After finishing my disappointing morning round at Bandon Dunes, I headed over to Pacific Dunes for my afternoon round. My first order of business after arriving was to grab a bite to eat. While sitting on the deck outside the grill at Pacific Dunes, I started to chat with some guys that I’d met earlier during the morning. Claude, Curt, Dave, and Tom were interested in my quest. They had a friend that they were traveling with that was also on a quest. When Jon Schiffrin arrived, they introduced us.
John was on a lifetime quest to play all the courses that had ever been on the top 100 courses that you can play list. Jon had played 137 of the 215 courses over his lifetime. He sent me a list of the courses that he had played and his score on each course. I commended him on the 76 he shot on Pacific Dunes. During our earlier conversation on the deck at Pacific Dunes, I had been asked how I was able to do what I was doing. I responded that playing the top 100 courses in one year requires that you have the time, the connections, and the means. If you are married you also need a very understanding wife. Upon commending Jon on his low score, he responded that he would add one additional item that is needed to complete a golf quest. He said you also needed a good dose of humility because some courses are simply just going to kick your butt! I could definitely relate. When you are playing so many tough courses, there are days where everything just comes together and there are days where you just never get your rhythm. There are also rounds like the one I had on Bandon Dunes, where you strike the ball well, but all the breaks go against you. There are other days where you don’t strike the ball well, but you get all the breaks to go your way and you score well. I hope that Jon and I have the opportunity for our quests to intersect on one of the courses that are on both our lists.
As the temperature rose and the wind grew stronger, it was time to start my afternoon round. My caddie, Thomas arrived at Pacific Dunes just before it was time to tee off. I met my playing companion for the round just as we approached the first tee. Dirk lives in California and worked in the media industry. After chatting for a few moments we were able to identify at least one person that we both knew from his time at CNN and Turner Broadcasting. While there was a foursome for my first round of the day, the afternoon round would just be Dirk and me, and our caddies.
Pacific Dunes opens with a short par 4. Dirk and I agreed to play from the green tees. At almost 6150 yards, they measured slightly less than the green tees on the Bandon Dunes course. The slope and rating were also lower at 133 and 70.7. The first hole plays just slightly over 300 yards, with a generous fairway. There are bunkers on the right side of the fairway, but they don’t come into play with tee shots less than 200 yards. With the wind blowing as strongly as it was on this warm afternoon along the Oregon coast, long drives into the wind, were not a concern. I hit a short drive that landed in the middle of the fairway about 130 yards from a back pin position that was playing 150 yards. I missed the green to the right on my approach shot, chipped on to 20 feet, and two putted for a bogey to open my round.
The second hole was also a short par 4 with an even more generous fairway. However, it did require a carry over native vegetation to reach the fairway. The fairway also had a center bunker and a bunker cut into its left side. Both were between 200 and 230 yards from the tee box. My drive landed in the fairway just right of the left fairway bunker.
Unfortunately, I looked up during my swing and topped my ball into that very fairway bunker that I’d stopped short of on my drive. I hit out of the bunker to the fairway, then put my fourth shot on the green. I two putted for a double bogey.
The third hole is the only par 5 on the front nine. It is a short one at 476 yards. It has a rather odd fairway which looks something like an anvil. The right side of the fairway which connects to the green would be the top of the anvil. The left side of the fairway would be the base of the anvil. While the right side of the fairway starts following a carry over native vegetation and rough of about 150 yards, the left side of the fairway starts at about 210 yards. The left side of the fairway ends at about 140 yards short of the green. On other note worth mentioning is that the left side of the fairway is connect to the right side of the 12th hole. There are also bunkers in the middle of the fairway.
While still playing into the strong wind, I hit my drive only 190 yards into the right rough. My ball was setting up nicely so I hit my driver out of the rough to 115 yards short of the green. Using the driver off the deck or out of the rough when you have a good lie is an ideal shot into the wind. The ball stays low and it runs. The shot with my driver out of the rough traveled almost as far as my tee shot had traveled.
