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  • Writer's pictureRuth Mcbride

Golf Mecca?

Last evening I was working on RV Trip Wizard again. We had not booked a place to stay between Bandon, Oregon and Napa, California and now that we have been driving down the coast of Oregon, its not really the kind of place that you can just pull into a Walmart and BOONDOCK overnight.

There are lots of small towns and villages along the coast on Hwy 101, but not a lot of places to Boondock.

We had originally thought we might make it to Fort Bragg, California tomorrow night, but when I checked the distance we would need to travel using RV Trip Wizard, it looked like it would take us 5 hours and 40 minutes. RV Trip Wizard uses an average speed of 90km/hour and there is no way we can go that fast on this coastal road, because every time we come to a town, the posted speed limit is either 40 mph or less. I played around with distances and determined that STAFFORD, California would be a more appropriate drive tomorrow at just under 4 hours (it will probably take us 6 hours). I was also able to book an RV site online which I very much appreciate doing, rather than having to call and speak to someone. The RV campgrounds in the U.S. are more ‘with it’ for the most part with having their availability and booking calendar online.

While I was booking us a campsite online, Richard decided to try and find us a ride to the golf course for today’s round. When I had booked us into ‘Bandon By the Sea RV Park’ where we are staying in Bandon, the person we spoke to mentioned that there were 2 options for transportation in Bandon, if we didn’t have a car: ‘Fairways Shuttle’, or ‘Driver on Demand’. Richard called ’Fairway’s Shuttle’ and they told us that they were already booked up for 10am today, when we wanted to be picked up. Our tee time was 11am today, and the golf course is only 3 miles south of our RV park. Stacy at Fairways Shuttle did say that she could have someone pick us up at 9:15am though instead of 10am, if we could make that work. Richard said he would check with Driver on Demand instead and if they couldn’t come and get us when we needed them, he would call Stacy back. When Richard called Driver on Demand, they already had a fare to Portland, Oregon and were not available at all today for rides. So Richard called Stacy back and booked us for 9:15am. Richard then tried to call the golf course to see if they could change us to an earlier tee time, but the pro shop was already closed. Ok. We’ll just have to call in the morning and see if we could move our tee time up.

We plugged our new fan in last night, to go along with our dehumidifier. The bedroom carpet does not smell as much as it did after we sprayed it with the anti mold spray. Now we just need to get it dried out!

Hopefully if we run both the fan and the dehumidifier, the carpet will dry out in a few days.

This morning we woke up with an alarm because we wanted to call the golf course as soon as it opened to see if we could move our tee time up. Unfortunately Stu the pro at Bandon Crossings said that the golf course was completely full today and there was no way we could get out an earlier than our 11am tee time.

Our ride from Fairways shuttle arrived promptly at 9:15am and we took our golf clubs and golf boots with us in the minivan. The one way shuttle ride cost $15.

Our Fairway’s shuttle taking us to Bandon Crossings.

Bandon Crossings golf club, in Bandon Oregon.

Bandon Crossings has a very interesting history. The owners are Rex & Carla Smith of Eugene, Oregon who had a vacation home in Bandon and looked for a challenging yet affordable, 18-hole golf course in the area. They love Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Sheep Ranch, but realized that not everyone’s budget allows them to play there all the time and a true golf addict always wants another great course to check out. They found a beautiful piece of land in the ‘banana belt’ of Bandon - a little off the ocean, with gentler weather and beautiful vistas. They gathered a team: Dan Hixson, designer, Tony Russell, golf course contractor and Brant Hathorn, superintendent. Together they made Bandon Crossings happen in an amazingly short time. They purchased the land in 2005, and the golf course opened in July of 2007. They also found a kinship with the great tradition of the highly regarded Heathland golf courses of Great Britain. British golf courses typically have light sandy, acidic soil typically with heather, gorse and bracken near the ocean a little hillier than many links courses and usually with better weather. Bandon Crossings has all of these too except the wild heather!

I wondered to myself how did Bandon even become a golf Mecca? There are just over 3,000 people who live in this small town, but yet it has some of the finest golf courses in the world. What’s with this place? So I had to investigate that for myself.

