My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences
The Golf Bucket List
I had heard a wide range of opinions on Old Mac, so I wasn't really sure what I would think. However, I really liked it. In fact, i think I'd put it as my second favorite course on the property. I only wish we could have played it in slightly more favorable conditions so I could have appreciated it a touch more rather than trying not to drown. What a great trip at Bandon this was, and I can't wait to go back again!
#16, "Alps," Par 4, 433 Yards
This can be a long and difficult par four. A big tee shot hit down the right side may leave you with a view of the green. if you are down the middle or left side you will have a blind approach shot into the green. After you have tapped in be sure to right the bell so the group behind you knows the green is clear.
As is typical with Alps Holes, the second shot into the green is blind. An aiming pole sits atop the dune that obstructs your view. Definitely a hard but fun hole.
#15, "Westward Ho," Par 5, 482 Yards
This mid-length par five plays straight towards the setting sun. A tee shot hit towards the left-center of the fairway will give players a chance to get near the green in two. There is a bunker on the right side of the fairway that sits short of the green. You might take an extra club as you are hitting to an elevated green that is tiered.
Definitely a good chance to score on a tricky second nine. Take advantage here.
#12, "Redan," Par 3, 205 Yards
A stout par three that plays into a plateau green running from front-right to back-left. Players who can curve the ball, landing it on the front right and chasing it back, will have the best chance at making par. A bunker sits on the left side of the green to collect balls that weren't played high or long enough.
Not the hardest of Redan's (a hole modeled after the famous hole at North Berwick), as the left bunker isn't as cavernous and penal as on some replica's.
#11, "Road," Par 4, 399 Yards
A long par four that resembles the famous Road Hole at St. Andrews. A tee shot placed won the right side will leave the best angle in for your second shot. Anything from the middle or left side will force the player to contend with the deep bunker near the front-left side of the green.
Weather was getting rough as we reached another template hole from the Home of Golf. There is no Old Course Hotel to hit over, but there is ample trouble that needs to be carried from the tee to reach the optimal side of the fairway. The Road Bunker on this hole is no joke, and needs to be avoided to have any chance at par.
#8, "Biarritz," Par 3, 170 Yards
Playing from an elevated tee, this green has a deep swale that will come into play for most players. The best shots will be played with a lower trajectory and land short of the swale, rolling down and through to the back third of the green. A two-putt on this hole is a feat of its own.
Modeled after the famous hole in Biarritz, France, this green is nearly 75 yards deep. However, based on the yardage book, it seems like the only "pinnable" locations are on the back third of the green, a tier that is only 23 yards deep. So, essentially, you can disregard the first 52 yards of the green as it should only be used to run the ball back to the back level. Anything that isn't on the correct tier will be an extremely difficult par. Personally, I wish they used pin locations on all three tiers, though I understand why they don't. Notice the depth of the center swale in the third picture below, where the gentleman's legs seemingly disappear! The near-halfway house is at the 8th tee.
#6, "Long," Par 5, 520 Yards
Aptly named, the longest hole on the golf course plays directly into the summer wind. Avoid the large cross bunker in the middle of the fairway that sits 100 yards from the green by laying up for position. The best angle into this green is from the left side. It will take three well-played shots to get home on this hole.
It seems fitting to follow up the Short hole with the Long hole. Lots of bunker line this hole and stand guard of a misplayed shot.
#4, "Hog's Back," Par 4, 472 Yards
A good tee shot is critical on this long par four. The perfect drive over the ridge will propel forward for extra yards. Anything short or right will fall off leaving a long, blind second shot. There is more room to the left than you might think. Four is always a great score here.
This one was a complete beast, because it played against the winter prevailing wind, and it was long enough in the first place! A driver followed by a 3 wood wasn't close to enough to get to the green in regulation. I was thrilled to get off the hole with a five. The video shows what kind of weather we were facing from the tee.
#3, "Sahara," Par 4, 345 Yards
A blind tee shot over a sand dune to a fairway that falls away from you. Draw a driver around the old Port Orford Cedar and give yourself a chance to get near the green. A hybrid or middle iron off the tee will leave you a short iron for your second shot.
As the description above suggests, a driver is not critical on this hole. Left of the tree is the preferred ending point. Shape the ball however you wish to end up in that position. My group thought that this tree would have been a good logo for the course to stay consistent with the other Bandon logos.
#2, "Eden," Par 3, 162 Yards
This par three plays into the prevailing wind and features a back-to-front pitched green that is guarded by a deep revetted bunker at front right as well as another bunker left. Careful consideration for wind and hole placement will give you the best chance at making par.
Modeled after the 11th hole at The Old Course, the Eden at Old Mac is one of the smallest greens on the course and demands precision off the tee. This hole plays due North, which is directly into the prevailing summer winds. However, as I've said on my other Bandon Dunes reviews, we faced the winter prevailing winds when we played, which come from the Southwest.
#1, "Double Plateau," Par 4, 304 Yards
The opening hole of Old Macdonald can get you off to a good start. It's a mid-length par four that rewards a tee shot in the fairway. Check the hole location to position yourself for the best angle into the green. When playing into a north wind be sure to add enough club to get back to the hole.
The first of many "template holes" features two plateaus, with one of the left side of the green and another on the back right. It's really an easy opening hole as long as you can avoid the bunkers, with the fairway bunker at 250 yards from the tee being the primary obstacle. From there, it's a little pitch onto the green with two bunkers in the front and one in the rear. With that said, you'll learn quickly at Old Mac that it's not about hitting the greens, but hitting them in close proximity to the hole, lest you have a putt the length of a long NFL field goal!
Some Top 100 rounds are more memorable than others. My round at Old Macdonald will be one that I will never forget. It's not because it the course was the best I've ever seen. It's not because I played my best golf. In this case, as the picture above is supposed to convey (The first ever Bucket List Selfie), I will always remember "Old Mac" because of the weather conditions that my group faced throughout the round. Many would undoubtedly say, "what did you expect when you decided to go to Bandon in March?" Well, THIS! And, that's why I came prepared with waterproof wears, head-to-toe. However, outside of wearing SCUBA gear, I'm not sure there are clothes that are waterproof enough for what I would face on this Saturday in March. My round at Old Mac was 18 holes that varied between steady rain, and torrential rain, and between hard breezes and gusty winds. It was what a fair weather golfer would consider downright miserable. However, not only was I playing a Top 100 golf course, but a Top 100 golf course that is on sandy soil that can handle lots of rain, coupled with a design that is plenty playable in the elements.
Old Mac is the last of the full length Bandon Courses to be built (so far). The course opened for play in 2010, and is the work of Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. It is Doak's second effort at the Bandon Resort, after building Pacific Dunes nearly a decade earlier. Old Mac is a course with loads of width and enormous greens. Part of that is due to the geography it sits on, with frequent volatile weather. However, more of it is due to the mission statement that the course was built on. In the words of the architects:
"Our fourth course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Old Macdonald, is an homage to the vision and spirit of C.B. Macdonald. The goal has been not to copy Macdonald's great holes any more than Macdonald would have settled for carbon copies of the Alps and Redan - but to borrow upon his inspiration and method for our own fine piece of links ground.
Those familiar with Macdonald's work will compare and contrast his holes and our own with their forefathers at St. Andrews, Leven, and Littlestone; others will have the chance to experience for the first time these classic concepts which are the very foundation of the game."
Golfers who are familiar with the works of C.B. Macdonald know that he is known for building courses with template holes. He and Seth Raynor are known for re-creating their interpretations of holes like the famous Redan, Biarritz, and Road on diverse sites across the country. So, the idea on this property is to make an educated guess of what Macdonald would have done with the land, and that's what Doak and Urbina did. The course features nearly all of the usual template holes, but does it on land with wall-to-wall fescue grass that plays firm and fast.
As with all of the Bandon courses, the goal was never to build a beast of a course that would stretch to 7,500 yards and test the best players in the game. The goal was to build fun golf courses that were playable by players of all levels. With that in mind, Old Mac only tops out at 6,944 yards from the Black Tees, with a Par-71 rating / slope of 74.1 / 133. The next set of tees plays from 6,320 yards and likely gets the vast majority of the public rounds played here. Those tees play to a manageable rating and slope of 71.3 and 127. On a day with heavy rain and winds, that would be more than enough length for us. In addition, the goal of the Bandon courses was never to follow a traditional routing, but to capitalize on the best features of the land rather than forcing a particular formula for holes. With this in mind, Old Mac plays to an atypical Par 34 on the front, and a par 37 on the back. Due to this discrepancy, the back nine plays about 700-800 yards longer depending on which tee you're playing. I'll quote the Green Tees below. As with the other Bandon Dunes courses, I'll also quote the descriptions from the yardage books in italics, with my own commentary to follow.
