According to the rankings, Pacific Dunes is the best course at Bandon--39th in the world, 18th in the US, and 2nd best US public course. It is no doubt the most visually stunning course at the resort--as Doak courses often are. This is largely due to the ocean and one of its defining features--enormous, untamed bunkers. Unlike Bandon Dunes that has many defined pot bunkers, Pacific's bunkers just feel like pits that have been carved into the already existing sand dunes.
Another notable aspect of Pacific is its variety and atypical scattering of holes. The front has one par three and one par five, while the back has four par threes (two of which are back-to-back at ten and eleven) and three par fives.Even if playing from the tips, one of the par fives comes in at under 500 yards, while another plays nearly 600 at 591. Ten and eleven are likely to be among the most beautiful par threes you will ever play. The 17th par three is not on the ocean, but is a great design--a redan green with a cavernous bunker protecting the front. There are a bunch of short par fours coming in at 304, 288, and 338.
Pacific is also a fun course because of all the scoring opportunities. To be sure, big numbers are possible given all the hazards are on steroids, but the short par fours, sub-500 par five, and a 130 yard par three all provide chances for birdies. Ultimately, you will likely remember the holes you birdie while here and forget the sevens (likely because you tell all your buddies about the highs, but leave out the lows, so, over time, it is like the lows didn't happen).
Overall, the insane beauty, unconventional layout, great collection of par threes, and chances to roll in some birdies make Pacific one of the best courses you will ever play.
Now, onto the holes.
Like Bandon, the first at Pacific eases you into it--a 304 yard par four with a very wide fairway.
Approach to first.
The second is another easy hole--a 335 yard par four with another wide fairway. Some huge bunkers short right of the green lead to a semi-blind approach.
Approach to second.
The third seems like a short par five at 476 yards, but will likely be playing into the wind. There are two cavernous bunkers in the middle of your landing area off the tee, so you have to choose your line left or right of them, or get real lucky and land it in the middle. The rest of the hole is also littered with bunkers that can grab your second or third shots.
Brother hitting his approach to the green out of this sucker to the elevated green with bunkers and gorse on the right.
The fourth is a 449 yard par four, but should be playing down wind so the length is not a problem. Ocean all up the right making it one of the most scenic on the course. Huge patch of bunkers come into play on the left, but the ocean is waiting for any balls that stray right.
Approach to four.
Brother's approach to four.
The fifth is a 181 yard par three, but, again, playing downwind, but the two-tiered green makes club selection all that more important.
The sixth is one of my favorites, but it is also one of the hardest holes on the course--don't let the short length of 288 yards on this par four deceive you. Big fairway bunker on the right that you have to carry (it is only a 170 carry, but if you are going with less than driver, it can come into play. The difficulty comes with the insane green complex. The green is elevated and super narrow. Short left has literally the deepest bunker I have ever seen. If you hit it long, it will trickle down from the perched green and you will be left with a chip to a green 30 feet above your head (and that insanely deep bunker waiting on the opposite side of the green if you hit it too hard). I hit the huge bunker and hit one of the best bunker shots of my life, but missed the 7 footer for what would have been my best up and down of all time.
Sixth tee with that infamous bunker out in the distance on the left.
The seventh is rated as the hardest on the course--a 436 yard par four. The difficulty arises because of the intense bunkering around the green. If you are hitting a long iron/fairway wood into this green, there is not much room for error with multiple bunkers on the left and a horseshoe shaped bunker on the right.
Approach to seven.
The eight--a 369 yard par four--has a fairly wide fairway, but the green is protected by a pot bunker that feels built into the green and a false front.
The ninth--a 379 yard par four--is one of the more fun and unique holes on the course. The hole has two greens and the resort rotates which green is in use. The blind tee shot gives the appearance of a narrow fairway with a lot of trouble, but the fairway is actually exceptionally wide and has an enormous down-slope in your landing area. My brother nearly drove this green with the help of the wind and the down-slope.
Ninth tee--without a caddy or guidebook, you would be totally lost.
The tenth is the first of two world-class par threes. It plays only 163 yards, but we hit baby drivers the day we played because, as you can see, the winds were whipping like I have never seen on a golf course. This hole reminded me a lot of fifteen at Ballybunion.
Some insane winds going on here.
Result of brother's baby driver on ten.
Eleven is one of those fun, short par threes where you just want to hit a real good tee shot. This was the hole where I was most frustrated with the playing conditions on the day we played. The hole measures only 131 yards, and I imagine on an average day the wind will make it play closer to 145-150. On our day, I think we played it as 190. It went from a fun, short par three to a 190 yard par three in monsoon winds, which makes it near impossible to hit the smallest green on the course.
Another example of the tough winds on eleven tee.
Putt on eleven green.
Ten, eleven, and twelve all played into this howling wind described above, and I think it was most felt on the 509 yard par five twelfth that had to be playing over 600 yards. I do not remember my exact shots, but I whacked the ball four times before getting onto that green. There is a bunker in the middle of the fairway that becomes a problem for your second shot. Then it is uphill to an elevated green through a chute with gorse and dunes on both sides.
Bunker in the middle of twelve fairway with the elevated green in the distance.
The thirteenth comes in at 390 yards and features what must be the tallest dune on the course, which towers over the right edge of the green.
Dune by thirteen green.
Fourteen is a short, down-wind par three at 128 yards. Even further shortening this hole is the need to land the ball on the front of the green to have it release to the hole, but that brings danger into play with one of the most difficult up and downs on the course awaiting any balls short and right.
The fifteenth is a 505 yard par five that is reachable in two with a helping wind. Just avoid the nasty bunkers on the right.
Those bunkers will dash any hopes of going for fifteen in two.
Sixteen is a 338 yard dogleg right par four. The difficulty here comes at the green when you have to hold your downwind shot on a green that slopes from front to back.
The seventeenth is one of the hardest on the course--a 189 yard, redan par three where you cannot go long, cannot go short, and the wind is making it even more difficult to hit that long iron shot.
Walk through the gorse to eighteen tee.
The 575 yard eighteenth is a stern closing hole. Even with no hazards, the length makes it difficult, but the hole is certainly not lacking in hazards. Yet another cavernous bunkers will gobble up tee shots to the left. Then, your second shot and approach to the green also have to navigate bunkers. The only saving grace of this hole from a difficulty perspective is that its green is slightly bowl shaped, so balls will funnel onto the green.
Second on eighteen.
Where you don't want to be on eighteen.
Eighteen green surrounded by more bunkers.
Overall, Pacific is a fair test, but is certainly more penal than Bandon for bad shots. Miss at Bandon and, if you take the smart play, it will cost you one stroke. Pacific's bunkers to hell can lead to many squandered shots. Every course at Bandon had a different feel. Old Mac feels like you are playing on one big, open field, which gives it a Scottish vibe. Bandon Trails is a trek through the trees. Bandon and Pacific are close in character, but Bandon is a bit less visually stunning than Pacific, though perhaps more strategic. Like many Doak courses, Pacific is awe inspiring to the eye, but also a true and complete test of your game. Can't wait to get back there and play it in more normal conditions.