LINKS Magazine

My 10 Favorite Par-Three Holes at Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes Threes feat

Bandon Dunes celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with an event that coincided with the grand opening of the resort’s seventh course, a 19-hole Par-3 course which trundles over a parcel of land that is captivating yet too severe to accommodate a full-length layout. Named in honor of the land’s previous caretaker, this new addition—Shorty’s—is set just south of Bandon Preserve and just west of Bandon Trails yet offers a landscape all its own. The layout tumbles over and around a swath of dramatically shaped dunes and ridges—dunes that Keith Cutten, who co-designed the course with his colleagues at WAC Golf, describes as “the biggest” and “most choppy” on the entire property.

“On some of our shorter holes, you get this sense of compression as you come into certain areas because the dunes squeeze you,” Cutten says, “and we play off that on the next hole, which opens up into a huge bowl. You really feel the contrast and scale of these dunes.”

Inspired by the new course, I took a broader view across the resort and singled out 10 one-shot holes that I think are the most dynamic, making sure to include at least one hole from each course. Here, I present my 10 favorite par-three holes at Bandon Dunes.

Bandon Dunes—2nd Hole (220 yards)

After an opening hole that typically requires players hit their approaches with a short iron or wedge, the resort’s foundational (and namesake) course ratchets up the difficulty with a medium-long par three that not only plays uphill but also with a prevailing wind that most of the time blows in and off the left. Those gusts often reject shots short of the green or divert them into a collection area to the right that, while a common resting place for tee shots, is not one that most golfers would call “popular.” Even those who find the putting surface with their tee shots will encounter a stern test, as the undulating green will challenge your touch with the flatstick.

Bandon Dunes 2nd hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Bandon Preserve—6th Hole (131 yards)

While the first five holes on Bandon Preserve are all incredibly fun, they all prompt a similar shot, one that comes in high and—if you judge the wind correctly—lands softly near the flagstick. The 6th hole, however, is altogether different. Set on the western perimeter of the course and tucked into a recessed crevasse, the 131-yard 6th typically plays into a prevailing wind; however, given the hole’s protected nature, golfers may not be able to ascertain just how strongly the wind is blowing. More importantly, because the green is guarded by deep bunkers on the front left side and flanked by a steep dune on the right, players have a number of different shot options. Not only does this hole encourage creativity, it will reward shrewd tee shots, so long as they’re hit correctly.

Bandon Preserve 6th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Old Macdonald—5th Hole (160 yards)

Evidence proving the adages “good things come in small packages” and “less is more” can be found all the time. Every once in a while, however, something comes along that reminds you why bigger can sometimes be better. The 5th hole at Old Macdonald is one of those things. Although it’s the shortest hole on the course, number five plays to one of the largest greens. More importantly, that putting surface is wildly contoured. That makes for intriguing tee shots, as you can clearly see where and how the green is divvied into sections. Given that the hole plays no more than 170 yards to back hole locations, golfers will most likely have a short iron in their hands, so the need to hit a precise shot comes at an appropriate distance. Yes, should you miss your spot, you’ll likely be left with an adventurous putt. But the green can reward creativity, so use those slopes to your advantage.

Old Macdonald 5th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Pacific Dunes—17th Hole (208 yards)

Playing as long as 208 yards from the tips—though potentially even a handful of yards beyond that based on back hole locations—the 17th at Pacific Dunes delivers equal measures of encouragement and intimidation. For starters, the hole’s length, as well as a steep drop-off at the mouth of the green and a cavernous bunker wrapping around the front left corner of the putting surface, all inject a bit of trepidation while standing on the tee. The sprawling nature of the putting surface, however, and a somewhat concealed ridge along the right side of the green that funnels balls in a Redan-like fashion toward the middle offer reasons for optimism.

