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Review: Old Macdonald Golf Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Written by: Tony Korologos | Monday, August 13th, 2018
Categories: Course ReviewsGolfGolf Course ArchitectureGolf CoursesGolf For WomenHOG World TourReviewsTravel
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The fourth and newest (18 hole) course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is Old Macdonald. “Old Mac” was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina and opened in 2010. Doak and Urbina were inspired on Old Mac’s design by golf course architect Charles Blair Macdonald (1855-1939).  Macdonald is considered the father of American golf, having built the first full size 18-hole course in the country.  Macdonald is famous for designing some of the country’s famous courses like Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links of America, and the Old White Course at The Greenbrier.

Old Macdonald Stats

From the longest tees (Black), Old Macdonald runs 6,944 yards. The slope from the tips is 131 with a course rating of 74.4.  The tips will challenge the best of golfers.  There are four other tee sets to choose from, down to the shortest set which is 4,985 yards, 65.2 rating and 104 slope.  A wise golfer can bite of just the right amount for his/her game by choosing the proper tee.  I chose the Green tees: 6,320 yards, 71.6/125.

Tee

Tee shots at Old Mac are extremely fun and entertaining.  There isn’t a ton of complexity to getting the ball into play on most holes, except perhaps the 3rd which is a blind shot over a hill.  With a little help from the wind and the severe downhill, the green is reachable from the tee on this par-4.  Doing so would require a precisely positioned tee shot down the left side, or a hard draw down the middle, just right of the dead marker tree (photo below).

From the tee the golfer can make a solid guess as to the best landing areas and angles for the next shot.  The challenge is calculating whether or not the ball will reach the multitude of fairway bunkers or natural hazards in play.  Course knowledge or the advice of a caddie is great in those situations.

Many tee shots offer sizeable elevation changes, making calculating proper yardages interesting.  A good case is the par-3 8th hole which has an elevated tee box with the Pacific Ocean behind the tee.  Pulling the right club there requires calculating the elevation change, hardness of the ground, and the often prevailing left-to-right wind.

Fairway

The fairways at Old Mac are fairly wide and present many “opportunities” for uneven lies or bunkered approach shots.  They typically run hard and fast, like links golf should.  The hard and fast style is my favorite.   Well executed tee shots will find the fairway most of the time, though the finishing location may be in different positions than expected due to the hardness and undulation.  Several holes provide multiple choices in terms of conservative and aggressive areas to play from.

Old Macdonald 18 Fairway

Old Macdonald 18 Fairway

The fairway bunkering at Old Mac is as artistic as it is penal.

There are a few score-wreckers out there so positioning shots in the fairway and away from the bunkers is a wise plan.  Many of the bunkers have stairways for easier entrance and exit. If only getting the ball out of the bunkers was as easy.

Green

There is more green acreage at Old Macdonald than there is at the Old Course in St Andrews.  That means a lot, since the old course has some of the biggest greens anywhere; certainly the biggest I’ve ever played.

Some of Old Mac’s greens have major undulations, like the previously mentioned par-3 8th (photo above) where a deep depression dissects the green.  The par-4 18th has a tremendous punchbowl on the left side of the green which feeds approach shots or putts way right.  It was fun to test out some shots there.   I used a bit of that bowl effect to carve a 4-iron in from left to right and have the ball feed left to right.  That led to an eventual birdie thanks to knowing the green.

Highlights

There are some nice ocean views on the par-4 7th green and 8th tee.  Stopping there to soak in the spectacular views is highly recommended.

Par-4 7th Green

The course is rugged and challenging with a nice amount of elevation change.  The unsheltered and open layout can lend itself to wind that would make Scotland proud.

There are some neat design quirks, like the green complex on the par-4 16th hole.  The green can be hidden unless the player’s drive is placed way right in the fairway.  But going too far right means bunkers.  Gotcha. The look at the green can be intimidating, especially if the pin is cut left like on the picture below.

When done playing the 16th there’s a bell on the path to the 17th green (pole in the photo above). When approaching players hear the bell, they know the green is clear.

Final Thoughts

Old Macdonald rounds out the courses at Bandon Dunes tremendously with a great variation in style, feel, terrain, and aesthetics.

Old Mac is an extremely fun and challenging design which makes the golfer think, and offers different choices in terms of being aggressive or conservative.  It can greatly reward well executed aggressive shots and will certainly penalize poor shots, or poor strategy.  It’s a course that one could play 1000 times and never have the same shot twice on any hole.  I only have 998 more rounds to go to confirm that theory.

Related

Old Macdonald photo gallery

Talking Bandon Dunes on the Back 9 Report Podcast

Review: Bandon Dunes Golf Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

Review: Bandon Preserve – 13-Hole Par-3 Course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort


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