Golf/Golf Architecture

Takin’ It All In: The Bandon Preserve

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, the burgeoning destination on the Oregon coast, is poised to make another splash. Resort owner Mike Keiser brought in Bill Coore and Dave Zinkand, of the Coore & Crenshaw design team, to route a par-three golf course over 27 acres (part of the 250-acre H.L. McKee Preserve) adjacent to their earlier work at Bandon Trails (which opened in 2005). The thirteen-hole track [pending Keiser’s approval--a thirteenth hole was found in the lowest and westernmost part of the property, facing north] takes advantage of all wind directions as it heads out southwest, using the existing practice green as its first hole. The golfer continues to a promontory on the fifth tee that overlooks many sharp sandy peaks and valleys. Holes five through ten never face the same wind direction consecutively as the golf course curls in on itself for half of the round. Finally, the Preserve un-twists to the northeast and finishes in a natural hollow near the existing Bandon Trails clubhouse.

The fifth green

The Bandon Preserve features an archipelago of tees and greens, islands of native red fescue grass floating seamlessly in the expanse of Bandon’s coastal dunescape. Both tees and greens are projected to average 6,500 square feet. When final dimensions are set for all playing surfaces, less than ten acres of turf will be maintained by resort staff. The remaining two-thirds of the site will be intensively managed to enhance and expand native plant communities that have become increasingly dominated by invasive plant species.

Sustainability and integration permeate the thinking behind the design concept, blending two mutually supportive projects–a low-impact recreational use with a long-term natural resource conservation program (1).  Resort superintendent Tom Jefferson reinforced this point: “The project presents a unique opportunity to reclaim dune habitat for native species by clearing invasive gorse, scotch broom, and beach grass while simultaneously creating another world-class golfing ground.” (1)

Within this setting, golfers will be immersed in a special natural resources area that will draw attention to coastal ecology and the habitat restoration of over a dozen native dune plants. Design, management, and mitigation activities in the Preserve will be reinforced by educational measures aimed to enable golfers to understand, appreciate, and respect the special setting through which they are walking. A key premise of the Preserve Course initiative is to demonstrate that “an excellent golfing experience can be blended with an excellent environmental education.” (1)

The poster plant for this project is the silvery phacelia (phacelia argenta, pictured above.) Considered a threatened coastal dune plant by the state of Oregon, it is believed that the largest remaining population exists in fragmented open sandy areas on the 2,140-acre Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. The Preserve is a direct response to a 2008 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report which cited only thirty occurrences of silvery phacelia from northern Del Norte County in California to southern Coos County in Oregon, a 130-mile growth corridor. The silvery phacelia is most prolific in the McKee Preserve, which shares land with a state park. Without direct intervention, the silvery phacelia is in particular danger of extinction from encroachment of non-native plant species like European beach grass (ammophila arenaria) and gorse (ulex europaea) (2).

Bandon Dunes already has a proven par-three course success in Shorty’s, which alternates days as the south driving range and is an excellent practice amenity. Shorty’s can be played for a voluntary donation that goes to fund the Evans Scholars Foundation. As a dedicated golf course, the Bandon Preserve promises to be an excellent addition and more than just a practice facility. Whether you just got off an afternoon flight and can’t wait to play before your tee time the next morning, or just walked thirty-six holes two days in a row, or don’t have enough sunlight to fit in another eighteen holes, the Bandon Preserve is going to change the way people plan and experience their trip to Bandon Dunes.

The creation of the Bandon Preserve has been over fifteen years in the making—it dates back to the resort’s inception in Howard McKee’s original “Bandon Coastal Duneslands Conservation, Recreation and Resort Development Master Plan” of August 1996. It is also just one important piece of a much larger coastal conservation effort that could include the 2,140-acre resort, the adjacent property of Bullards Beach State Park, and the Bandon Marsh Federal Wildlife Service Refuge. These represent a core group of contiguous conservation lands on and off the resort site.  A private foundation to support regional conservation efforts on the south Oregon Coast could also follow (1).  Mike Keiser has also indicated a willingness to allocate a portion of the net revenue stream from guest fees associated with the par-three course to support an ongoing source of funding for research and management of open-sand plant habitat reclamation, restoration, and enhancement.

The eighth green

As a former Westchester Golf Association Caddy Scholar I am fortunate to have benefited from those people who see golf as a way to give back and get involved with their community. Working on this project allows me to become involved in a worthy lasting cause and reinforce a positive influence on the people of Coos County. Before coming out to work at the resort in the winter of 2008-2009, everything I knew came from magazines and Stephen Goodwin’s book Dream Golf, which encapsulates all the events of the resort’s early years. After working at Bandon Dunes for nine months I then spent a year abroad working, golfing, and travelling in the equally awesome and unique country of New Zealand.  I returned to the resort in 2011 with fresh eyes and an even greater appreciation for how this golf destination is integrated into its one-of-a-kind location. The Preserve Course reaffirms the goals set forth by the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort for the planning, design, construction, operation, and management of the past sixteen years and for the future. As a following act to the acclaimed Old Macdonald Golf Links, the Preserve Course is in perfect alignment with the Resort’s dual mission to provide a rich golf experience for its guests, while also providing conscientious stewardship of the natural setting central to that experience.

To summarize my experience so far while taking part in and learning about this exciting project, I would like to share a short anecdote. While walking the site with course architect Bill Coore, Dave Zinkand, and Bandon’s local and most-loved contractor, Tony Russell, I followed closely behind to watch, listen, and learn. Coore led the way through the dunes with a deliberate and thoughtful pace. During one particularly long staring contest, with a dune top presumably,  Zinkand asked Mr. Coore,  “What are you looking at, Bill?”  Coore replied, “I’m just takin’ it all in.” And there is a lot to take in on the Preserve site: The ever-present roar of the ocean, howling winds, wildly contoured sand dunes and the native plant life. All of these elements are highlighted by a world class golf experience that will no doubt forge innovation and inspiration around the world of golf.  I know it has for me already.

–Jeffrey Stein is an aspiring golf course architect and served as a construction intern for Renaissance Golf Design at the Old Macdonald Golf Links. Currently he is learning from Dave Zinkand while working on the crew at the Bandon Preserve.

(1) Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Phase 8 Final Development Plan, November 5, 2009

(2) Kalt, J 2008.  Status Review and Field Inventory for Silvery Phacelia: Phacelia argentea (Hydrophyllaceae). U.S. Fish & Wildlife.

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