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Caddie: A budget-friendly way to check Bandon Dunes off your bucket list

Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes
Bandon Dunes is right near the top of any serious golfer’s bucket list. Here, a Bandon caddie offers tips on how to play one of golf’s grandest destinations on a budget. You’re looking at the 11th tee at Pacific Dunes.

In the 20 years since the first resort golfer paid for their first round at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, things have gotten out of hand in a magnificent way. Now, I have never been to Disney World in Florida, but I can imagine what we have going on at our resort is not too dissimilar. Often times us caddies tell golfers this property is like two Disneylands got together and started having Disney babies and they all stayed home.

With four courses, a 13-hole, par-3 course, an 18-hole putting course, a world-class practice facility and a fifth (and possibly BEST) 18-hole course going public within the year, trips to the southern coast of Oregon are getting longer and longer, meaning costs become larger and larger. If a golfer wants to get around the resort on the cheap, several factors need to be considered.

Picking the time of year for your trip is the most crucial factor when curating a trip on a budget. The greens fees at the complex vary vastly depending on the season. Peak season (July-September) rates are $295 for your first round of the day (second round of the day is half the price of your first round, and your third round, if you can hack it, is free), whereas late November through January rates get all the way down to $100 for your first round.

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Price of admission to play the Preserve (the 13-hole par 3) is $50-$100, respectively. A very slick move is to play the Preserve in the morning as your warm-up round at full price, then tee it up at one of the championship tracks at half price later in the day. This is a perfect move due to the common problem of golfers scheduling too much, or not having enough time to eat or change between rounds.

Editor’s note: As quickly as this “loophole” was opened, it was hastily shut- as of typing this (January 2020) the whole playing the Preserve as your fully charged round first then playing one of the 18-hole tracks afterwards at half the price has been withdrawn. This could purely be a reflection of the offseason rates, but I would highly recommend asking about this scenario if/when trying to pull this maneuver.

The 12th green at Bandon Dunes.

(Side note: Oregon residents receive a discounted rate which can be found online… I do not know what the “local” rates are, because our “local” golfers are stingy and rarely take caddies. Their only argument is that our caddie rates do not change with the greens fees. It is a sound position.)

Now, you might have said aloud already, “Isn’t the weather pure garbage in the ‘offseason?’”

Absolutely not.

To use my favorite Paul Rudd line for the millionth time, “The weather outside is… weather.” Yes, there is far more sunshine during our peak months in the summer and early fall. It is also blowing 20 mph every day, so long there is not a cloud to be seen. Granted, before Standard Time kicks in, you will have far more time to play (sun sets around 9 p.m. around the summer solstice), but our absolute best weather is in the fall; even all the way up to the first of the new year.

I have footage of myself hitting a tee shot on No. 5 at Bandon Dunes with the sun setting and all I’m wearing are slacks and a polo. True, this area is prone to violent storms during that time of year, but with the advent of smart phones and free weather apps, it’s far easier these days to coordinate a fair weather trip.

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Let us do our best to keep the lodging section short and sweet… Ninety-nine percent of the golfers here stay on property. The town of Bandon has a few quaint motels and a few Airbnbs scattered about, but for a county that has legislation AGAINST Uber or Lyft operating in the area (don’t ask), most of your best overnight options will be at the resort. Not to mention staying off campus results in a slightly higher green fee for yourself. In the end, I personally haven’t laid eyes on any interiors of our lodging choices.

The 16th green at Pacific Dunes.

Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser subliminally stresses, “golf, eat, sleep, repeat,” and these quiet themes can be seen and more so felt throughout your trip. The resort boasts five different sit-down restaurants with menu prices rivaling that of any other place in the county. Overall, everything on property is reasonable in cost, but the real value lies on the bar menu at the Tufted Puffin located directly past the front desk at the main lodge.

My former go-to item was hand-cut kettle chips smothered in Rogue Valley bleu cheese, and at $7 it was the only piece under $12. A few months ago they almost completely redid the bar menu; now it features at least half a dozen things to eat for around or under $10 (my new go-to is the bar burger — pretty big patty with a generous helping of fries clocking in at $10). Going off campus does not result in much worth your time away from the resort. Many of the eateries in the town of Bandon offer fine enough fare, but it’s really not that much cheaper than the resort.

Lastly, and still probably the biggest bugaboo regardless of how much time and/or money one is trying to save: travel. If you do not reside close enough to our zip code to hump it on in, Oregon has four viable airports to fly into. The easiest place to arrive is Portland — gigantic, beautiful airport that serves all major airlines, many, MANY rental car options and possibly staying the night in affordable lodging.

The only downside to flying into PDX is the ensuing drive to Bandon, which will take the better part of four hours. Eugene and Medford are literally about the same size and distance from the resort (two full hours) that still possess a fairly strong field of flying options with perhaps some diminished rental car choices.

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And finally, North Bend. This is not for the wise golfer, in my outright opinion. Where do I begin? Only one or two flights come in and out of that facility, random fog banks and persistent marine layers never guarantee the plane will even land there. It is the most expensive selection and you HAVE TO change planes (unless you are flying out of one of their seasonal direct hubs… I used to work for United, this is simple stuff), and I am not 100 percent sure they even have rental cars there (they do, but still…). The only upside is the “short” 45-minute drive from the North Bend airport to the resort (limited shuttle service is available).

Here’s a look at the 18th green at Bandon Dunes.

It is not cheap to experience Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in full, especially with the place getting bigger and bigger, making golfers’ trips longer and longer if one wants to do things proper. If you want to get a caddie on the cheap, inquire with us about a “group caddie” — with the exception of hoofing your own bag, your group gets all the other trimmings of hiring a caddie at a fraction of the cost.

Us jocks understand how spendy things can get and why we get passed over sometimes for people looking for a great trip on the cheap.

But trust me — we’re worth it.

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