What's the best course at Bandon Dunes resort?
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What’s the best course at Bandon Dunes resort?

The 14th on the Bandon Trails course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Photo by Brian Oar / GolfNewsNet.com)

There's a difference between “best” and “favorite”.

Merriam-Webster defines “best” as “Excelling all others.” The word “favorite”, on the other hand is described as: “One that is treated or regarded with special liking.”

I can easily tell you my favorite actress (Blake Lively), ice cream flavor (Cookies & Cream) and singer (Carrie Underwood), but that doesn’t make them the best (except in Carrie Underwood’s case, of course.)

Favorites are subjective. Greatness is much more fact-based. Pacific Dunes may be my favorite course at Bandon Dunes (narrowly over the namesake course, then Trails, then Old Mac) but that doesn't make Pacific Dunes the best.

Which begs the question: What is the BEST Golf Course at Bandon Dunes resort?

OK, so maybe it only feels like we’ve been tossing that topic around for centuries. The point is: Don’t you think it’s about time that someone give a definitive answer to the golf-obsessed masses? Forget subjectivity. Forget opinions. Let’s get real. Lets use math, science and sex appeal to determine the winner. (Sex appeal defined as: shape plus beauty plus playability.)

You’ve always been told that there is no right or wrong answer to the Bandon ranking question, right? That’s bull! There is a right answer – one course is better than the others. It’s time to put an end to all the political correctness and just put it out there.

The best golf course at Bandon Dunes Resort is…

Yeah, no, sorry. I can’t tell you that yet. I’d be short-changing the legitimacy of the process. I’ve played all four courses (as everyone should), and I alluded to my own favorite earlier, but this article isn’t about me or opinions. This is all about facts.

First, I have to tell you how I calculated the answer. Hold on…

Actually, first I have to challenge Matt Ginella (Mr. Bandon and father of adorable son, Bandon) to do the very same thing I did.

Now...here's how I calculated the answer.

The Comparison

I lined the courses up side-by-side, hole-against-beautiful-hole. I ranked each first hole on the four championship courses against each other. Then I did the same with the second hole, all the way through all 72 holes at Bandon. The winning hole was awarded 5 points (4 plus a bonus point for being “The Best”), while the second-best got 3 points, third-best got 2 points and fourth-best got 1 point.

(Course Abbreviations: Bandon Dunes = Bandon / Pacific Dunes = Pacific / Bandon Trails = Trails / Old Macdonald = Old Mac)

Front Nines

  • Hole 1: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Bandon (2) / Old Mac (1)
  • Hole 2: Trails (5) / Old Mac (3) / Pacific (2) / Bandon (1)
  • Hole 3: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Bandon (2) / Old Mac (1)
  • Hole 4: Pacific (5) / Bandon (3) / Old Mac (2) / Trails (1)
  • Hole 5: Trails (5) / Bandon (3) / Old Mac (2) / Pacific (1)
  • Hole 6: Bandon (5) / Old Mac (3) / Trails (2) / Pacific (1)
  • Hole 7: Old Mac (5) / Bandon (3) / Trails (2) / Pacific (1)
  • Hole 8: Trails (5) / Old Mac (3) / Bandon (2) / Pacific (1)
  • Hole 9: Old Mac (5) / Trails (3) / Bandon (2) / Pacific (1)

Front Nine totals:

  1. Bandon Trails: 27 points (3 wins)
  2. Old Macdonald: 25 points (2 wins)
  3. Bandon Dunes: 23 points (1 win)
  4. Pacific Dunes: 22 points (3 wins)

Despite the hot start, having the best respective hole for three of the first four holes, Pacific Dunes has the worst front nine overall. (Take it easy, Tom.) As an ardent advocate for Pacific Dunes, I was quite shocked by this realization. That said, I’m keeping the faith. I don’t have the love I have for Pacific Dunes for no reason. Do I?

Back Nines

  • Hole 10: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Bandon (2) / Old Mac (1)
  • Hole 11: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Old Mac (2) / Bandon (1)
  • Hole 12: Pacific (5) / Bandon (3) / Old Mac (2) / Trails (1)
  • Hole 13: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Old Mac (2) / Bandon (1)
  • Hole 14: Pacific (5) / Trails (3) / Bandon (2) / Old Mac (1)
  • Hole 15: Bandon (5) / Old Mac (3) / Trails (2) / Pacific (1)
  • Hole 16: Bandon (5) / Old Mac (3) / Pacific (2) / Trails (1)
  • Hole 17: Trails (5) / Old Mac (3) / Pacific (2) / Bandon (1)
  • Hole 18: Pacific (5) / Old Mac (3) / Trails (2) / Bandon (1)

Back Nine totals:

  1. Pacific Dunes: 35 points (6 wins)
  2. Bandon Trails: 23 points (1 win)
  3. Bandon Dunes: 21 points (2 wins)
  4. Old Mac: 20 points (0 wins)

There is no question Pacific Dunes has the best back nine of the four championship courses at Bandon Dunes. By virtue of winning six of the nine holes, it really isn’t even close – arguably the way a course that has many times been voted the favorite public course in America should finish: strong. Bandon strong.

The Answer

The numbers are in. Now, put the two sides together and look at the big picture.

  1. Pacific Dunes: 57 points, winning nine of the eighteen hole head-to-heads
  2. Bandon Trails: 50 points, winning four of the head-to-heads
  3. Old Macdonald: 45 points, only taking two of the head-to-heads, but just edging out the namesake course by a point
  4. Bandon Dunes: 44 points, winning three of the head-to-heads

The facts don’t lie: Pacific Dunes is THE BEST golf course at Bandon Dunes Resort. Problem solved.

Before anyone throws me through a plate-glass window, let me make it clear that this is all mathematical and scientific fact. It doesn’t mean that I like it. (Just like I don’t like that the sun is never hot or even remotely warm up north from November to April, even though the sun itself is very hot.) Bandon Dunes architect David McLay Kidd is one of my two favorite living golf architects (with Jeffrey Brauer), and if you gave me five rounds to divvy between the four main courses at Bandon, the Bandon Dunes course is the one I’d pick to play twice. I love Bandon Dunes.

If I were forced to skip one of the courses, I’d want it to be Bandon Trails, which is the second-best course there.

And now, this is obviously a satirical composition. I love all four Bandon courses. The four courses are as diverse a collection as the personalities of their architects, and Bandon Dunes as a resort is the top golf resort in America. With apologies to Pebble Beach and other contenders, that’s also a fact. No other resort in the world has four courses this great.

About the author

Eric N. Hart

Eric Hart (aka MobileGolfer) is an award-winning travel and leisure writer for Golf News Net and the owner of Stays + Plays Travel Agency in the Midwest. Eric has stayed at 250-plus resorts and hotels around the world and played 500-plus golf courses. He has worked with 16 tourism agencies and written more than 1,100 articles for 14 regional, national and international golf, family and travel publications since he began in 2007. With a passion for promoting both golf and family travel, Eric routinely hits the road with his son and/or the full family (wife and four kids).

Reach Eric by email at info[at]staysandplays.com