Bandon Dunes Introduces Links Golf to Many US Junior Am Competitors

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Nick Dunlap just couldn’t stop rolling the golf balls. Try as he might, by putting a little more zip on his practice shots, the balls wouldn’t catch the green like they normally do.

This is the whole point of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. More linksy than anything else in the United States, Oregon’s famed golf resort was designed from the ground up to play with bounce and firmness.

Dunlap was walking the back nine of Bandon Trails, one of five highly rated full 18 courses at the resort, in April as part of a media day for the upcoming U.S. Junior Amateur Championship hosted by the U.S. Golf Association . The event will take place July 25-30 on the resort’s Bandon Trails and Bandon Dunes courses.

A US Junior winner last year at the Country Club of North Carolina who will join the varsity ranks this fall for the University of Alabama, Dunlap had the chance to try his hand at real golf for the first time at the during his three-day stay. at the resort as he prepared to defend his title. A sore wrist prevented him from completing the full 18 at Bandon Trails a day after playing Bandon Dunes and the Preserve – the resort’s par-3 course set on stunning cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean – but Dunlap continued to walking the trails to practice his short game, trying to tame the conditions of the links.

Bandon Trails at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Courtesy of Bandon Dunes/Evan Schiller)

He was trying his best to figure out how to make a ball save on the 14e green at Bandon Trails, a short par 4 with an elevated putting surface that sees many amateur golfers playing ping-pong back and forth. Dunlap, as one of the best junior players in the world, has a habit of imposing his will on a golf ball, making it stop on command. But it just wasn’t working and his practice shots kept rolling well past the holeshot. He wasn’t cracking them or anything, but the combination of firm turf and bouncy greens that is a highlight of links golf was new to the Alabama native.

“I’m not really used to putting 20 yards from the green and using 7 irons (to chip) and stuff like that, so it’s going to be something new, and I’m looking forward to it. be,” Dunlap said with a laugh in turn on the mic during the media day. “Being from Alabama, I don’t think you can really prepare for something like this. I’ve obviously played in wind and rain, but nothing like that – linksy, gorse, I’ve never seen that before. So I think coming here this week is going to help me a lot, it’s just what I need to do to prepare for a tournament like this.

It will be a similar introduction to links golf for most of the 264 players on the course – the tournament will include the first two days of stroke play qualifying, then six rounds of playoff match play to determine a winner. The USGA plans to set up the two courses used in Junior Am the same way they played in the 2020 US Amateur at the resort. That means firm, fast and fiery – dream conditions for links golf fans.

Bob Gaspar – known from afar as Shoe, a nickname given to him by a former golf week editor-in-chief – posts daily weather reports from the station on Twitter, and his recent missives describe lots of sunshine and wind. This is promising, as these conditions likely mean the Junior Amateur could be firmer and more spirited, just as resort operators and the USGA want. The governing body attempts to test every shot in a player’s bag as well as their mental toughness and resolve, and golf can exploit any weakness, especially if the ground is dry and the winds are blowing.

But this is Bandon Dunes, and those who have played it know that it can rain, it can get foggy, the winds can get almost out of control, or the weather is calm. And it could be all of those things in one day.

“We want Bandon Dunes to be Bandon Dunes when we come here in July,” said Greg Sanfilippo, director of the US Junior Amateur and Senior Amateur Championships. “We won’t stray from the full test (which the USGA is always striving for), but really Bandon will deliver what we’re looking for organically: the wind, the hilly terrain, the ground game, the type range, rain, risk-reward, multiple teeing grounds, drivable par-4 considerations, turf firmness and fog.

The complex, with five courses ranked by Golfweek’s Best among the 20 best modern courses in the United States, has hosted seven previous USGA championships: the 2006 Curtis Cup, the 2007 US Mid-Amateur, the 2011 US Amateur Public Links and the Women’s Amateur Public Links. , the 2015 US Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, the 2019 US Amateur Four-Ball, and the aforementioned 2020 US Amateur.

Dunes of Bandon Dunes of Bandon

Bandon Dunes at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon (Courtesy of Bandon Dunes)

The station is also expected to host eight more USGA events after this US Junior Amateur, with events ranging from Women’s Amateur in 2025 to US Junior Amateur and US Girl’s Junior in 2045.

“Amateur golf is just something that (resort founder) Mike Keizer has always had a fondness for, and he considers the American amateur the fifth major in golf,” said Jeff Simonds, assistant general manager and senior manager. complex operations. “…Our five golf courses are ready and prepared to host a championship for all calibers of players entering.”

The last USGA Championship at Bandon Dunes was a complete success, both for the resort and for the USGA, which presented many on the field with real bonding conditions in this US Amateur 2020. COVID -19 had threatened the progress of the championship, but the station and the USGA designed a bubble atmosphere for the players. The live TV coverage on the Golf Channel has been a highlight of the year for many fans of the resort and for many potential guests who may have heard of Bandon Dunes but have not yet experienced it for themselves. themselves.

The resort, like any host site, has to sacrifice a good chunk of peak season revenue and tee times to host a USGA event such as a US Amateur or US Junior Am. Keizer said it’s worth it when players swooped in amid the pandemic, and that the station’s TV coverage didn’t hurt either.

“I thought the American amateur was something we would do for the sake of golf, and definitely not something we would make money on,” said Keiser, who opened Bandon Dunes in 1999 and has gone on to pursue several other projects around the world. golf week recently. “I thought the cost was going to be a million and a half dollars. Imagine my surprise when, because of the TV coverage, the phones rang nonstop for two weeks. We didn’t keep track of it, but I’m sure it contributed to a balanced situation.

“I think it was ironic in a good way that I said yes to the tournament thinking I would lose money and then it was like the golf fans were like, ‘Let’s see what it’s all about. and book a few times. Since then you have not been able to get a departure time.

Advice for anyone looking to play Bandon Dunes anytime soon: book early. The US Junior Amateur will also be broadcast live, with the semi-finals on July 29 and the championship match on July 30 on Golf Channel and Peacock. The USGA expects to replicate the success of the 2020 US Amateur at the station, and available tee times may be scarce after viewers once again see all that real American golf has to offer.

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