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Karma behind Bandon Dunes' newest course is strong

By Dave Berner, Senior Contributor

BANDON, Ore. - There's something that's been keeping Ben Crenshaw up at night.

"He told me he feels like a little kid thinking about it," says Troy Russell, superintendent of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort superintendent and the man in charge of the new course taking shape at the most talked about resort in golf. A course so anticipated, few outsiders have been permitted to see the construction process and pictures are a no-no.

"This is the hole, the 14th. Pretty dramatic, isn't it?" Russell as he step through ancient dunes, around brush and up a hill to a crudely shaped tee box. Below is a stunning view.

"It's a downhill, down wind, short par-4 and Mr. Crenshaw says he just loves this hole," says Russell. "He says he lies in bed and thinks about it."

The hole is roughly about 300 yards and sits on a seaside venue that will just knock you out - huge ocean dunes, pine and hemlock forests, and land that dips and tumbles in all directions all around. The fairway on the 14th rolls down over a slight ridge and the green sits precariously on a steep grade. It's a striking hole and one that so many players will try to reach in one. It's risk-reward with a lot of risk and undoubtedly when it's complete will be one of many memorable holes at the new Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore designed Bandon Trails golf course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the Oregon coast.

A first-hand look

At the spot where the future tee box will sit for No. 14, someone has placed a golf mat with an artificial rubber tee on the sandy ground.

"We've had a few people on the design team hit a ball from here just to see where it lands," says Russell.

And that's sort of where things are in the construction of Bandon Trails. The hole routing is done and the holes have taken shape; many of the greens are built and some are in the process. Ten holes are being seeded and the crews are mowing eight. The official opening is expected in the spring of 2005.

"The plan was always to have four 18-hole courses and one nine-hole. Now, we're getting the third," says Marla Taylor, executive assistant to the Bandon Golf Resort's general manager.

Bandon Dunes, designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd and Pacific Dunes created by Tom Doak, are getting a load of accolades. Some say the two courses are better than Pebble Beach. And the resort is simply a magical place; a golf purist's nirvana. And Bandon Trails appears it will fit right in. Although there are more elevation changes and more vegetation on this newest of the courses, the traditional greenskeeping will keep the fairways hard and fast and force golfers to play the game on the ground, just like both Dunes courses.

Bandon Trails will also be a walking-only course with professional caddies available and will have a traditional nine-out/ nine-in routing. It will have its own clubhouse and a new lodge is anticipated a little north of the course to accommodate the throngs that will be coming to this remote and still rather sleepy town of Bandon.

The first tee has one of the best views on the entire property.

"You can see Bandon Dunes from here, Pacific is over there, and there's the ocean, the main lodge, and all the more forested areas," says Russell as he points out the natural beauty throughout the resort. "And this hole, a 365-yard par-4, looks menacing, but it's not. It's a good opening hole. The course starts out as a handshake then turns into a knuckle sandwich at the end. There is a big finish here."

The course starts close to the ocean on the dunes and works its way east into more wooded areas giving some of the course a feel of a very famous venue on the east coast.

"I went to Pine Valley to get a look at No. 16 there to help understand what we wanted to do on the 11th hole here," says Russell, who grew up on an Oregon dairy farm and now believes he's one of the luckiest people in golf.

"I helped build Bandon and Pacific, and now this," says Russell. "I couldn't be happier."

He keeps repeating how the 16th, 17th and 18th are going to be "smash-mouth golf".

"These three holes are going to be something," says Russell, arriving at No. 16 where a new crew member is hand-watering the green.

"I think this course is the most beautiful of them all," says Kamil Rosales, 23, a native of Nicaragua with two college degrees and a passion for golf architecture. He came to Bandon just to be a part of this project and work the resort.

"A lot of people want to be a part of this," says Russell.

The 16th is a big par-5 and 17 is a long par-3 that can stretch out as much as 200 yards. But 18 is the killer.

"Take a look at this," says Russell with a grin pointing to the dunes and the slight uphill climb. "It's 440-yards into the wind. Par-4. This is that knuckle sandwich I was talking about."

High anticipation

"I can't wait to see how it lays out. Just to get a feel for the differences in all the courses," says Allen Reese, a senior caddie at Bandon and a scratch player.

Allen is an Oregon native who can't believe his home has become golf's new Mecca.

"It's so cool to be part of all this," says Reese.

Certainly Crenshaw and Mike Keiser, owner of Chicago-based Recycled Paper Greetings Inc. and the Bandon resort, are jacked-up for the new course. But it's not hard to find a buzz about Bandon Trails all around the place in every corner. Even with two of the world's best courses already right out the front door.

Anticipation? It's fevered. The resort is already taking tee times for the June 1, 2005, opening and the construction crews are working six days a week to get it done.

The verdict

It's impossible to have a fair evaluation when the course is still an "in-progress" project. But considering Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails has lots of incredible karma around it. However, this also means it has to live-up to some pretty high standards, like the youngest child in a very competitive household.

Dave BernerDave Berner, Senior Contributor

Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed." Follow Berner on Twitter @DavidWBerner

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