It’s evident that we are avid anglers here at Hook + Gaff, but many of you probably don’t know that I have played competitive golf my whole life. For most of my life, golf has been my passion and angling has been a way for me to blow off steam and relax during tournament season, especially back in the day when I played in school. I grew up playing golf starting at age 6 and played well enough as a junior golfer that I was recruited to play for the Clemson Tigers, who at the time, were ranked in the top 3 in the country for several consecutive years. Fast-forward to today and I still love playing competitive amateur golf.
Recently, my partner and former collegiate teammate Matt Hendrix and I qualified for the USGA Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon. This was the 5thyear of the event, a tournament that the amateurs (especially guys my age) have fallen in love with. The tournament is held at the very best courses in the US year after year. I’ve been lucky enough to have played in three of the five, and the previous events I played in were at Olympic in San Francisco and Jupiter Hills in Jupiter, FL. This year Matt and I flew to the west coast and spent several days at one of the most beautiful golf course destinations in the world.
We flew from Charlotte to Salt Lake City, and then to Eugene, Oregon. This puts us about two hours from Bandon. We hopped in a rental car and made the trip down on a Wednesday afternoon after flying in. Eugene sits about an hour from the coast. We drove directly to the coast, passing through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen—huge trees, beautiful rivers and creeks, and when we got to the coast we were blown away. They call this section of Oregon’s coast the “adventure coast.” The sand dunes are much like you see at Kitty Hawk, NC, except the beautiful mountainous landscape I described before will gradually descend until it butts up against the dunes and the sand and new foliage takes over, protecting that last ½ mile of land that makes up the shoreline. We drove parallel to the dunes all the way to Bandon, passing through the famous Coos Bay and some other fishing towns. We stopped numerous times along the way to snap pictures and in some places these dunes were nearly 20 stories high, overlooking the ocean, with some rocky outcroppings that made up cliffs in certain parts. We saw folks that were horseback riding, four wheeling, fishing the surf, surfing the sand with special boards, and folks that were just enjoying the state and national parks.
When we arrived in Bandon we checked into the Inn at Bandon Dunes. Across a small creek the Lodge at Bandon Dunes serves as the main building, with restaurants, a pro shop for Bandon Dunes, workout facility and an after hours bar downstairs they call the Bunker Bar where we shot pool a few nights. We had enough time to check in and grab dinner at the restaurant, and we’d have our practice round tee time at 7:30 the next morning.
The next morning I awoke at 5:45 and began walking to the Lodge for breakfast. The walk takes you down by a creek and through some beautiful shrubbery and foliage, and I had my wife and kids on FaceTime. I was able to show them several black tail deer that hopped out of the bush, as well as some turkeys that were making their way up the hillside. The creek I passed over was also a run for native cutthroats that would make their way inland during spawning season.
I ate breakfast and Matt and I made our way to the practice facility. The practice facility sits by itself out among the courses, and I will say Bandon does an awesome job with customer service. I can’t say enough about the customer service. There are shuttles that are constantly going between courses and the practice facility and the inns and lodges—this was not just a service that was being provided for the tournament as we often see at USGA events. The facility was awesome.
Our practice round was on Old MacDonald. What a track! The style likened to those of true Scottish links courses, and it didn’t disappoint. The course was long, tested our ability with the long irons and creativity around the greens, and with the 55 degree temps, wind and the constant morning rain (they call it the marine layer that rolls in every morning) we knew we were in for a true test of golf. The course started inland, made its way around the “Ghost Tree” that serves as the unofficial icon (not the official logo) of the course, and proceeded towards the coast with nearly every hole within site of the ocean. It was just awesome.
The next day we had a practice round on Pacific Dunes. This course was a little shorter and we thought the easier of the two, as the yardage was significantly different. The course was just as beautiful if not more so than the other, as several of the holes ran parallel to the ocean. Matt actually had a hole-in-one on number 10 with a 5 iron. Number 11 is another par three that he birdied. I don’t think anyone in the history of golf has ever gone 1-2 on two consecutive holes, but I witnessed it from my partner (really wish it wasn’t during the practice round though!)…
The tournament began on Saturday and we started off at Old MacDonald. We had the last tee time of the morning wave at 10:30. We played in what we thought were very tough conditions, as the marine layer gave way to rain and wind, and we just got soaked. I broke out the rain gloves and abandoned the umbrella on the last 4 holes. Somehow we got it in at -1 which I thought was excellent given our conditions. The afternoon wave got the rough end of the draw that day.
The next day we made our way over to Pacific Dunes with the last tee time of the afternoon wave, the last of the day at 1:24. About noon that day the marine layer burned off and gave way to sunny skies, no clouds, but a steady 25mph+ breeze. During the practice round we’d hit driver/wedge into number one for easy birdies. During the tournament round I crushed a drive, had 124 yards, and hit a 7 iron!!! In fact, on two consecutive holes on the back side I had the same yardage at 173. I hit a 9 iron downwind the first time about twenty feet from the pin. The second time I hit 5 iron dead into the wind and barely made the green. The wind was a huge factor in our play that day, as we had a few really rough holes due to some poor long iron approaches into the breeze on some long holes. We shot another -1 and missed match play unfortunately, but we were grateful for the experience.
The next day we decided to stick around and play Bandon Trails. This course took us inland higher in altitude, an awesome Crenshaw/Coore design that blended into the natural landscape with such efficiency and beauty. I took a lot of pictures. It was very difficult for me to pick a favorite course. I loved them all for different reasons. The Trails course was fantastic as it gave the golfer a view of the interior landscape of what you see throughout much of the state. The other courses make their way along the ocean and give the golfers breathtaking views off the cliff side and dunes.
I can’t say enough about the golf resort. The people were accommodating and fantastic, and the courses were as close to Scottish links style as we can get here in the US. I’ll definitely be back again because I couldn’t get enough! I thoroughly enjoyed it and if you’re a golfer it’s worth the trip. Thank you guys for reading!