A local caddie’s guide to all things Bandon Dunes
For any golfer that is not aware, Bandon Dunes is a world-class golf resort on the southern coast of Oregon, containing four championship courses, two par-3 tracks and an 18-hole putting green that boasts some of the biggest roars you will hear from the guests anywhere on property.
Due to the lack of truly seasonal weather, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is open and plays year-round and boasts a caddie program that rivals any other in the world (I have had other caddie managers at top facilities tell me this to my face, as well as golfers that have gotten bad loopers at premium venues).
I am a local product, born and raised in the area, that started working as a jock at the resort back in 1999 (yes, the year it opened), and I am here to give you the best dirt on our dirt for whenever you choose to pay your visit.
During the 20 years since the resort’s first ribbons were cut, Bandon Dunes has been gradually adding to the massive property. Years ago, it was absolutely essential to know the town of Bandon — just five miles south of the resort. Now that the overall complex has grown to its current size, guests here no longer have to venture out into the delightful redneck trappings that are Coos County for extra food or drink (extraneous entertainment? Maybe…).
With the exception of Old Macdonald, each full-size golf course on site has its own restaurant, plus a main formal dining room and McKee’s Pub at the main facility (giving you a total of five different places for “sit down” eating). I’m not certain if they serve food in the Bunker Bar or not, for us caddies are not allowed down there. The beer selections vary from place to place. The breakfast sandwich at the main lodge snack bar is a boba ride staple, and Grandma Thayer’s meatloaf is the perfect fare for refueling. I fancy the bar menu at the Tufted Puffin — great selection, great food, very reasonable prices (I eat there at least twice a week).
The ever-expanding nature that is Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has made the logistics for your typical golfer a growing task. It’s absolutely imperative to play every course here during your visit. In the summertime when there’s ample amounts of daylight (the sun sets around 9:15 p.m. around the summer solstice), this isn’t such a difficult thing given the amount of time you’ll have to squeeze in as much golf as one can.
Later in the year, if you’re not the first group out, you’ll be hard-pressed to make all 36 holes before the waning sun disappears well before 5 p.m. Picking the time of year for your trip is essential for this; the difference could result in paying for four nights on property instead of two.
The biggest question I get is: “What time of year is the best to play?”
Let us get a few things straight here… much like the immortal Paul Rudd said in Forgetting Sarah Marshall: “The weather outside is, weather.” It changes frequently just like anywhere else. But here is the straight dump: It is very sunny during our peak season, but also very windy (20 mph average). The absolute best time of year is fall, even late fall. Yearly rainfall averages about 60 inches, with most of that falling in the spring. It will never get warmer than 70 degrees and rarely colder than 40 degrees.
Bandon Dunes Golf Resort boasts a triad of activities (golf, eat, sleep, repeat) that will keep you as present within the game as possible during your stay. There are no tennis courts here. There’s no world-class spa or fitness center on property. This lack of extracurricular activities keeps owner Mike Keiser’s vision of “golf the way it was meant to be” as immaculate as it could be at this destination spot. That being said, the tracks at the resort are walking only (if a golfer produces the appropriate paperwork, a golf cart can be summoned for the round), so taking one of our many caddies is as fun as it is almost vital. Speaking of which…
…allow me to gush for a moment: our caddie program is second to none in this country. I have heard other caddies call into podcasts and brag about their job, but they are all seasonal jocks, and my mates and myself do this 365 days a year. As mentioned before, I have had caddie managers of very prestigious places tell me that they model their entire program after us. We are the only caddyshack in the country with a staffed kitchen. Our crew has won the Looper Cup the last five (four, at least) years in a row. At full strength our numbers top 350, and with the opening of Sheep Ranch next summer, those figures can easily go up another 100. It is a very unique vocation that I am extremely happy, blessed and proud to be a part of.
If/when you make the pilgrimage out to the southern Oregon coast, take a caddie.
Yes, our bag fees for caddies do not change proportionately with the greens fees, but taking a looper with you is about more than just having someone schlep your sticks and read your putts. Half of the fun in getting a caddie is the unknown element of who you are going to wind up. Could it be a young Evans Scholar working through college before becoming our next mover or shaker in the world? Is it one of my pals that worked here as a caddie and came back after failing to qualify for any of the many golf tours out there? Or is it the down and out local that used to sell me crappy weed in high school and found his (or her) calling as a caddie instead of a garden gnome?
Point is, we are all worth it. Some of us possess more local knowledge than others, and some of us are quicker on their feet with a joke or a jab. I once heard that half of our caddie force carry a single-digit handicap or better (I FIRST heard that half of the caddies were scratch or better, but I adjusted it based off of all my experiences playing/watching them). One thing is for certain — a caddie will never steer you wrong. Any local food advice, where to watch the game/fight, etc., your jock knows where to send you.
After all, it’s our job to make your day as fun as possible. What good does it do us if we ever lie to you? There’s an attitude I “invented” that applies perfectly to us working in the golf industry. In short, I call it the “Movie Theatre Mentality.” Much like a movie goer, when the average golfer goes to play golf, they know: 1. How long it is going to take; and 2. How much it’s going to cost. It’s up to us “ticket takers” at the “theatre” to screw things up. So why wouldn’t we want to make your trip as grand and as memorable as possible?
To put a bow on things from this jock’s perspective: don’t be afraid to overpack, but don’t bring everything in your golf bag (you are only gone for five hours tops, for crying out loud). Caddie Services have change-out waterproof stand bags we can utilize if your bag is too heavy, or doesn’t possess a shoulder strap or legs. If you play two rounds in one day, change shoes between rounds (extra socks plus Gold Bond is a bonus). When booking, do your best to give yourself (and your caddies) time between rounds to eat, change, etc.
I know it isn’t cheap, but it is crucial to make your trip as fantastic as possible. Bandon is a far away place, and while some come back every year, many only go once.
Hope to see you out there.