During our recent visit to Bandon Dunes, we decided to draw straws to determine who would write about each of the four courses at the resort. I drew the Bandon Trails straw, but because of an injury to one of our writers, I ended up swapping Brandon Trails for Old Macdonald. I looked at the trade as a bit of good fortune, as Bandon Trails ended up being my least favorite course by far. While Old Mac doesn’t get the same type of hype as Bandon and Pacific Dunes by no means should you treat the course as a red-headed stepchild. In fact, Old Mac provides a perfect mix of everything the resort is all about; ocean views, breath taking landscape, and golf as it’s meant to be.
I play off a 15 handicap and my best round of the trip came on Old Mac, my front-9 score was actually the lowest nine 9-hole score anyone in our group posted during the trip. To understand what Old Macdonald is all about you’ll need to know that the course is designed as a tribute to classic golf architect Charles Blair Macdonald. Course designers Tom Doak (also designed Pacific Dunes) and Jim Urbina built the course from the standpoint of, what would Charles Macdonald do. In fact, of every course at the resort, Old Mac seemed to have the most character and charm which is quite surprising since it’s also the newest course at the resort. Old Mac is home to the ghost tree, it comes into play on the third hole and looks like it’s been there for hundreds of years. Talk about spooky and charming all at the same time, the ghost tree has become the trademark of Old Mac.
In my opinion, Old Macdonald is the most playable course at the resort. In my mind, playable equals enjoyable, I love a challenge as much as the next guy but being able to post a good score is always a plus. The sheer size of Old Mac makes the course high handicap friendly, more so than any other course at Bandon Dunes. Doak and Urbina did everything big when it comes to the course design, for starters the greens are enormous. With over 6 acres of total greens, chances are you’ll see at least one four-putt during your round, but on the positive side, you’ll also hit a lot of greens in regulation. The bunkers are also large and a few of them are downright deep and nasty. If that wasn’t enough, providing the biggest contribution to the playability of Old Mac are the oversized fairways. Old Mac’s large fairways provide golfers with a wide margin of error and allow you to stay in the hole given you don’t find one of those nasty bunkers.
A testament to course playability is the welcome mat rolled out on the first hole, a wide-open tee shot with an even wider fairway allows you to pick your distance for the second shot into yup you guessed it, an oversized green. If you have the putter working you’re in for what will most likely be your lowest score of the trip. The front-nine and the rest of the course get tougher as you go, but keep in mind the front-nine features three par 3s, and is only par-34 where par on the back-nine is 37.
I mentioned the character of the course which takes shape in the form of Old Mac’s uphill holes, downhill holes, blind shots, troublesome bunkers, a tribute to the “Road Hole” at the Old Course at St. Andrews and even an 18th green with a punch bowl design that funnels shots toward the middle. With all this character and don’t forget about the ghost tree I hope you’re starting to understand why I’m so crazy about Old Macdonald. While it’ll never be the highest rated course at Bandon Dunes I guarantee that it won’t be too far behind on your list. My guess is that most golfers will leave Bandon saying their most enjoyable round was on Old Mac, my money is on it also being their lowest score of the trip.
Old Macdonald Course Rating: 4.6 / 5 Stars
As a course designed to be a tribute to Charles Blair Macdonald, a man referred to by the Golf Hall of Fame as the Father of American golf set lofty expectations for course designers Tom Doak and Jim Urbina. What Doak and Urbina delivered is a golf course that blended Doak’s minimalist design mentality with golf’s Scottish roots. At America’s best golf resort, each course has its own distinct feel, perhaps none more so than Old Macdonald. Old Mac instantly transports you to Scotland with a links-style layout and template hole design that makes even the biggest golf nerd blush.
Regardless of how much or how little you know about the history of golf and golf course architecture you’ll come to appreciate Old Mac and revel in its design. Typically ranked as the 3rd best golf course at Bandon Dunes, you’ll find more and more golfers ranking Old Mac as their 2nd favorite course at Bandon behind either Pacific or Bandon Dunes. Of the four 18-hole courses at Bandon, Old Mac is by far the most playable and charming course at the resort that will leave you yearning to play it again and again.
During our trip to Bandon Dunes, Oxford supplied our team with apparel. Thanks to the crazy weather along the Oregon coast we had a chance to wear everything from shorts and short sleeves to pants and outerwear. On a once in a lifetime trip, our apparel from Oxford was the cherry on the top. Not only did we have a breathtaking experience we looked amazing while doing it! Please visit Oxford to check out the latest in high-performance golf apparel, and dress like a Golf Aficionado!