A Preview of Shorty’s: The New Par-3 Course at Bandon Dunes

His parents knew him as Warren, but to everyone else he was “Shorty.” Shorty Dow, caretaker (or, as he put it, “governor, mayor, and sheriff”) of the wild, 1,250-acre property on the Oregon coast that Mike Keiser would eventually transform into what might be the greatest golf resort in the world, Bandon Dunes, earned the moniker with his diminutive stature. No one was thinking that, one day, it would also be the perfect name for a new golf course made up of 19 holes, none longer than 170 yards and one measuring only 55.

“Shorty’s,” designed by Rod Whitman, Dave Axland, and Keith Cutten (together known as WAC Golf), is set to open at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on May 2, 2024—25 years to the day after the resort first opened. The new design is actually Bandon’s second par-3 layout of that name; David McLay Kidd created the first Shorty’s at the resort’s massive Practice Center after completing the original Bandon Dunes course, but the decision was made in June 2023 to transfer the name to WAC’s highly anticipated creation, while rechristening the original “Charlotte’s” in honor of Shorty’s wife.

(photo by Nathan Kahler/Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

The new Shorty’s is located among the valleys, troughs, mounds, and ridges southwest of the 2nd green on Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s Bandon Trails course. The sublime stretch of dunes, with its busy configuration of random sand hills, could never have supported a regulation-length layout, but a better site for a par-3 course is hard to imagine. Indeed, the only property that might come close is the 32 acres on which Shorty’s neighbor to the north, Coore & Crenshaw’s 13-hole Bandon Preserve, opened in 2012.

Whitman, Axland, and Cutten were chosen to design the resort’s third par-3 course in the Spring of 2022. Tom Doak had routed a dozen holes on the site before Covid, and was initially awarded the job of building them. Keiser’s vision changed, however, and when he learned WAC were in nearby Bend (well, 250 miles inland, but close enough) designing the Tribute Course at Thornburgh Resort, he had them come and take a look.

“When Mike Keiser asks you to inspect a piece of ground, you do it without hesitation,” says Cutten who’s worked for Keiser at Cabot Cape Breton. “You know it’s going to be good and, moreover, you know the construction, maintenance, and management teams will move heaven and earth to ensure your hard work and design efforts are allowed to shine.”

(photo by Nathan Kahler/Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

WAC made several site visits throughout the remainder of 2022 and, though there was some overlap with Doak’s routing, the holes they created were entirely their own. “Tom had ventured into steeper ground and proposed longer holes,” says Cutten. “Our original 12-hole plan was extended to 18 after Ken Nice (the resort’s Director of Agronomy), suggested to Keiser that six more holes could easily fit into the property. We knew the extra six we imagined could be epic, but feared they might be considered too severe.”

Actually, Keiser loved them and gave the go-ahead to start building, adding three provisos—the clubhouse must be positioned in a slightly higher location with the addition of a 19th hole; every hole should be puttable; and time must be taken on the construction to get the details right.

Per Keiser’s instructions, the clubhouse is located on high ground looking west. The first hole heads south, then you work your way north to the 11th green where you’re just a hundred yards or so west of the 2nd tee at Bandon Trails, and a long iron shot east of Bandon Preserve’s 4th green. You then turn for home, play an unforgettable sequence of holes from 14–18 (really, it’s all unforgettable, but this part of the course will certainly get your attention), and finish with a climb up the dune at the 19th. There are two double greens—the horseshoe 6th/18th and the 70-yard long and narrow 9th/13th. The greens, as you’d probably expect, are full of fun contours that never guarantee a par after a green in regulation.

(photo by Nathan Kahler/Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Clearing began in March 2023 and construction was completed by the fall when the course was seeded. Whitman, Axland, and Cutten built all the golf features themselves, often checking on each other’s work to ensure everyone was satisfied.

Keiser’s son, Chris—an established member of the Dream Golf team, along with elder brother Michael Jr.—says it was WAC’s respect for the land that ultimately ensured the project’s success. “Humility was so important because they didn’t care where the best ideas came from,” he says. “Keith might be working on something, but then Dave or Rod suggests an alternative and they meander in that direction to get to the best outcome. There’s even a story of Tony Russell (a local contractor who has contributed to the construction of every course at Bandon Dunes) accidentally clearing an area for the 5th green a little bit farther west than what WAC had designed, but them liking it better and going with it.”

Regardless of how it came together, though, Shorty’s will undoubtedly be a hugely popular addition to Bandon Dunes and could soon be regarded as the finest short course in America. Cutten actually thinks comparing it to other acclaimed par-3 layouts like the WAC-designed Nest at Cabot Cape Breton, the Sandbox at Sand Valley, and even Bandon Preserve isn’t really a fair fight. “The dunes are so good here (Axland describes the ground as “active”), you could have had several architects all come up with unique routings/holes,” he says. “Really, the landscape at Shorty’s is far superior.”

wac golf
(photo by Nathan Kahler/Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Will you be making a trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and playing the new Shorty’s par-3 course?