True British Open-style links courses in the U.S.!
Bandon Dunes is three-course golf resort situated on an isolated part of the rugged southern Oregon coastline. Re-creation of the traditional links courses of Scotland and Ireland is the name of the game here. In my 10+ years of playing golf, I have never played a true links course. So what I found at Bandon was golf unlike anything that I've ever played in my life. Natural contours from seaside dunes meant that there was rarely a flat lie. Fairways were very firm with tightly mown grass. Carts and cart paths were non-existent. On the course, about the only man-made structures that will come into view is the Lodge/clubhouse. The courses are isolated from civilization and you definitely feel it!
Rain and Wind are Par for the Course
One of the things that I hate is playing golf in the rain and/or cold. As a spoiled southern California golfer, I've become accustomed to dry and warm weather. Usually, if there's any chance of rain or the mercury dropping below 60, I don't even bother driving to the golf course. There are just too many sunny days here to have to play in those conditions! But I knew that rain, wind and cold are all considered the norm at Bandon Dunes. In fact, such playing conditions were the only apprehension that I felt when I booked my trip. Eventually I figured what the hell, this is a once-in-a-lifetime golf trip! I just have to man up and be strong mentally. But the biggest dilemma was how to prepare for the rain...
Get Wind and Waterproof!
Before my Bandon trip, I owned no rain equipment. Unfortunately, high quality golf rain gear is expensive. A good rain suit is well over $300! Would it be worth spending so much money on equipment that I may just use on one trip? I concluded it wasn't. Instead of a heavy-duty rain suit, I opted for a light-packable rain suit for around $50. Sure enough, during our first round it rained and it rained hard. While my rain suit kept me dry, it didn't fit well at all. It was bulky and adversely affected my swing. I was definitely second-guessing my penny-pinching decision. It rained again during our next round, but luckily not again for the rest of the trip! It turned out that being a cheap-skate didn't bite me back too badly. But if it rained any more than it did, I would think that a high-quality rain suit would have been worth it. Not only is it important that a rain suit keep you dry, but it should allow you to swing as freely as possible. Other essential golf rain gear that you must pack:
- Shoes: Nothing is worse than water getting into your shoes. I really never quite understood that concept until it happened to me on my Bandon trip! My socks got wet and my feet started to swim in my shoes. That caused blisters to form!
I just assumed that my shoes were waterproof because it came with a 2-year waterproof warranty. Unfortunately, I have been using them well past the warranty period and they must have lost their waterproofing ability. Don't make my mistake! Be sure to use waterproof golf shoes and make sure that they are still within the warranty period. It's also a good idea to bring another pair of shoes to rotate amongst and allow proper drying between rounds. Remember to stuff 'em with newspaper after the round to dry them properly!
- Headwear: The wind chill at Bandon can be brutal. In such conditions, you lose much of your heat (30% or more) through your head and neck! That's why it is so important to preserve warmth by donning a winter hat. Choose hats made of wool, polyester or acrylic knits that stay warm when wet. Also, look for non-itch materials or linings for comfort. I choose a high-quality beanie hat made for mountain climbing. It was made of Polartec for warmth and had a Windstopper lining to prevent wind and water penetration. It was a little more expensive, but well worth it!
- Gloves: Golf rain gloves allow you to grip wet grips. Unfortunately, they don't keep your hands warm in the cold!
Links courses and their associated weather conditions require certain adjustments to play them well. The biggest adjustment for me was hitting off of the firm and unyielding sand-based fairways. I'm used to fairways with supportive turf that sits the ball up off of the ground beneath. However, the grass and ground seem to be one and the same on a links fairway. As a result, it is unforgiving to less than perfect ball-striking. Even simple chipping and pitching is maddeningly more difficult on a links fairway. Hit the ball just a fraction fat and you'll flub it. I must have averaged 4 chunky chili dips per round with my wedges until I just gave up and putted them instead! There's a good chance that putting is your best option for anything on the fairway within 30 yards of the green. Watch this week's British Open to see how it's done. If you are lucky enough to play Bandon, be sure to check out their practice facility to get used to that pesky turf.
Stay tuned for Bandon Dunes Vacation Trip Tips: Part III, On the Course!