by Tom Cade, Editor
Known for providing “Dream Golf” to wandering pilgrims, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon Coast is intent on extending the dream into our waking hours.
With five full courses, a par-3 course (and an additional “unofficial” par-3 layout on their south driving range), and the large Punch Bowl putting green, resort owner Mike Keiser has given the go-ahead to build another course on the property.
In March 2023 they broke ground on a new 19-hole par-3 course.
The new layout, which has not yet been given a name, is located just south of the resort’s existing Preserve par-3 course, and the entrance to its parking lot will be off the road adjacent to the third hole of the resort’s Bandon Trails course.
And they’ve hit the ground running at a dead sprint, with the potential of already offering preview rounds this fall on a short loop of the layout. The full layout will be ready for public play in the late spring of 2024.
Is this an aggressive timeline?
“Any other site, yes it would be considered aggressive,” says Keith Cutten, one of the architects of Whitman, Axland & Cutten (WAC), who won the assignment to create the course. “But here, everywhere you dig there’s nothing but sand. This will go quickly. It’s a bit of a cakewalk compared to other sites. This is a dream site.”
Cutten says many of the locations of the greens were already naturally sitting in place among the dunes, as were most of the sites for the teeing grounds. “It really is just a matter of connecting them with a logical routing that flowed together well.”
The biggest challenge so far, according to Cutten, has been access, getting the bulldozers to certain areas among the dunes because of the elevation changes.
Walking out among the dunescape which will become the new course, bulldozers are in full motion, with veteran Tony Russell at the wheel, clearing the land. Russell has lent his earth-moving skills to all the courses at the resort, and the architects contracted him again to clear the path so they can do their work.
Cutten has been on site early and often during the initial phases, flagging the boundaries for the fairways. He got on the bulldozer to shape the first green, and he and Axland have been taking early turns in shaping and creating the course, with Whitman rotating in.
“I see myself as a table-setter for Dave (Axland) and Rod (Whitman),” Cutten says. Axland worked on the shaping of the resort’s Bandon Trails, Sheep Ranch and Preserve courses.
Why 19 holes? “Well, we started with a plan for a 12-hole layout,” Cutten says. “Then it became 15. Then 18. And now it’s 19.” Cutten says the 19th hole was added to the layout as a way of connecting players coming off the 18th green and heading up to the small proposed clubhouse for the course.
The other challenges that the team at WAC has faced is that the new par-3 course is located directly next to the existing Preserve par-3 layout, which had been designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. What will be the differences between the two courses? “It will feel like a bigger course (than the Preserve),” Cutten says. “Bigger greens, bigger teeing grounds, bigger elevation changes, bigger holes (which will range from 60 yards up to 160-170 yards).”
What the two par-3 courses will have in common is that all net proceeds from both courses will continue to benefit the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the grant-making department of the resort that supports conservation, community, and economy on the southern Oregon Coast.
And, finally, the challenge that all short courses face: because every hole is a par-3, the risk is that every hole will feel the same. “So that’s on us,” Cutten says. “We have to offer a mix of holes, nothing similar back-to-back. With the landscape for this layout – the dunes, the elevation changes, the size of the property we’re given to work with – we think we’ve found a good routing for this.”
The course will be laid out over approximately 60 acres, with 16 acres of actual grassed areas.
Whitman is a longtime Canadian golf course architect, known for creating layouts such as Cabot Links in Nova Scotia and Sagebrush in British Columbia.
It was during the building of Sagebrush, which opened in 2009, that Cutten reached out to Whitman. “I sent him a letter and told him I wanted to get into the golf design business,” Cutten recalls. “He responded, saying ‘If you can get to Sagebrush, I’ll put you to work.’ And he did – he put a shovel in my hands and I went at it.”
After Sagebrush, Cutten followed Whitman to the Maritimes on Canada’s east coast, where Whitman was building Cabot Links.
“You spend a lot of time together on site during a project, so you need to like each other,” Cutten says. “We’ll rotate in and out during work on this project at Bandon. It will keep each of us fresh, and keep the work dynamic.”
Although Axland, Cutten and Whitman had worked together off-and-on for numerous projects over the years, they all got together again to work on The Nest, the 10-hole par-3 course at Cabot Cape Breton that opened in 2021. It was during the prep work for this project that the three of them officially formed their own golf course architect firm, in 2020.
And it was their work on The Nest that caught the attention of Keiser, who tabbed them to create the new par-3 course at Bandon. Keiser already knew of Whitman and Axland, who both worked on building Keiser’s Sand Valley course in Wisconsin.
“To be able to add to the legacy of Bandon Dunes is pretty special,” Cutten said, looking out over the dunes. “You hope for a project like this.”
And we dream for a course like this.
Tom Cade is the editor of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, published by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association. From 2010-2015 he served as president of the Northwest Golf Media Association, and in 2016 received the NWGMA Distinguished Service Award. He was the editor and publisher of “America’s St. Andrews,” the book about Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open. He also was editor of the centennial history book for Inglewood Golf Club (published 2019), and editor of the just-published centennial history book of Washington Golf. He is a regular member of the Golf Writers Association of America.