Sheep Ranch Is A Walk Unspoiled
Since it opened to Bandonistas on June 1, Sheep Ranch has made quite an impression on our guests and the golf world. In fact, the response so far has been nothing short of incredible, humbling our resort team and striking pride in all of us locally!
Just ask Nick Bonander, Sheep Ranch’s Clubhouse Manager who spent the month prior getting the course up and running. For Bonander, the work has been both challenging and rewarding ... kind of like Sheep Ranch itself.
Of course, you can’t spend that kind of time around the Sheep Ranch clubhouse and not learn a few things about how golfers are receiving the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design. In fact, Nick has made a habit of chatting up our guests. It is the Bandon Dunes way, after all.
What have we learned?
SHEEP RANCH IS A WALK UNSPOILED
Sure, walking any Bandon Dunes course is part of the experience. But Sheep Ranch pioneers have learned that there is no course friendlier to hoofing it on two feet.
Built on 140 acres and at 6,636 yards from the back tees, Sheep Ranch has the smallest footprint of Bandon Dunes’ five championship golf courses. The routing has left relatively short walks between tee to green, and saving a few steps has been popular so far.
“The response to the walker-friendly layout has been very, very positive,” Bonander says.
THE VIEWS ARE SOMETHING TO BEHOLD
It doesn’t take long for visitors to have their breath taken away. In fact, the first glimpse of Sheep Ranch in the foreground and the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean in the background as you approach is one to remember.
It’s the only Bandon Dunes design with a view of the Pacific Ocean from the first tee. With one mile of ocean frontage and nine green sites on the coast, Sheep Ranch has unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean from every hole. It’s a sight that quickly becomes memorable without ever becoming ordinary.
“People are blown away by the views,” Bonander says. “They are spectacular, and one of the things I hear a lot is just how close the Pacific Ocean feels on every hole.”
A DESIGN WITHOUT SAND BUNKERS CAN BE CHALLENGING
Sheep Ranch was designed without a single sand bunker, a rarity in golf course architecture, though not without precedent. In fact, the first links courses in the United Kingdom were without sand bunkers, which developed naturally over time in places protected from the wind, attracting animals looking for shelter.
Modern course design has made sand bunkers virtually mandatory, despite some notable exceptions, mostly in the UK. But Sheep Ranch bucked the bunker trend, opting to make use of grass hollows instead.
“I have not heard from anyone who has said they have missed sand bunkers,” Bonander said. “The hollows, grass bunkers, and mounding let a golfer know that there are hazards out there."
BETTER CALIBRATE YOUR GPS
Set north of Old Macdonald, Sheep Ranch’s entrance is a bit removed from the center of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Some of those who have driven themselves instead of taking the Bandon Dunes shuttle have taken a wrong turn at Whiskey Run Lane and ended down by the beach.
It's a beautiful alternative, but a ways from the first tee. Be sure to allow some extra time for traveling over and if you get there early you'll appreciate the extra time to soak in the vibe.
“We’ve had a few late for their tee time,” Bonander said. “But we’ve made it all work.”
SHEEP RANCH IS NEW, BUT NOT ENTIRELY REALLY
The legend of Sheep Ranch is one that stretches back to 2001, when Tom Doak carved out 13 green sites near Five Mile Point while he designed Pacific Dunes just to the south. For years, golfers would find their way to Sheep Ranch for a truly unconventional and unique golf experience.
Those who were able to enjoy that experience and return to play Sheep Ranch in June learned that Coore and Crenshaw were able to preserve some of the interesting original attributes. In fact, many of the new green complexes are similar to the 13 originals, and like the original, Five Mile Point is the focal point of the course.
“We’ve heard from some who have played both versions of Sheep Ranch that the preservation of some of those original attributes is one of the coolest parts of the experience,” Bonander said.
CORNED BEEF BREAKFAST BURRITOS?
With a new clubhouse has come a fresh menu of food. What has been the most popular item so far? The corned beef breakfast burrito, and it’s not particularly close.
The corned beef breakfast burrito is 1.5 pounds of goodness — which can be shared or satisfy even the biggest of appetites — as a perfect start to any round.
“It’s been a fan favorite for sure,” Bonander said. “It’s huge.”
IF YOU SEE A SHEEP HAT, GRAB IT
The Sheep Ranch Golf Shop has been a busy place since it opened. But our Sheep Ranch hats have been head and shoulders the most popular items so far. In fact, hats have been so popular they’ve been tough to keep in stock. But don’t worry a fresh shipment is always on its way.
Head on over to our online store to check out the available Sheep Ranch gear.
“Hats have been an absolute hit,” Bonander said.
64 IS THE SCORE TO BEAT
A pair of 64s, shot by two different golfers, have so far been the lowest scores. That’s some pretty strong play.
Sheep Ranch plays at 6,636 yards, has no bunkers, and few trees. But that doesn’t make it easy. Exposed to the Pacific Ocean, breezes keep scores mostly in check (those unobstructed ocean views don’t come for free).
“If you get it on a calm day, Sheep Ranch is there for the taking,’ Bonander said. “Those days don’t come around too often. But one of the fun things of Sheep Ranch is that you can definitely shoot a score out there.”
HOLES IN ONE
Through the first month, nearly every par 3 was aced. Nos. 3, 7, and the 16th hole, with its green set on Five Mile Point and playing into the prevailing wind, all experienced at least one hole-in-one. The last hole to receive an ace was the 198-yard fifth hole, which also plays directly west quartering against the prevailing summer north wind.
An ace at the Sheep Ranch has your name on it. Don't be afraid of the putter!
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SHEEP RANCH IS ONE POPULAR PLACE SO FAR
Perhaps no Bandon Dunes course has been more anticipated than Sheep Ranch. And Bandonistas have responded. The first Sheep Ranch golfers have come from all over, many driving across the continent to get here. Stay tuned as we share some of their stories in Issue 2 of Dream Golf Magazine.
“It’s been really heartening watching everyone come here and experience it for themselves. And they seem to truly love Sheep Ranch.”