Course: Bandon Preserve is the 13-hole par 3 course designed by Coore and Crenshaw in 2012. Some what nestled between Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails, the Preserve is set on the coastal hills, which loop down closer to the ocean then back up, then another mini loop before finishing in front of the Bandon Trails clubhouse. The holes range from 63 yards to 150 yards, which of course play shorter or longer depending on the wind and whether you’re hitting uphill or downhill. While negotiating the wild greens, sharp bunkering and occasional blind shots, the dramatic views and sounds of the ocean are enough to assuage anyone who takes a bad shot a little too hard. The course sets up perfectly for a second round of the day, or a starting/finishing round of the trip and can be played enjoyable in well under a couple hours.
The Preserve impressed me how challenging and fun it could be, all at the same time. The greens are so wild that you almost have to use the slopes and sideboards to get the ball close to the hole, bunker placement and their severity make them fairly penal and the tee shots were exacting yet flexible, allowing an array of different shots. The course reminded me a little of Terranea, in southern California, but that’s because both are par 3 courses, on cliffs, above the ocean. The greens at the Preserve are better than Terrenea and there is more diversity here. Despite the challenge, the course is still remarkably forgiving since there are very few if any forced carries and is rather wide.
Initially, we did not plan on playing the Preserve, only because it was closed the day we arrived and we had scheduled rounds on the full 18 hole courses the rest of the time. As the morning round on the last day wore on, however, a couple from the group felt it best to call it a trip and while I was getting a little tired and envisioned the latter round being a grind, my caddie suggested the Preserve as the finishing round. A fantastic idea; less walking, faster and an all-out time to have fun in the 30 mph gusts. The report easily switched our tee time and just like that, my brother and I took it on to finish the trip. We vowed at least one of us would get a hole in one and would finish whatever was left in his flask. At least we took care of one of those things.
The First is 134 yards (from the Back tees, and they’re all par 3’s). Perhaps one of the only forced carries of the course and a mild one at that, the green sits across from the tee and is protected by two small yet treacherous bunkers on the front. The Bandon Trails putting green is off to the left. For this green, it runs from back to front and its rumples make it difficult to tell where your ball will end up. It’s a nice opening hole, in that even a well struck tee shot will likely face a stiff challenge on the greens and if you’re off the green from the tee, you quickly realize recovery shots here require a lot of imagination.
A little closer
The front left bunker
The Second is 150 yards. The First and Second really feel like a punch in the mouth, asserting itself as a par 3 course to be taken seriously. This is another forced carry from the tee, with the trees and hillside closely off to the right as essentially OB (it’s marked as such but good luck being able to get to/find your ball) and more substantial bunkers carved into the front and left of the green. I some how managed to land off to the left of the green above the bunkers and had to putt across the front of the green to the front right pin location. Instead of going right at it, I had to swing off to the right a good 5-6 feet, catch the side board on the right side and watch the ball curve back down, a couple feet below the hole. It was the most fun putt of the trip.
Looking off to the right, the ocean makes its first appearance
A look at the green, below the bunkers
The Third is 87 yards. A change here, as the green is large, the tee shot is shorter and the hazards are more off to the sides, albeit a little blind from the tee.
More views of the ocean
The slope off the right side of the green
The Fourth is 118 yards. The halfway house so to speak is off this hole, which you see again before the Eighth. The tee shot plays downhill to a larger green where the sideboards can be used off the left to kick the ball close to the hole. The bunkers off to the right need to be avoided, which I know firsthand.
The Fifth is 142 yards. The march towards the ocean is a drop shot to a partially blind green where you want to hit it towards the right and have it fall towards the hole. Hitting it left gets you further away from the green since the hillside runs in that direction. With the ocean in the background, dealing with the wind and negotiating the hillside, now we’re having fun.
The Sixth is 131 yards. Things tighten up again with this tee shot, but there is an opening to the green on the right and using the hillside on the right to move the ball left is a good play. The bunkers front left are frightful and further left is really serious trouble. As you approach the green, ocean roaring off to your left, the Seventeenth of Bandon in the background and isolated from the rest of the course and resort, take a couple minutes and appreciate where you are. An idyllic spot. It made me forget the infinity strokes it took me to get out of the front right bunker.
