I consider Deacon's Lodge my personal home course. There is nothing in the golf world better than the twilight scramble with these friends at Deacon's. I have a mural of the 17th green on my basement wall.
In 2000, we went to Ireland with our wives. We played golf five times while on the Emerald Isle. It was a lifetime experience that left us with some wonderful memories that we often rehash.
For the past several years, we've been talking about another trip abroad. We discussed Scotland in 2015 and informally planned to make that junket. But circumstances didn't come together to make that trip a reality. So a trip to Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, a complex of four links courses and a par-3 golf course, located just north of Bandon, Oregon, in the southwest part of the state, became the consolation prize.
Needless to say, one could do much worse than this resort that has been described as "the last great meeting of sand and sea on American soil". Six of us made plans in May to make this journey to the west coast to experience the golf nirvana that is Bandon Dunes.
Our cast of characters included:
Tom Helland: Turk is a high school classmate and lifelong friend (over 50 years). We grew up two blocks from each other. He was our travel agent for this trip (which ain't easy for this crew!).
Mike Casey: Mike too, is a high school classmate and lifelong friend (again over 50 years). We grew up three blocks apart. Mike, Tom and I have been playing golf together for almost fifty years!
Emmet Kenney: Emo is a friend from our days at Creighton University where we were fraternity brothers. Emo is a friend of over 35 years. Emo is also a Final Four trip traveler with me each year.
Pat Goetzinger: Goet is my attorney and a friend for over 30 years. He was a USD college friend of Mike and Turk's. Our friendship really began with the Cahoona trips back in the mid-eighties. We share a passion for good whiskey and fine cigars.
Bob Milligan: Bob is a friend of Mike's. I did not know Bob before our Oregon trip. I think Emo was the only other one who previously knew Bob. We found Bob to have a sharp wit and quick laugh. He was a great addition to the group.
In the days leading up to the trip, Tom had a detached retina which forced him to forgo the flight to Oregon in favor of a road trip! The plane trip presented some risks that were not acceptable.
I had a scare of my own with a little "cardio event" one week prior to our junket but the doctor gave me the green light to go golfing upon my discharge. He told me to "listen to my body" (which told me to go on the trip!!).
Day 1 - Travel
So on Sunday, August 16, we all made our way to the "Beaver State" for our golf retreat. Turk had set out in his truck early the prior day. Everyone's flight went well and we met at the Eugene, OR airport just as Turk came into the baggage claim area. We grabbed a quick lunch while we waited for Mike's arrival.
|Emo looking good despite a early wake up call!|
We unpacked and headed to the practice facility. Mother Nature was showing off when we got to the practice facility. The wind was blowing 25-30 mph out of the north. It was unbelievable. We didn't last long on the practice range. It didn't seem like real effective practice when you had to cock your body into the wind as you addressed the ball. We learned then and there that you got what Mother Nature gave you at Bandon Dunes!
|Goet leans in to a gust on the practice range|
|Braised Lamb Stew|
|Roast Chicken Pot Pie|
|Grilled Charleston Rock Fish|
|(From left) Goet, Emo, Casey, Turk, me and Milligan at McKee's Pub|
Day 2 - Bandon Dunes Golf Course and the Punch Bowl Putting Course
Our first day of golf found us on the tees at the Bandon Dunes course, the first course and namesake of the resort. We were two threesomes and we had a caddie in each group.
Rich was the caddie in my group. He looped for Turk and me while Goet took on Bandon Dunes by himself (with an assist here and there from Rich!).
Rich is a big strapping guy that we decided reminded us of Sam Elliot. He's about 6'4" and a hulk of a man who looks like you could hang a couple more golf bags on his frame. He guides steelhead trout fisherman during the fishing season. An avid hunter, he loves life and is a "salt of the earth" guy.
In the other group, Patrick caddied for Mike and Emo while Bob hoofed it on his own. Patrick the caddie is a laid back guy. He is a former Dakota Tour golfer who played some tourneys in "God's Country" (South Dakota). He is a free spirit who has has a lotta "use to be's" and suggested that he might still be searching for his "calling".
As advertised, the Bandon Dunes course is a spectacular layout with views that are distracting. We had 65 degree weather with a north wind that continued to build after our 10 am tee time into the afternoon. It was blowing 20-25 by the end of the round but we didn't see anything like the prior evening on the range.
I was able to put a string of five consecutive pars on the card just before and after the turn. Unfortunately, I bookended it with a few bogies and doubles. Goet and Casey carded birdies and Goet was the medalist. Scores be damned, it was a great day of golf.
|With my group: Caddie Rich, Goet and Turk|
|Goet looks on as Emo strokes a putt at the Punch Bowl|
After dinner, the Cahoonas made their way to the inner sanctum of the Bandon Dunes Resort to the Bunker Bar which featured scotch, whiskey, port wine and stogies. The centerpiece of the bar was a pool table, where Goet and Turk almost got into a rumble. What?
The Bunker Bar is one of those places that just makes men want to piss in every corner and mark their turf. The boys experienced a group like that. While you'll never meet two more diplomatic guys, Turk and Goet met their match. There was never the threat of a rumble or even an argument, but the other group were assholes! The Chicago boy (Milligan) was pushing their button at every opportunity.
