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Returning for another Bandon Dunes experience; SMGA

By Richard Davison (Special to the Index-Tribune)

It’s an early start and a long drive, but that doesn’t matter, come Saturday morning I’ll be heading back to one of my favorite places, Bandon Dunes, Ore.

Yes, it’s been a year since my last pilgrimage to the resort which now boasts four 18-hole tracks and a 13-hole par-3 course, and I’ve been thinking about it daily for months.

One of the great things about the resort is its webcam, so when you start daydreaming about playing up there, all you need to do is go onto their site and you can see what it’s like at that specific minute. Lately, surprisingly, it has been sunny. I’ve spotted guys in shorts, not a rain-suit in sight.

Of course, that will change, right now the weather forecast is calling for rain the day of arrival; so heavy that they have issued a warning.

Still, 2012 was the year when it rained so hard and the wind blew so strongly that the resort lost power and had to close the courses. I’m hopeful it doesn’t get to that stage this year; in fact, after that initial deluge of rain, it’s looking promising right now (fingers crossed).

As I think about heading back up there, and I speak about it with friends and family, they ask what it is that makes it so special? What makes me, and others, hold it in such high regard?

First off, whenever you arrive at the resort, in my case after that eight-hour drive, you park your car and you never have to get in it again for the remainder of your time there. Shuttle busses run 24/7 and they’re only a phone call and a couple of minutes away. Heading to the driving range, the shuttle will take you. How about dinner; the shuttle will take you to one of the many fantastic restaurants onsite.

There’s no issue getting back to your room after a few late night drinks, the shuttle will make sure you are returned safely. Speaking of drinks and food, the resort has you covered. It’s an amazing place to sit down, chat with your friends and discuss the shots that were hit that day.

There’s really only one reason to go to Bandon Dunes and that’s to play golf; there’s no spa or fancy shopping malls, the people that are there are there to play golf.

You hear the, “You should have seen the shot I hit on number four,” or, “How about the wind when you got out to the ocean on No. 5.”

Key holes are spoken about over a glass of wine and a comforting meal. It also has one of the most fantastic practice facilities around; you can go out to the range and hit practice balls until your heart’s content, or your hands start to bleed.

It’s one of the few places that regardless of weather, the driving range is always busy. Grab that raingear, put on your stocking cap and jump on a shuttle, you’re sure to find others up there that are just enjoying being outside searching for that perfect golf shot.

The reason to practice is so you can hopefully play well on one or all of the great courses that have been laid out over the cliffs above the Oregon coastline.

It all started with the original Bandon Dunes Golf Course, Pacific Dunes followed a few years later and then Bandon Trails was added. A couple more years down the road and Old MacDonald opened up, and finally Bandon Preserve gave players 13 of the most fantastic par-3’s around.

There’s no one course that is singled out as a “dog” in the group, but it’s funny to hear discussions on which course is the best. Most feel Pacific is the No. 1 choice, and with some of the views, it’s a spectacular course to play.

Others like the original Bandon Dunes course, as it’s a little more mature. Perhaps the large greens at Old MacDonald appeal to someone more than others, and, in my case, it’s Bandon Trails that gets the vote.

The sleeper of the group, it reminds me of the sandbelt courses of Melbourne, Australia, or Surrey, England.

The course winds its way through dunes early in the round, only to turn to the forest midway through the round and then back to the dunes for a fantastic finish. The setting of the 11th green, which sits at the foot of a group of large trees and has a small lake guarding the green, is one of the most idyllic places I have ever been to; there is something so peaceful about that spot.

After last year, when that course was going under some renovations, I get to play all 18 holes once again, and to say I am excited is an understatement. For others, it’s the fact that they get to play golf with a caddy.

Once prevalent throughout, caddies have slowly disappeared, more people either carry their own clubs or ride in a card, but at Bandon, things are different.

First off, there are no carts. Secondly, there are no yardages listed everywhere; it’s more about a yardage book and a caddy, just like it used to be. Being able to hit a shot and hand the club to a caddy is something every golfer should experience at least once, and when it comes to Bandon, you have a huge pool of caddies to choose from.

Although these are all great reasons to find the place special, I think it’s the fact that everyone else that goes with my group feels the same way.

Our drive early Saturday morning will involve non-stop chatter about the weather, the courses, the food, the competition, and then on the way home, we’ll rehash the rounds, the shots of the trip, the awesome/horrendous weather we get and the fact that we can’t wait 360 days until we all do it again.

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The Sonoma Men’s Golf Association is still looking for members for its 2014 season. Membership is $125 and includes membership into the NCGA.

This year’s tournament schedule gets underway Sunday, Jan. 26, at Paradise Valley Golf Club in Fairfield.

Anyone interested in joining can do so by mailing a check to SMGA, PO Box 1502, Sonoma, CA, 95476. For more information, contact rwdavison@yahoo.com or tvmsonoma@att.net.