Looking to the left
The tree on the cliff off to the right is Bandon 16/17
Walking to the Seventh
The Seventh is 147 yards. After the moment of Zen on the Sixth green, we climb back up away from the ocean to the Seventh green, which sits on a bluff high above us. Factor the elevation and wind into the shot and be sure to use enough club to clear the front hillside. With the green running back to front, there is a happy medium of clearing the front hole and making sure you don’t have much of a tester back down the hill to the hole. Look back at the tee for more stunning ocean vistas, they never get old.
A little closer
There we are
My brother, the supermodel
The Eighth is 63 yards. The shortest on the course as we switch course back to the ocean. The green is blind from the tee for the most part and for some reason, the mounds on the right demand you to hit over them. Perhaps it’s a good decision, as the green is very much like a punchbowl and hitting too far left of the green will make your ball run away from the center. Just know that there is much more to the mounds on the other side, so don’t get too cute with carrying them. In fact, more is probably better. Despite its length, both of us walked away with double bogeys, shaking our heads, wondering what just happened.
The Ninth is 134 yards. A picturesque tee shot, one of the better on the course, with the green set downhill from the tee and mounds with long grass in between. The green is generous and the views are memorable, so take your shot, and quite honestly, who cares where the ball goes?
The Seventeenth green/Eighteenth tee at Bandon Dunes across the canyon
Both the Ninth here and Seventeenth of the Dunes
A closer look at the Ninth green
Proof I was there
As good as any where for a rest
Looking back up at the tee
The Tenth is 120 yards. Back up the hill and a little similar to the Seventh, but not as steep and there are bunkers short of the green to be mindful of. More room right then left.
The Eleventh is 142 yards. We now start to head back to the clubhouse. Cross mounds frame the green from the tee while the green moves from right to left. Anything too far left will be gone so the bunker off to the right pulls itself in play, by either aiming just to the left of it, or over it, depending on pin position. If you’re feeling cheeky, try a punch shot from the tee and use the mounds to bounce and roll your ball to the hole.
More of Bandon Dunes and some of that gorse
The wind was angry
The Twelfth is 132 yards. A moderate forced carry over some long grass dunes to a green that has a lower left and upper right tier. The ridgeline can be used to move the ball towards the hole and ending up on the wrong tier can put all the pressure on your flat stick.
The Thirteenth is 109 yards. There is a fairway of sorts leading from the tee to the green on the left side, yet be weary of the drop off on the far side. By now, you know to use the slopes as necessary or are sharp enough to stick the tee shot, so end the round with gusto, filled with memories of the surroundings and leave as a renewed soul.
Off to the right, the Bandon Trails clubhouse
Generally, Bandon Preserve is a special place and one of the better par 3 courses I have played. While there is more than enough to make for an interesting round on the golf alone, the views and design ends itself to be some where to simply enjoy hitting the ball, forgetting about score and quickly throwing away the score card in favor of enjoying the surroundings and having fun. Putter off the tee? Sure, why not. Trying to flop it stiff, even when the wind is blowing? Ok. The course, and I imagine the concept behind it, was to be some where to let loose and have fun, without the pressures and duration of a standard round. On those fronts, the course does well in spades. Yet if you’d like to come here to sharpen up your game and see how well you can score, then the Preserve is more than a worthy adversary. Also bear in mind that all net proceeds of the Preserve benefit the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, which supports projects on the South Coast of Oregon relating to its conservation.
Ranking the holes, I’d go 5, 2, 7, 9, 1, 6, 8, 12, 13, 10, 11, 4, 3.
Gripes: The green fee is likely a little high, but with the proceeds going to such a great cause, I’m fine with it.
The clubhouse, bar/grill, etc. are essentially shared Bandon Trails. The starter shack near the First tee, however, is where to go to check in, so save yourself the trip to the Trails clubhouse for after the round.