Grouchy Golf Blog

Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 8:16 AM

Water Hazards Aren't All Bad!

California is ground zero for the great housing bust of our generation. Having worked in distressed real estate for over 4 years in the early nineties, I saw the early warning signs of the current housing bubble back in 2001. I felt like Chicken Little warning people that the real estate sky was falling over the last half decade. Alas, only a few people listened. One was a friend who was so spooked, he sold his overinflated Pasadena, CA house in 2005 in favor of renting a place in Indianapolis.

It took a while, but my doom and gloom prediction came true. After peaking a couple years ago, home prices here have fallen faster than John Daly's bank account after a Vegas weekend. And don't expect home prices to stop falling until they reach levels last seen in 2002, in real terms. Adding insult to injury, wildfires last week have destroyed around 1,000 homes in southern California. It probably would have been worse if it weren't for those things that haunt all golfers: water hazards.

As long as they contain more water than golf balls, golf course water hazards are perfect refilling stations for firefighting helicopters! Check out these photos from grouchy reader David:

David has more photos here.

Sunday, November 09, 2008 at 8:15 PM

Bandon Dunes Vacation Trip Tips: Part III, On the Course

Earlier this year, I took a once-in-a-lifetime golf vacation to Bandon Dunes. I have already written about my and . Here are my on-the-course experiences:

Consider a Caddie

Playing on local munis for most of my golf life, I'm not used to nor am I a big fan of caddies. I prefer to rely on myself for many of the things that caddies provide such as club carrying, club selection and green reading. But since Bandon is walking only and we were playing 36 holes per day on links courses, a caddie is almost a necessity to prevent death by exhaustion! But it's not cheap. Caddie fees at Bandon are $55 per round per person. Double bagging provides no discount! Oh, and don't forget the suggested $25 tip per round!

Unfortunately, the quality of caddies at Bandon is not consistent. At Bandon, you are paired with a caddie and they remain your caddie for all of your future rounds no matter what courses you play. This is fine if you have a good caddie, but it can be uncomfortable at best if you don't. My 8-person golf party each hired a different caddie. Unfortunately, 2 caddies didn't make it past the halfway mark of our trip for various reasons. They would have been dismissed a lot earlier if it wasn't so awkward!

The Courses

All three courses are spectacular! They'd better be with $210 green fees during the high season (but the same-day replay fees are only 50% of the full green fee!). Both Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes saddle up alongside the Oregon coastline and present some great ocean views. While Bandon is slightly longer than Pacific in total length, Pacific feels so much longer! I found Bandon to offer a slightly more interesting layout while Pacific is a tad more scenic with more breathtaking ocean views. Pacific also seems to play much more difficult than Bandon. I didn’t think that I would ever fail to break 100 again, but it happened at Pacific!

Bandon Trails is located away from the ocean right where the dunes meet the coastal forest. It starts and ends with true links holes, but in-between the course winds through a hilly and densely wooded forest. With its wider fairways and wind-breaking trees, Trails is a much more forgiving course than its oceanfront siblings. There are some dramatic elevation changes that add character but can make club selection difficult.

So which course is the best? Picking your favorite course at Bandon is a lot like Hef picking his favorite girlfriend from The Girls Next Door. You want to play a round with all of them, but you definitely want to play some more often than others! If the Bandon courses were Hef's girls, Pacific Dunes would be Holly, Bandon Trails would be Kendra and Bandon Dunes would be Bridget.

However, if Pacific didn’t exist, I’d rank Bandon ahead of Trails (but I'd still take Kendra over Bridget). That’s because while I prefer both links courses to Trails, it offers such a nice change of pace from a traditional links style course that it pairs perfectly with Bandon and Trails. My ideal day at Bandon would be a morning round at Trails, followed by a nice lunch in the clubhouse and ending with an afternoon round at Pacific. Just don’t remind me how much that costs!

My Favorite Memories

My favorite off-the-course memories from my Bandon Dunes golf trip are easily the dinners with my friends in the Lodge. These are some special people and I really appreciate the few times that we get to spend together.

But my favorite Bandon golf memory has to be my amazing driving round at Pacific Dunes. I hit driver on every non par-3 hole and hit the fairway each time! And these weren’t just dinky Funk-like pokes down the fairway, they were full-bore 250+ yd. drives! Of course the golf gods wouldn’t let the rest of my game reflect this excellence. They made sure that I didn’t break 90 by delivering an exact score of 90! My friend thought it was impossible not to break 90 if you hit every fairway. I sure proved him wrong!