Frost on the Puffin

It’s a chilly December morning and Bandon Dunes is festooned in white. Sub-freezing temperatures are not typical along the southern Oregon coast. An “Arctic Blast” has spread over the Pacific Northwest (the phrase makes my fellow traveler Paul Riffel, chortle; an Iowa native, he knows what real cold is like.) Slight frost delays aside, early December is a great time to be at Bandon. The skies are bluebird blue, the whales migrating south from Alaska may be within view from Pacific and Bandon Dunes (December is prime whale watching season along the Oregon coast) and greens fees have plummeted to $75 – that’s about one third of prime time rates. During yesterday’s round at Bandon Trails, the impact of the cold was evident: on the diminutive fifth, one of my playing partners hit a wedge shot that landed with an icy thud to the left of the pin, bounced up, and skittered lowly backward into the trap guarding the left front. Shaded fairways seemed to hold a frosty sheen well into the afternoon. But still – the crowds have thinned out, limited mostly to Seattleites, San Franciscans and Oregonians who are willing to risk a short flight/longish drive for QVC prices, damn the cold or rain. (In all my early winter adventures to Bandon, wind has not been a factor…though on one March trip, I did start out one morning on Bandon Dunes in snow.)
Though temperatures dipped below 30 degrees last night precipitating minor frost delays, our time this morning on Bandon Dunes was pushed back only ten minutes. On the first hole (actually the tenth, as groups were going off on both nines), it was necessary to use a small awl to help a tee find purchase (not the most elegant solution – a business opportunity for someone!) But by the 13th (4th) hole, a layer was shed, and tees could be imbedded in the soil at will.
After our round, we were treated to a peak at Old Macdonald by Todd Kloster, Bandon’s Marketing and Special Events Manager. (We also received beautiful Old Macdonald hats, which feature an old-timey logo – look for them on eBay…just kidding, Todd!) Todd got to play 18 at Old Macdonald just before Thanksgiving, and was blown away – and knowing Todd as an upright guy, I know he’s not saying that simply because it’s his job to do so! “You’re not on the ocean, but you sense the Pacific as much as on Bandon and Pacific Dunes,” Todd said. Indeed, from our vantage point above much of the course, the roar of the Pacific was very evident. “Some people have mistaken the intent of the course as being to copy certain Macdonald courses and holes,” Todd continued. “The idea is really to celebrate Macdonald’s achievements.”
Given the site, the quality of the architects involved (led by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina) and Bandon owner Mike Keiser’s dedication to quality, odds are good we’ll all have something to celebrate come June when Old Macdonald opens to the public.
After Todd’s tour, we had the good fortune to dine with Grant Rogers, Bandon’s Director of Instruction, and one of the most colorful sweethearts of a fellow you could ever meet. Over pizzas in McKee’s pub, Grant regaled us with tale after tale, mostly from off the course. He shared one observation on golf that’s worth mentioning here: “If you’re a 90s shooter, you hit the ball 90 times. It takes roughly 2 seconds to make your swing – so that’s 180 seconds or 3 minutes that you’re actually playing. The rest of the time you’re walking. So it makes sense to look around and enjoy the views.”

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