4 that takes to straight for the trees, which begin on the second tee box.

What is fascinating about Trails is it really is a pure links course, but through the woods. We spend more of our days playing PNW American golf in Washington, because, that is just about all the golf we have (aside from a few gems like Gamble Sands, Chambers Bay, The Home Course and Wine Valley). So Trails figured to be a welcome site to our golf game. A course in the trees. But they managed to create a true links course smack in the middle of a forest. Undulation. Sweeping fairways. Tight lies. Waste areas. Ribbon tee boxes.

Yet, not a breath of wind – at least on the day we played. In fact, it felt like the dead of summer. It was warm. We hadn’t been warm in months. The trees did a great job of blocking out a lot of the typical Bandon elements from the coast.

The temptation with a lot of links courses is the desire to smack driver off the tee because the worse-case scenario was a lie in a barren wasteland, but the chance to advance the ball. A links course with trees, large and small, make a wayward tee shot a wee bit more of a predicament. Just ask the 2 balls I hooked off the tee box on hole 3. That was the beginning to the end of my round.

But wow, what a cool course. Have you ever played anything like it, if you have played Bandon Trails before? I surely haven’t. Maybe a little reminiscent of Pine Valley (I didn’t get to play it, but got to caddie a round there). A little haze from the coast had settled amongst the tall giants of the forest, and with not a cloud in the sky, it was an otherworldly afternoon. Being our first round of the weekend at Bandon, I would certainly say it wasn’t the easiest warm-up round. But definitely a fun one.

One of the coolest moments of the day was catching up to our buddies in the group in front of us on the 14th tee, a drive-able par 4. So naturally, we all hit our tee shots and played out the hole together.

It often felt a bit like a solitary nature walk, and a golf game happened to break out. It was so peaceful. Wildlife were in abundance – eagles, herons, turkeys, bogeys. It was peaceful, tranquil, calm – perfection.

We had some exciting games going amongst our group of 50 players, which definitely favored the high-handicappers if they managed a few career shots or rounds. One of which was from Brandon, who was in my group. On the 3-handicap, par-5 9th, he smoked a 4-iron to land on the green within 35 feet, and naturally, sunk the putt for an eagle-NET 1. Incredible. Oh, and there is video proof: watch to the very end of the video above.

Trails was a hard track to play the first time around. My driver was sound asleep, and I certainly got torched, but am eagerly awaiting redemption. Not certain I will get it, as it provides quite the challenge. But still, I would love another shot.

– Jeff Marsh

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