Two Decades of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
David McLay Kidd thinks back to when he first started conceiving the design that would become Bandon Dunes. Created and built over 1997 and 1998, Kidd finds it hard to imagine that nearly 20 years have gone by since Bandon Dunes opened to the public. But one thing is for certain: the Bandon Dunes that Kidd designed in the late 1990s was very different from the version currently being played.
As seen in Bandon Dunes Magazine.
Change has occurred for Kidd as well. The success of Bandon Dunes put him on the map as a designer, commanding commissions all over the world, from Hawaii to Asia. Over time he altered some of his design philosophy, creating courses that were more complex and challenging.
Then in 2014, Kidd created a course called Gamble Sands in Washington that featured wide fairways with an emphasis on playability. In many ways, it was a move that harkened back to Kidd’s early design days at Bandon. This year, Kidd returns to work with the Keiser family to open Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley, another of the Dream Golf facilities run by Bandon Dunes’ owner Mike Keiser. It also features significant width—an element Kidd says started at Bandon Dunes.
“People have said how wide the mown grass areas are at Mammoth Dunes, but truthfully there are more short grass areas at Bandon Dunes,” he says, noting there are 110 acres of short grass at Bandon versus 107 at Mammoth Dunes. “I think width gives the player confidence, which is why a lot of people enjoy Bandon.”
Links golf is constantly evolving, constantly changing as Mother Nature alters the course. —David McLay Kidd
While there’s been a regular spot for Bandon Dunes in the Top 100 in the world since it opened, Keiser and Kidd recognized that even the best could be a touch better. With that in mind, he has set upon making slight alterations to three holes—11, 15, and 17. In some instances, the changes were made to adjust the holes based on the way they played for Bandon visitors, while others were altered to have them fit with Kidd’s initial strategies.
On the 11th hole, for example, Kidd felt the bunkers on the left pushed golfers too much towards the right gorse from where they could not recover and played into the hands of big hitters who would blast drives up to the right rough.
“What I had to do is lessen the defense on the left-hand side so people couldn’t avoid my strategy, because that’s what they were doing,” Kidd says.
Kidd also altered the mid-length 15th, changing some mounding on the left, which kicked running shots into the sprawling bunker in front of the green.
“There was nowhere to miss,” Kidd explains. “Mike allowed me to reduce the mounds that were six feet high and steep to 18 inches high and soft. It is important that visitors to Bandon realize that the hole isn’t easier to make birdie. But now making double-bogey takes a lot more screw-ups.”
The other element that has changed at Bandon Dunes is the gorse. The battle with the thorny bushes is ongoing, and it has been removed, only to grow back nastier than previously.
“People have different takes on the gorse,” Kidd says. “But how they perceive the course often depends on what they think of the gorse. It is fascinating to see.”
STANDING THE TEST OF TIME
Sometimes, despite the changes to the game brought about by new equipment, a golf hole simply stands the test of time. Kidd points to the 14th as an example. Only 359 yards from the tips, and 332 yards for most mortals, the hole appears benign. Kidd says many people look past the hole. After all, you can’t see the ocean on it, and the land is relatively flat. But a little pot bunker placed strategically near where many hit their drives wreaks havoc on many golfers.
“The tee shot dictates everything there,” Kidd says. “There’s a cross-wind that makes it particularly challenging to find the right line and I’ve played that hole with a lot of golfers who can’t figure out what went wrong for them.”
As for Kidd, the hole isn’t an issue. “I know exactly BANDON DUNES—HOLE 16 where to hit my driver,” he says with a laugh.