Pacific Dunes 17th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Shorty’s—13th Hole (152 yards)

Capable of playing as long as 152 yards and as short as 84, lucky number 13 on Bandon’s new short course is the longest within the layout, but that’s not the reason for this callout. The hole truly shines not for its length, but for its ability to reward different strategies off the tee. The bold player can choose to take on the more dramatic shot, hitting over a stretch of high fescue grasses and a subsequent deep bunker that protects the right front portion of the green. Alternatively, golfers who want to play conservative can venture to the left, where there’s plenty of room to land a tee shot and where a gradual slope and some mounding might offer a friendly kick onto the putting surface. Even if players don’t get that ground assist, the terrain can accommodate putts that are hit yards away from the green, making up-and-downs a reasonable task.

Sheep Ranch—16th Hole (151 yards)

The last short hole on the bunkerless Sheep Ranch is a doozy. Flanked by a gorse-covered dune to the right and a cliff face that drops precipitously—at least 100 feet—to the beach on the left, the massive green is no more than 151 yards from the back tees. Depending on the speed and direction of the wind, however, hitting the putting surface can be quite the feat. There is, however, a bowling lane-like chute of short grass that runs from the teeing areas all the way up to the green, which means players who want to attempt a low-running shot can have success there. Just ask Grant Rogers, Bandon’s Director of Instruction, who once played the hole into a pronounced wind and, using a driver, not only bunted his tee shot onto the surface, but into the hole.

Sheep Ranch 16th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Bandon Preserve—8th Hole (63 yards)

As one of the shortest holes on the entire property, the 8th hole at Bandon Preserve shines for not only making a flip of a wedge incredibly dramatic, but for prolonging that drama long after shots are hit. Thanks to a bunker-capped knoll bisecting the tee boxes and the bowl-shaped green, players will likely only see the top of the flagstick as they prepare to hit their tee shots. First-time players also won’t know that a ridge positioned just to the left of the green’s center will funnel shots away from the hole. That’s the beauty of this diminutive par three—it’s a guessing game, even as players walk around that knoll and see balls on the green, since those aforementioned contours can create unforeseen bounces and rolls.

Bandon Trails—12th Hole (242 yards)

On a course that plays less than 6,800 yards from the tips, you wouldn’t think you’d find a par three that requires driver off the tee. But in the right circumstances—or the wrong ones, depending on your perspective—that’s exactly what the 12th hole at Bandon Trails presents. Fortunately, the edges of the putting surface are sloped to funnel shots closer to the middle of the green. And while the left and rear of the green are guarded by bunkers, there’s a sprawling area of short-mowed grass to the right of the putting surface, which makes for comfortable stances and mostly flat lies, should you need to get up and down for par.

Bandon Trails 12th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Pacific Dunes—11th Hole (148 yards)

As the second of back-to-back par threes to start the inward nine at Pacific Dunes, the 11th hole embraces its location along the cliff edge with the Pacific crashing below. In particular, the green is surrounded by native beach grass and seven bunkers, all of which can come into play depending on the strength of the wind gusts that predominantly blow in and off the left. Playing no more than 150 yards from the back tees, Pacific Dunes’s 11th is a stout test given that it sports the smallest green on the course—one that will undoubtedly feel even smaller once players have a short iron in their hands and feel the sea breezes buffeting them.

Pacific Dunes 11th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Shorty’s—16th Hole (123 yards)

With a long putting surface that’s angled away from the tee to the left, this drop-shot hole brings to mind all those famous blind or semi-blind par threes across the pond. A mountainous-looking dune beyond the green frames the majority of the putting surface, while a smaller, scruffy-looking, sand-covered dune guards the entire left half of the green and is capable of blocking the view for as much as half of the flagstick, depending on how far left the hole is cut. It’s a cozy looking setting that adds a touch of drama based on hole locations, but one that golfers are likely to face with confidence, given that they’ll have—at most—a short iron in their hands.

Shorty’s 16th hole (photo courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Which par-three holes at Bandon Dunes are your favorites?

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