written by Kevin Griffin
Once the range for the Coquille tribes, in 1852 a shipwrecked Henry Baldwin from County Cork, Ireland stumbled upon the beautiful shores in this area. Word of this chance encounter spread back home and within the next twenty-five years, this town was teeming with sons from Bandon, Ireland.
By the turn of the century, Bandon was a key port between San Francisco and Portland. Today the small town (population 3,295) is a warren known for fishing, cranberries and golf. Along South Highway 101, the Cranberry Capital of Oregon has some bogs that are nearly one hundred years old. The fall cranberry festival is a colorful tradition that ties into this tradition and has been celebrated for sixty-four years and counting.
On the north edge of town and along stunning ocean cliffs, lies a transported piece of Scotland. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, regularly ranked among the world’s best courses, is the anchor to the ocean-side community. The first course, Bandon Dunes, opened in 1999 and was instantly hailed as one of the best in the country. It was designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd, whose father was the agronomist at the legendary Gleneagles course in Scotland. By June 2010, the resort had three world-class courses and was opening its fourth, Old Macdonald. Old Macdonald is already on par with the top courses according to the national golf media and will soon become an Oregon coastal rite of passage.
Perhaps it’s because Bandon is so strongly associated with world-class golf, that visitors forget that the small seaside town has one of the most beautiful and austere beaches. Strewn with smooth driftwood and jagged monoliths wading in the shallows, Bandon’s waterfront creates a festival of the senses. You can meander for miles along the coast collecting agates and petrified wood before you realize that you’ve been out for hours.
If you’re not up for a long stroll on the beach, enjoy some of the same sights along the four-mile Bandon Beach Loop, a scenic splinter off Highway 101. Or take a horseback ride along the beach with the Bandon Beach Riding Stables ($40/hour).
Crabbing the Oregon Coast is one of the most rewarding forms of fishing you’ll ever do. It’s easy, productive and makes for a great dinner.
Get a crabbing license ($6.50), a couple of rings and bait from Tony’s Crab Shack on the docks in Old Town. Bays and estuaries are perfect for crabbing year-round. In the bay formed by the mouth of the Coquille River and the Pacific Ocean, Bandon is perfectly situated for successful crabbing.
Bandon is internationally known for its world-class golf courses. Master designers such as David McLay Kidd, Tom Doak, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have brought their considerable talents to bear on the four courses ($75-$275/round) of Bandon Dunes Resort. If you were blindfolded and put on a plane, upon arriving at the courses at Bandon Dunes, you’d swear you were in Scotland.
Start the day with a hearty First Tee buffet breakfast ($12.50) at the Gallery Restaurant in the Lodge. After you’ve had your fill, head out for some warm-up swings at the practice center.Shuttles run continuously throughout the day.
The newest entree to the collection of courses at Bandon is the Old Macdonald, opened June 2010. This Tom Doak and Jim Urbina tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald, the founder of the U.S. Golf Association, plays long and fast. It has verdant steep pitches and overlooks the sea at a few stunning holes. The temperatures on the southern coast are mild through the typical winter months, so December and January may be just as good golfing as June.
If you’re playing Old Macdonald for the first time, take a caddy ($80-$100/bag). Local knowledge of this tricky course will make for a better nineteenth hole.
When it comes to dining, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has options. The new Pacific Grill is great when the weather is nice. An outdoor fireplace and seating area surrounded by glass retainers preserves the views and minimizes the coastal winds.
McKee’s Pub near the main lodge and pro shop is an old-school tavern that serves a full menu. Next door and downstairs in the Lodge is The Bunker Bar, a good place for a nightcap and a game of pool to sharpen your angles for the next round. Stay clear of the Bunker Bar if you don’t like cigars.
After a day on an emotional roller coaster ride playing some of the most challenging golf in the country, Bandon’s Old Town is a nice change of pace. Fires burned the waterfront business district area in 1914 and again in 1936, but the resulting downtown center is a charming collection of restaurants, cafés, book shops and galleries as well as a marina and fishing dock. Grab lunch at Tony’s Crab Shack and eat outside if the weather permits or head upstairs to the Crow’s Nest for reasonably priced local seafood.
Besides golf, Bandon is known for its cranberry bogs. Local farmers will harvest nearly a half million barrels of cranberries this fall, 95 percent of the state’s cranberries and about 4 percent of the total U.S. production. Each September since 1946, Bandon has hosted the Cranberry Festival with a parade, and court king and queen, a food fair, live music and a blessing of the harvest. South of Bandon, along Highway 101, you can see and visit these bogs. As you drive south in search of the bogs, stop in at Art 101. The artists here have assembled an amazing body of work from items that have washed ashore.