Bandon Dunes is famous for two things above all else. Its stellar assortment of golf courses and its remoteness for being a major golfing destination. Without this location perhaps the level of golf wouldn’t be what it is. And with currently four courses ( Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Old Mac and Trails) and a par three course there is room for more. I think anyone thats ever been to Bandon not only wished for more time but more golf courses. That “more” is coming sooner than expected.
What was once the best known secret in golf is now going to be the 5th and potentially most disruptive course in the Bandon arsenal. The legendary Sheep Ranch will evolve from it’s dusty, rugged cliff hanging E green days into a new well thought out course that sits above the rest at Bandon - at least topographically speaking. Just North of Old Mac sits a piece of land brutalized by the wind and elements. This rugged piece of land used to host 8,12, 14 golfers at a time playing par threes to par tens. Where yardage was replaced by mileage. This hush hush course was designed by Doak and maintained by an old fire tanker that would sprinkle water on the greens. Other than that maintenance was as minimal as minimal got. And some say the golf as pure as it could be.
These same folks have a cautious sense of optimism and concern about the future of the Sheep Ranch. And after hearing tales of the property and golf that had taken place I must admit I was a little heartbroken to never have played it. That was until I saw it in its current state. Early one March morning we set out before the sunrise to see the property and understand the routing, philosophy and design being implemented on one of the most revered plots of land in my community of golfers. The first thing that hit me was the routing. It ran mostly east and west which was a stark contract to the majority of the other Bandon courses. Meaning the prevailing wind would push and pull your ball rather than knocking down or pushing it up.
The other thing I noticed was the views. In a place known for spectacular views - I mean like take a minute and sit down to take it in good views. The Sheep Ranch was on its own level. And with so many of the green sites perched on the cliffs edge the views will be plentiful for golfers to ponder life’s bigger questions or look for their ball on the beach. The once famous E green sits dramatically out on this cliff flanked by two large dunes and the routing, green complex and shot type required for that hole have done it justice. Before players could make the E green a par 3, 4, 5 or hell make it a par 8. Now that shot is predetermined for them by Coore & Crenshaw but the decision is a great one. I have a strong feeling in my gut this course could be the biggest shift in golf since, well, Bandon Dunes.
The reality is this course is going to draw some disdain from the old romantics that played it in the days when you’d have to know who to call and where to meet. But I am certain the majority will sing its praises after the plan is rolled out. Providing a new approach to golf in a publicly accessible way is never a bad thing. And talks of zero sand bunkers are the kinds of thinking that will raise eyebrows and challenge convention. Something golf courses (golf in general) needs desperately these days. Stay tunned for more info on the Sheep Ranch and visit https://sheepranch.golf/ for more info.