Editor's note: I did not witness this incident as I was a good cardio patient and had retired for the evening! Perhaps there was some embellishment but I can only report what I heard.
Day 3 - Pacific Dunes and Bandon Preserve
We woke on Tuesday to find we had a beautiful forecast- 70 degrees and 10-12 mph wind. Anytime the wind is under 20 mph is cause for celebration here. I played with Goet and Casey on Pacific Dunes. Rich caddied for Casey and me.
|With Casey and Goet at Pacific Dunes|
Patrick had to chase down Casey from about 100 yards on the second hole to deliver sand wedge that he discovered he had put in Emo's bag at the end of the previous day. We were all proud of Emo for recognizing that it was not his sand wedge. Word is that it took Patrick a couple holes to recover from the 200 yard sprint!
|Casey takes dead aim|
|Goet adds a little "body english"|
|Goet looks on as Casey throws a dart|
Goet would suggest than he made three birdies by himself at the Preserve. As Emo says, Goet puts the "I" in "teamwork". Milligan and I were so lucky to ride Goet's magic carpet. What a ride!!!
Goet did hit a marvelous shot on hole eleven. He skulled it off the box and it sliced off the backstop on the right side of the green. It rolled down the hill at the hole and settled inside a foot away. Fortunately for Goet, Milligan was there to make a putt! The magic carpet carried us to a resounding 5 shot victory.
|Waiting to tee off at Bandon Preserve|
|Goet skulls one to within a foot|
|It looks like he threw a dart (we know better!)|
|Turk lays a smooth stroke on his ball|
|I have the Cahoonas' complete attention|
|Blacktail deer silhouette over Bandon Trails #18|
|Bandon Trails clubhouse|
Day Four - Old Macdonald and the Punch Bowl
The report on Old Macdonald was that there was more than 250,000 square feet of putting surface which translates to the largest greens in America. When you putt like me, that ain't good news!
We got a calm(!) foggy day for our final golf day at the resort. With a late morning tee time, we expected the fog to burn off and the wind to pick up. But it didn't burn off all day - in fact, it got a bit thicker.
It gave a surreal feeling about the golf - like playing in a cloud. Perhaps St. Peter would be sitting by the 18th green!
|Turk, Goet and Casey at Old Macdonald|
Emo's golf lessons seemed to pay dividends on this round. When they heard he was coming to Bandon Dunes, his wife and youngest son went to work on getting him in (golf) shape for the trip. Diane (his wife) set him up with golf lessons and his son drug him out on the course a few times.
Milligan's misses were always in the fairway. Like a good lawyer, he stayed out of trouble and actually played better than he scored.
In the other group, Casey and Goet lit it up. The word is that there were three or four birdies between them. They shot low eighties and were both strutting around the clubhouse after their round.
|From left: Me, Turk, Goet, Caddie Rich, Casey, Milligan and Emo|
Next is eighteen (or more) holes of putting and cocktails at the Punch Bowl. First the boys broke out the winter gear. It was misting and cold - great weather for Irish coffee! Milligan was the trend setter and the Cahoonas followed like lemmings! The putting scramble was great fun and a perfect way to put and exclamation point on the golfing part of our trip.
|Emo ready to drain a long one as the Cahoonas look on at the Punch Bowl|
|With Milligan and Casey after a little Irish coffee|
Our final dinner of the trip was at the Pacific Grill which was back at the clubhouse for the Pacific Dunes and Punch Bowl. Seafood and wine was a perfect compliment to our discussion of three days at this golf nirvana. We had a great dinner and a lot of laughs.
|Emo displays dessert at the Pacific Grill|
Day 5 - Travel
Perhaps part of the magic of Bandon Dunes is the journey involved. But that magic is lost on the way home. For me, it began with a 2 1/2 hour drive from Bandon beginning about 9:00 am local time. We arrived in Eugene about noon for a 1:00 pm flight to Salt Lake City.
After a 2 hour flight and a 90 minute layover in Salt Lake City, we boarded the first flight on which I flew over my final destination, a 2 1/2/ flight from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis, After another hour on the ground in Minneapolis, I again flew over my final destination on an hour and a half flight to Rapid City. I arrived at 10:30 local time in Rapid and after claiming luggage, I set off on a 2 1/2 hour drive home. I arrived home about 2:30 am, about 14 1/2 hours after I departed Bandon Dunes.
I did not include photos of the golf course here. You could spend a more time than it takes to play eighteen at Bandon Dunes looking at incredible photos of this marvelous piece of landscape. If fact, I encourage you to do just that. But they will not do it justice.
One of the ironic anecdotes of the week came from our caddie Rich who told us that he had never seen a puffin (the bird on the Bandon Dunes logo above) there.
I bought a copy of the book Dream Golf by Stephen Goodwin when I made my obligatory trip through the pro shop on our final day there. It’s a wonderful book about the site selection for and the building of Bandon Dunes. I found it to be a great resource to more fully appreciate this little slice of golf heaven.
As I reflect on my 92 hours at this golf resort, I realize how lucky I am to make the trip to this golf bucket list destination. But more significantly, I am blessed to have such great friends with whom I am able to share such a journey. Cheers boys!