As golf season winds down in Buffalo-Niagara, our attention turns to domes, trips and television. You have domes and your remote control device within reach, so leave the rest to me. I’m going to give offer up a nine-part series (this is part two) on eclectic eighteens across the USA. The only thread tying them together is my having played them. That, and the fact that all of the courses are worthwhile. You’ll never play them all in one sweep, as I once did, but when you find yourself in these regions, know that these courses are worth your money and your best game.
There is a town along the Oregon coast that once was known for its timber industry. Logging expired and the town turned to golf in an unexpected way. That story is for another time. After the game first came to town in the form of a world-class and world-famous resort, a local course sprung up south of the town center. Unaffiliated with the resort on the north end of town, Bandon Crossings was designed by a then-unknown architect, Dan Hixson. The course was routed in a wonderful way, in a manner that reflected the character of the region, yet didn’t copy the nearby, respected courses.
I arrived in Bandon on a Saturday in October. I was scheduled to play the Crossings the next morning, when I would also photograph its holes. Since I arrived around 2 p.m., I decided to head over and see the course. With clouds barely covering background of blue, I grabbed a cart and went out to shoot. My rule of thumb is, get your images when you can. Who knows what the weather will be when you’re supposed to shoot. As luck sometimes has it, the next morning was a deluge. So bad, in fact, that I had the golf course to myself the entire morning. My rain gear was tested to its maximum, but my spirits were elevated. You see, I had my images from the day before and wind and rain are supposed to be a part of golf. Add to the fact that I was in a cart (a good thing, as I would walk 18 holes that afternoon, followed by 36 holes each of the next four days) and could zip around, and life was quite decent and proper.
I loved Bandon Crossings. Loved it so much that I told everyone I know and met what I thought of it. Hixson build a golf course that challenges from every tee deck, that offers width in the fairways, but no penal, bad bounces. You can hit a poor shot and you can get a bad result, but it’s your fault and not that of the course. The golf course shows Hixson’s understanding of classic golf architecture and his affection for developing singular yet playable holes. Most of all, the golf course is fun to play. Locals love Bandon Crossings for these reasons and the inexpensive green fees. If you happen to be in town to play those other courses, be sure that you don’t miss the Crossings. You’ll get to see the town of Bandon and enjoy more wonderful golf.
One of the great things about Mike Keiser, the owner/developer of the Bandon Dunes community, is his affection for classic golf architecture. He loves sand, he loves the stylings of the golden-age architects and he loves the ground game. He is a quick player, so he also loves transitions where you fall off the gree onto the next tee box (in a figurative sense, most days.) After the first three courses were built at Bandon Dunes, Mike Keiser decided to scratch an itch that had lingered for a long time. He wanted to create an homage to those architects whose work he had enjoyed throughout the British isles and the eastern United States. On the northernmost plot of land at the resort, Mike Keiser enlisted a cadre of architects and aficionados (highlighted by Tom Doak, Jim Urbina, George Bahto and Brad Klein) to build Old Macdonald. If the name conveyed a playful sense, the finished product amalgamated all the essential elements and templates that Charles Blair Macdonald, creator of the National Golf Links of America, prized so highly.
There is a terminology among architecture aficionados, an idiolect that includes words like kickplate, Maiden, hogsback, Alps, double plateau and many other vocabules. Some have their genesis at the greatest of courses, the Old Course at St. Andrews. Others emanated from France (Biarritz), North Berwick (Redan) and England (Westward Ho!) while others were born at Old Macdonald (Ocean). The holes are not precise copies of their predecessors, not even replicas, but interpretations in a new-world manner. Some are severe while others are a bit gentler. All are jaw-dropping, as the majority lie in a great bowl between a massive ridge and the Pacific ocean. To pretend that one could figure out Old Macdonald after a few playings is ludicrous; conservative golfers fare best at this links, and all who have the wisdom and guile to eschew high-flying wedges for running putters and hybrids from greenside will enjoy the course as it is meant to be played.