I am a golf nut. I ws a +1 handicapper a few years ago before an injury, but still play to a mid single digit. I have written professionally about golf and golf destinations for major magazines, and I have played all over the world, in Pro Ams, tournaments, you name it. I had never, however, been to the great American Mecca of Bandon Dunes due to the travel issues from the East Coast. But, when a buddy in SF invited me to stay with him and play there, and then catch a commuter flight up for a few days at Bandon, I was in!
Our flight in from SFO was delayed so we arrived with no time for warmups. The transfer from the airport was seamless, with a pleasant driver a nice van, and even Caddyshack on the monitor! We were greeted by the starter, who fetched our caddy. I was told Bandon has a double bag policy. All pairs are covered by a single caddy. There is no riding at Bandon, and I hate pull carts. So, one caddy it was. I hit my first drive down the middle and pretty deep, stuck a mid iron six inches, and opened with birdie. The second at Bandon Dunes is a seven iron par-3, and I stuck that less than a foot for two birdies in a row. What a great opening! I knew I was going to love the place. I even decided to overlook the horrendous visual condition of the greens, because they rolled fine, despite the splotches, numerous bare patches of rolled dirt, and dead grass. Besides, Bandon is a slice of heaven -- the setting and routing are an aesthetic miracle. One bad hole cost me a par or sub-par round, but an opening 74 had me ready for the morning's outing at Pacific Dunes.
Pacific was even more gorgeous than Bandon. The only two marks against it were, first, the somewhat slow play; the double bag policy saw the group ahead of us delayed as the caddies scampered between their golfers - and our caddy was challenged because my pal was having big troubles off the tee - pulling short hooks into the brush -- while I was hitting them straight and deep. He really had to hustle, and did an amazing job! The second bad mark was the overwhelmingly bad greens. While they looked fine, they were lumpy, bumpy and incredibly slow and inconsistent. Most were probably rolling at 9 tops. It began to really get into my head. I still played pretty well, and managed a 77, despite some issues with the traps -- the sand seemed quite different in some of them, but that may have been from some rain at night. Our weather was perfect -- mostly sunny with a mild 10-20 mph wind.
We just made out afternoon tee time at Old Mac, and I requested a second caddy if one was available, since we were playing as a twosome, and thought it would be more pleasant. A second caddy, a nice younger guy, was sent up, and we had an interesting afternoon - I was tired, and played it. Old Mac is a vast, windblown landscape, like nothing else I've seen. treeless, no real rough, just huge spaces and severe hills and bunkering, filled with awkward stances and blind shots. With nothing to shelter from the wind, it is a challenge. I had a beer and chilled, and didn't worry about my score. Some of the holes were downright loony, but it was fun, and the views amazing. The greens looked and rolled fine -- probably around 10 on the stimp, and pretty true.
The food, accommodations, and staff were all great. A mosquito infestation led to some big nasty bites, but all was well. I was disappointed the two bedroom units lacked any bathtubs. I would have loved a good hot soak. But it was golf, eat, and sleep.
The real issue didn't rear its head until we left. Our caddie was a 10 out of 10. He was knowledgeable, smart (Ivy League degree), and just a super caddie in every respect. He has and still works on the Asian LPGA tour, as well as other pro gigs. He introduced me to a great new ball, and even gave me a couple sleeves. I made sure to give him more than double the bag fee for every round, that's how good he was.
We had discussed the double bag fee, and he and two other caddies confirmed that many days there were anywhere from a few to as many as 30 or more caddies without work. I sent an email to the caddymaster asking why the double bag policy was a rule, and they didn't offer guests a second caddy if one were available. I complemented our caddy, and said he did a spectacular job and was a great ambassador for the resort. After several days, I got back an email basically saying they never had enough caddies, and that my caddy must have failed his job, because I had left less than 100% satisfied. This was exactly the opposite of what my email
had said. Our caddy was the only thing that made me overlook the terrible greens at the two banner tracks, and I would happily have him anywhere I played.
Then, I got a message from the caddy that he had been called in and FIRED! The excuse was that my email suggested I was unhappy with him, and he had ruined my trip. This was totally outrageous. I emailed the caddymaster again, and copied the resort's owner. I am a repeat club champion, and a professional golf writer - I know what a good caddy is. My opinion of the caddy could not have been higher, and i said so repeatedly. I insisted they reinstate him, because a guy with a wife and two kids to support losing his job because of me is a terrible burden, and it was groundless.
A day later the resort GM called me and apologized, and said it would be straightened out.
Needless to say, I next heard from the caddy that they never called him back, the caddymaster dismissed him and disrespected him, and he had left Bandon and accepted an offer to caddy for an Asian LPGA Tour member ranked in the world's top 30. Not exactly evidence of any shortcomings as a caddy!
To this date I have not received an explanation from Bandon about what they did. I emailed them earlier this week, and heard nothing. The point of my posting this on TripAdvisor is to make sure that golfers inquire about the greens condition before they make the long trip of a lifetime to play the courses (they are worth the trip), and that no one EVER say anything negative to management there, because they seem to think the solution is to fire even one of their outstanding staff members. All the staff I met at Bandon were great, and it would be awful to see another one of them punished for what management sees as the solution to any issues tied to their policies.
If Bandon has a reason or grounds to have done what they did, they have never told me. I gave them several chances. I am just relieved that the caddy has a great job, and if he wants to work out East, I would not hesitate to recommend him to my home club or any of the top clubs in the area. Maybe they will post a reply to this. They certainly know who I am.
So, in sum: Bad greens during my visit. In my opinion, questionable treatment of a customer inquiry with a groundless firing (as far as I know) to follow. Otherwise a great, special place.
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