Bandon Dunes 25th anniversary: Our Eamon Lynch shares his love story (with a bit of hate)

(Editor’s note: Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is celebrating its 25th anniversary and Golfweek Travel Editor Jason Lusk put together a comprehensive package for the occasion, complete with Q&As of pivotal people in and around the operation. To see the entire package of stories, click here.)

The quality of sleep enjoyed by a tortured golfer is inversely proportional to the number of swing thoughts agitating the mind. Thus, on most nights my attempts at finding rest involve not counting sheep but playing golf in my mind’s eye. Almost always, those rounds are at Bandon Dunes.

It’s been over 20 years since I first visited Mike Keiser’s refuge on the Oregon coast, and the more than 100 rounds I’ve played there are among my fondest memories. Like the Solstice in 2012, four rounds in one day. The first ball was airborne (barely) at 5:35 a.m., the last putt dropped at 8:10 p.m., the first cocktail moments later. Or the time I watched with unsporting glee as a friend needed 51 putts on Old Macdonald (he was a perfect 33 through 11 until he unexpectedly two-putted the 12th). Or when I played a three-club tournament on the same course and chose my weapons badly: putter, hybrid, 7-iron. On the seventh hole, I tried the putter backward and left-handed to use the flange for a steep bunker shot. It worked, then I three-jacked on the green when using it conventionally.

But Bandon Dunes is also where apathy over swing dysfunction became apparent. Maybe a decade back, I was there with Brandel Chamblee, so already the trip was suboptimal. We were playing Bandon Trails, the Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design that features many holes I love and one I loathe. We reached the 14th, a 325-yarder where caddies will tell you they count many more 6s than 4s. 

I’ve railed against the hole since it opened in 2005. Once, I was headed to Trails with a course architecture writer when he handed me his phone, mid-call. “Eamon, this is Bill Coore,” came a gentle drawl. “I just want to remind you, again, that No. 14 was Ben’s idea.”

On the tee with Chamblee, I sniped one left into the woods, a trend established over the previous 13 holes. Dejected, I handed the driver back to my longtime, long-suffering caddie, Shanks. “That’s my last swing,” I said.

“No, it isn’t!” Chamblee said, laughing.

“Watch me,” I replied. 

I spent the remainder of the trip beating balls on the range and saw more of the milkshake lady at the Dairy Queen downtown than I did of Chamblee (so it wasn’t all bad).

It was an ominous sign of my eventual descent to total range rat, happy to hit balls all day as long as I didn’t have to go find them. Which explains why I haven’t been back to Bandon Dunes in eight years.

Bandon Dunes
Bandon Dunes

No. 16 at Bandon Dunes, which Eamon Lynch considers among his favorite holes on the planet (Courtesy of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort)

Yet still I lie a couple thousand miles east with photographic recall of holes that gave me fits (the aforementioned 14th at Trails, the fifth at Bandon Dunes) and those I rank among my favorites on the planet (the fourth at Pacific Dunes, the fifth at Trails, the 16th at Bandon Dunes). I don’t dream of the Sheep Ranch though. I only saw that property when one group a day would be dropped off to devise their own layout from 13 green complexes scattered on a bluff north of the resort, years before it became the latest acclaimed course in the portfolio.

Each fitful night of near-sleep brings a reminder of what I’ve lost by not playing much golf anymore, hence a recent desire to get back into the swing, as it were. Every few months for almost eight years, I’ve gotten a text from my buddy Michael Chupka, who works at Bandon. “Ready to come back yet?” he asks, like a patient counselor.

One of these days I’m going to answer in the affirmative. If only to see if Bill and Ben have done anything yet to redeem that damned hole.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek