Pacific Dunes is often ranked in the top 50 golf courses in the world and reviews of it alternate discussing how beautiful it is versus how tough it is. What would it be like to play it in person?
Many historic links courses are short by modern standards and their primary defense are the elements. If the wind is gusting and the rain is falling good luck on even the shortest track. It was super windy the day I played Pac Dunes. How windy you ask? This windy:
Pac Dunes tips out at 6,600 yards although most guests play it even shorter at 6,100 yards and it is a tough test in even benign conditions but when the wind was going like it was the day I played it (20-30 mph winds) it became a real carnival ride.
The par 3s by the ocean became exercises in figuring how to club up by 3+ clubs and I had to have a nice long sit after playing into a 30 mph wind on the long 13th hole. Whew, I get tired just remembering the wind!
The course is beautiful and really seems to maximize the surrounding landscape to great visual effect. Many an architect has used stunning visuals to distract the golfer from the task at hand but leave it to Doak to distract you with the beauty of gorse while you are playing some of the holes.
Playing Pac Dunes is playing golf in the raw. The course wends its way up and down dunescapes and blowout bunkers and jagged cliffsides and it feels as far removed from a manufactured American parkland course as you can get.
This wild and wooly nature of the course also manifests itself in the bunkering and lord help ya if you find yourself in one of them during the round.
Let's talk about the routing of Pac Dunes a bit. When you play the course it is a bit like being in an accordion. There are stretches of wide open spaces, especially the cliffside holes and then the course squeezes compactly onto itself with back to back par 3s in a very narrow space and holes jumbling up next to each other.
One of my favorites holes on the course did not involve cliff top views or gorse but instead it was the 9th hole which has a blind tee shot and then two greens that are alternated depending on the day you play there.
(the sprinkler head has the alternate yardages on it)
This is a really fun hole. On a course that is hard (and was made harder by the wind), I really dug a fun hole that gave you lots of options and to me it was the ninth.
Overall I could see why this course is considered one of the best in the world. It is wild, beautiful and a true best of golf. The test is made harder by the wind and I wonder how much easier and/or more fun it would be playing in more benign conditions.
That being said, it is a must play course while at the resort and it will give you an experience that will last a lifetime.
For more information about Pacific Dunes check out this link: https://www.bandondunesgolf.com/golf/golf-courses/pacific-dunes