The 115 yards remaining to the pin were playing 140 yards. I missed the green to the right, hit on to 25 feet, left my par putt on a direct line to the hole short. I made a bogey.
With the fourth hole, we turned downwind. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of it. While I’d hit my drive into the fairway on the hole playing updwind, I failed to do soon on this hole. My ball landed and was sitting up in some grass just short of a cluster of bunkers on the left side of the fairway.
From this position of the ball suspended in the grass, I hit a pop-up. I then hit my next shot to just short of the green. I chipped on and two putted for a double bogey.
I made a quick recovery on the par three 5th hole. We turned back downwind, and this short 125 yard hole was playing 155 yards. On this par three, the front of the green is essentially unguarded. There is a bunker short of the green and one to the right, but it is not really in play. There are bunkers midway along the left and right sides of the green. I hit my tee shot to the green, just 25 feet from the flag.
I unfortunately missed the birdie putt and had to settle for a par. Dirk on the other hand, hit his ball to five feet and made the putt for a birdie.
While I parred the fifth hole, my double bogey woes continued on the sixth and seventh holes. The sixth hole was playing into the wind. It is short and has a very generous fairway. I didn’t make a single good swing on the hole.
The seventh hole is long with a slightly less generous fairway. I hit my drive into the fairway and was only 180 yards from the flag. I then hit my approach shot into the bunker short of the green. My bunker shot rolled past the flag and off the back of the green. I chipped on and two putted for another double bogey. I was really digging a deep hole for myself on my score.
I closed out the front nine with two bogeys. On the 370 yard par four eighth hole. The hole was playing into the wind, it played more like 410 yards. I hit my drive to the generous wide open fairway. On my second shot, I was only 185 yards out, but it was playing more like 215 yards. I decided to hit my 3 hybrid as far as I could into the wind rather than trusting my swing into the wind with a fairway wood. As expected, my second shot landed well short of the green. I hit on with my third shot and two putted for a bogey.
The ninth hole is another one of those interesting and unusual holes. There are essentially two fairways. Each plays to a different green. On this day we were playing the green to the right. The approach to that green used the least generous of the two fairways. I hit my drive into bunker on the left side of the right fairway. I pitched out to 110 yards, then hit onto the green and two putted for a bogey.
My struggles from my morning round continued. I had not managed playing into the wind very well despite my practice session on the afternoon before. I shot a 48 on the front nine of the Pacific Dunes course, matching the 48 that I’d shot on the back nine of the Bandon Dunes course. My last 18 holes of golf took 96 strokes. This is where Jon’s heavy dose of humility is needed. I struggled to prevent myself from becoming discouraged with my playing abilities. It was time to dig deep and grind it out.
I thought back to some of my days as an athlete, when our coaches would talk to us about intestinal fortitude, more commonly known as a gut check. I had three and a half more rounds to play this week and it was going to be a long three and a half rounds if I didn’t improve my play. It was time for a gut check.
The back nine on the Pacific Dunes course plays to a par of 35. There are four par threes, three par fives, and only two par fours. The 10th hole is the first of two par threes in succession that play near the ocean. It measures almost 165 yards and has no bunkers guarding the green. This hole was playing toward the ocean into a strong wind coming off the ocean so it played more like 180 yards. At least that was Thomas’s and my best guess. The hole plays also downhill. Between the wind and the downhill nature of the hole, picking a club can be tricky. My tee shot landed on the left side of the green. Thomas and I had done well in selecting the right club. My putting wasn’t done so well. I three putted for a bogey. It was my first and only three putt of the round.
The 11th hole is the second of these scenic par threes and it is along the ocean. While the 10th hole had no bunkers, the eleventh was littered with them. The hole is much shorter however with what is probably the smallest green on the course. With that small green, there is no safe place to miss. I factored in the wind and decided to start my ball over the ocean and let the wind bring it back to the green. It was one of the few times on this hot and windy day that I executed the exact shot that I’d crafted in my mind. The ball landed on the green about 25 feet from the flag.
My birdie putt made a nice slow trickle toward the hole, but stopped short. I tapped in for par.
The 12th hole is the first of the three par fives on the back nine. It lies between the third hole, which is connected to the right side of its fairway, and the fourth hole while runs along the ocean. The fairway for the 12th hole bends left toward the ocean and the green takes points back along the ocean.
I hit my tee shot to the fairway. I decided to try my driver off the deck for my second shot. With the strong wind, and a wide open fairway, that shot was suited for this very situation. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the ball cleanly so it traveled only 150 yards, leaving 180 yards to the flag.
My third shot missed the fairway wide left and came to rest on the gravel cart path. My pitch from the cart path landed short of the green. I chipped on then made the putt for a bogey.
The thirteenth hole is the first and the longest of the two par fours on the back nine. It is also the last hole that plays along the ocean. With the wind coming off the ocean and my tendency to fade the ball, I started my drive toward the ocean and let the wind bring the ball back to the middle of the fairway. My ball came to rest 185 yards from the green. Disappointingly, I could not take advantage of my drive. My approach shot flew well right of the green. It took two additional shots to get on the green. I two putted for my last double bogey of the round and my only double bogey on the back nine.
The fourteenth hole starts the march back to the pro shop. It’s a short par three. My tee shot landed left of the bunker on the left side of the green. I pitched over the bunker and onto the edge of the green. For the first time in 32 holes of golf together, Thomas had a misread on the putt. I made a bogey.
As Dirk and I approached the second of the back nine par fives, I felt that I finally had some rhythm in my swing. I’d hit the green on the two par threes that opened the back nine and I’d hit the fairways on the 12th and 13th holes. My only bad shot was the approach shot on the 14th hole. My good fortune continued on the 15th hole. With the help of the wind, I hit a 290 yard drive down the middle of the fairway.
My second shot covered the remaining 225 yards to the flag, but missed the green to the right. I pitched on to 35 feet of the flag. My birdie putt looked good all the way, but stopped just inches from the hole. I accepted my par and moved on to the next hole.
The sixteenth hole is the last of the two par fours on the back nine. With the wind at my back and a short hole in front of me, I chose to hit my three wood off the tee. I hit the shot into the left rough. My approach shot fell short of the green and landed on the front bank leading up to the green. I did my routine pitch shot onto the green and my all too often two putt for a bogey.
The 17th hole is the last and longest of the par threes on the back nine. It was playing 190 yards. My tee shot landed just off the green. I three putted from there for another bogey.
The Pacific Dunes course finishes with the longest of the par fives on the course. The 18th hole measures 575 yards from the green tees. The first half of the narrow fairway is bounded by a heavy tree line and bunkers. I saved my best drive of the day for the final hole. My ball traveled 305 yards to the middle of the fairway leaving 270 yards to the green.
I chose to play a tradition second shot and hit my three wood rather than hitting my driver off the deck. It was a good decision. My landed 50 yards short of the green.
I pitched on to just left of the flag, but again left my birdie putt short. I finished my round with a tap in par. I hit the ball much better on the back nine than the front nine. My biggest issue with scoring was my putting. My only one putt of the round came on the 12th hole. I also had only one real three putt, but I used my putter from just off the green a couple of times and followed with two more putts, so they felt like three putts. It is amazing that a shot that travels a couple of inches counts the same as one that travels 305 yards. It is also amazing that you can hit a shot 300 yards and land in the middle of the fairway, but can’t hit a putt 25 feet and land in the middle of the cup. My score for the back nine was a respectable 42, but with a 48 on the front nine, I failed to break 90. This was however, three strokes better than my morning round.
Tomorrow I play the remaining two courses at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Now its time to get a good night’s sleep to prepare for a very long day.