Due to the rain, I wasn't going to sacrifice my camera's functionality for pictures. However, Samsung claimed that my Android phone was waterproof, so I decided I'd test that out, rather than go photo-free. So, everything below is taken with my phone rather than a camera....it is what it is. Some shots ended up just fine while others were useless. On some of the pictures, there was a weird green line that appeared digitally. Apologies in advance!
#88, Top 100 Golf Courses in the World (2015)
#45, Top 100 Golf Courses in the U.S. (2015)
#10, Top 100 Courses You Can Play (2014)
#3, Best Public Golf Courses in Oregon (2014)
#12, America's 100 Greatest Public Courses (2015-2016)
#55, America's 100 Greatest Courses (2015-2016)
#3, Best in the State of Oregon (2015-2016)
#18, "Punchbowl," Par 4, 426 Yards
This strong finishing hole plays downwind in the summer and requires s drive placed just left of center. From here a mid-iron shot should be played left of the intended target. Take enough club to get all the way to the hole, the green lies in a bowl and shots will feed back to the center.
I hate to say it, but on this hole, I was mainly thinking about just finishing the round. It was a rain-filled adventure, but we got it in...albeit with bubbles coming out of our shoes and rain soaking every inch of our bodies.
#17, "Littlestone," Par 5, 515 Yards
This par five gives players two options off the tee - the conservative play is down the left side, avoiding the bunkers in the middle. A tee ball that is driven toward the right side needs to carry the waste area to reach the fairway. If successful you will have a direct line to the green and could reach home in two. The bunker short left of the green tends to collect a lot of balls that are not hit with confidence.
Another high quality risk/reward hole. Left is the safe line, but presents a longer and more difficult shot into the green. Pick your poison...off the tee or on the second shot.
#14, "Maiden," Par 4, 397 Yards
This par four plays entirely uphill. Pay attention to the hole location as there are wings on the left-side and right-side that demand a precise approach. There is a lot of fairway to the right which will create the best angle for a back left hole location.
A fun hole here with a crazy green. The approach should be nothing more than a short pitch, unless you club down and don't hit driver from the tee. Green contours are usually hard to see in two-dimensional photographs, so when you can see them (in the third picture below), you know how steep they really are!
#13, "Leven," Par 4, 319 Yards
A short par four with a green nestled in between two sand dunes. The best position is just past the bunker in the right-center of the fairway, leaving a full shot into the hole. This green slopes from left to right, play accordingly.
Nothing to add really. Above says it all.
#10, "Bottle," Par 4, 440 Yards
This hole gets its namesake from the two sets of bunkers which narrow the driving zone. A long carry up to the middle or a ball funneled down the right side will avoid the bunkers and leave you in the fairway. The second shot is to an elevated green that plays smaller than it looks. A par is a good score here.
After the short, par-34 outward nine, it's time to take on the longer and tougher inward side. The bottle hole is one of the more difficult drives on the course, where the landing area is littered with bunkers. Stay on grass off of the tee and you're left with a long shot to an uphill green. Play this hole in the summer, and at least you'll face it mostly downwind--I didn't!
#9, "Cape," Par 4, 352 Yards
A sweeping dogleg to the right with bunkers and gorse on the inside corner to punish those who get too aggressive. The safer you play it the longer your approach becomes.
As the description above suggest, this is a classic risk/reward hole, as taking on the bunkers to the right will give you a distance to the hole, though at perhaps a tougher angle. The safe line is longer, but possibly as an easier angle. Choose the line that suits your game best.
#7, "Ocean," Par 4, 345 Yards
This par four is more about the second shot than the first. As large fairway with more room to the right, your best aiming point from the tee is the gorse to the right of the green complex. Your second shot here needs to take into account the distance, wind and elevation change. Be sure to take enough club to get you all the way up to the green.
Among my favorite holes at the entire resort. The drive is fairly simple, but the second shot is well uphill to a green where the flagstick is barely visible. However, after you climb up that hill you are rewarded with an incredible view.
#5, "Short," Par 3, 134 Yards
The shortest hole on the golf course plays to one of the largest greens. pay particular attention to the hole location as there are several distinct areas to leave your golf ball. When in doubt, aim for the center of the green.
This green is truly massive. It's 66 yards deep and wider than that. I can't imagine missing the green surface with a shot of this length, but that doesn't mean it's an easy par. Two-putting can be a major achievement on this green.