Bandon Dunes began with David McLay=Kidd, a Scottish 26 year old who had dreamt of becoming a golf course architect but had no concrete path to make that happen. In 1994 he was working for the Gleneagles detail in Scotland and his father was a golf course manager and he was working for the development division of that detail. Mike Kaiser who was friends with Rick Summers, (who is the current owner of PGA Golf Magazine) says ‘I’ve got this piece of land on the Oregon coast. I want to build an authentic Scottish Irish links experience. Who do you think I should hire? I’m thinking to hire, y‘know Tom Fazio or Jack Nicklaus or Pete Dye.” Rick Summers replied “Well you should hire a Scottish golf course architect if you want something authentic.” And Mike chuckled and say “I would! But they all died 100 years ago at this point.” David McLay-Kidd was brought over with his father and they walked the 1600 acres. They knew that a lot of other golf course architects had also walked the 1600 acres and they were definitely the underdogs for this project since they were both ‘no names’. So they went to the local drugstore and bought a few dozen sheets of poster board and a few markers and pens and wrote up a PowerPoint presentation, doing it on poster boards with markers and pens though. Mike Kaiser who owned the land in question, flew in on his private jet from Chicago, with some of his buddies and David McLay-Kidd and his dad laid out half a dozen of the poster boards and told him what it would take to build a true, authentic links course in America. They did their presentation with a chip on their shoulders because they told him that America doesn’t really have any true authentic links courses. Then they proceeded to tell Mike Kaiser what it would take to have a true links course: 1). No golf carts. Everyone must walk the golf course. 2). No fancy clubhouse on the ocean. That’s where you put the best green! The clubhouse is in the back corner. The best land is for golf. 3). The fairways aren’t flat; they’re pitching and tumbling. 4). There aren’t any lakes. There’s no babbling streams. 5). There’s no cart paths. 6) The grasses we use are these old-style firm grasses. 7). The bunkers are not cloverleaf shapes. They’re these polt bunkers that are there to punish the bold, not to beat up on the weak. After presenting to Mike Kaiser, they thought they would never hear from him again. Crazy Scottish men pitching to an American an idea about true links golf on the coast of Oregon! What American golfer would traipse all the way to the southern Oregon shores to play golf in the wind and rain and walk and then find himself an eight foot deep pot bunker surrounded by fescue grasses and pitching fairways where not a single flat lie is available? Such a scenario would never, ever work! But, David McLay-Kidd kept getting asked back to Bandon to present to Mike Keiser and finally after three years in 1997 David McLay-Kidd was chosen to develop Bandon Dunes golf course. McLay-Kidd was told from the outset by Mike KEISER, “that if you build something that I don’t like, my fallback is I’ll just fire you and hire somebody that knows what the heck they’re doing.” And that is how Bandon Dunes became the golf Mecca that it is! And more courses kept being added, all with the same mandatory rules of walking the golf course, and no golf carts!

When we checked in for our tee time at Bandon Crossings, we were told to check with the starter to see if he could find a way to get us out a bit earlier. We decided to get a large bucket of balls and head to the range to kill some time and to warm up.

Bandon Crossings came highly recommended by Jim from Fernie, who we spent last winter next to in Fanny Bay.

As we were driving over to the range we saw some interesting signs on cars in the parking lot at Bandon Crossings.

This sign was on an Audi SUV.

The flag is backwards but it reads ‘Trump 2024’!

The starter finally was able to get us off as a twosome at 10:30am, which was still 30 minutes earlier than our original tee time. The people were very friendly at the golf course and the pro admired Richard’s PXG irons and even went and got us a Bandon Crossings yardage guide.

The 3rd hole ‘Meadow’ a 375 yard par 4 from the white tees.

Hole 4 - ’Wildflower’ a par 5 - 430 yard hole from the red tees. My worst hole of the day.

Hole #5 - ‘Crossings’ a Par 5 470 yards from the white tees. The green was down below us and it was a very tricky green to hit being so far below the fairway.

The temperature rose to +10C, but with the windchill it felt cooler at +8C. The sun was shining though and it was definitely nice to be outside in some sunshine for a change, after the weather we had in Vancouver Island.

The ‘half way’ house was actually after the 5th and 13th hole. We each had a cheese burger combo which was $7 each for a loaded burger, a bag of chips and a bag of cookies! What a great deal! Almost everyone stops after hole 13 for a burger, hot dog or a taco which meant that there was a delay to hit on the par 3 -14th hole, but it gave us time to eat our burgers in the sunshine.

Hole # 14 ‘The Drop’ - a 155 yard par 3 from the white tees.

Hole # 18 ‘Sunset’ a challenging 495 yard par 5 from the white tees.

I had a great round today. I shot an even par 36 on the back nine! I had a lot of 1 putts too with only 26 putts today, which really helped my score. It sure was nice to play some good golf, on a course that drained really well. I’m not sure I had another 9 holes this year where I shot even par, so its nice to know I can still do it!

We called our Fairway shuttle driver on the 18th tee, to make sure that they could pick us up right after our round. Sure enough Stacy was there to pick us up when we finished playing 18, and we got back to Newman, just before 3pm. The sun was streaming in the windows and we even opened some windows to air Newman out.

Richard went and did some more laundry at the laundromat at the RV park, since its harder for us to do laundry when we are on the road. I wish we had a car to visit more of Bandon, but after a day of fresh air and golf, we’re happy to be back relaxing in Newman. We also wish we could have been able to stay another day and play one of the Bandon Dunes golf courses to truly understand why this is a golf mecca, but since we tried for tee times on a range of days and they had nothing available, its better for us to keep heading south to warmer weather since we know that our next round of golf will be a very special one in the Monterey peninsula!

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