Bandon Dunes: Hey Shorty

  • Shorty's Bandon WAC 25 years
    Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

    The first green (foreground) at Shorty’s, a 19-hole par-three layout among sand dunes that will be Bandon Dunes’ seventh course

  • Shorty's Bandon WAC 25 years
    Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

    WAC Golf’s Keith Cutten described the Shorty’s site as “more undulating than elsewhere on the Bandon property”

  • Shorty's Bandon WAC 25 years
    Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

    WAC Golf has shaped bunkers and greens to mimic the natural forms of the site, as seen at the eighth

  • Shorty's Bandon WAC 25 years
    Bandon Dunes Golf Resort

    The design team used the site’s dune ridges to frame holes, as well as link tees, fairways and greens together

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

May 2024 is a special month for Bandon Dunes. Not only will it see the grand opening of Shorty’s, its seventh course, but it also marks 25 years of golf at the Oregon resort.

Since the opening of David Kidd’s Bandon Dunes course in 1999, the resort has become the poster child for destination golf, with Kidd’s course being joined by two world’s-best layouts from Tom Doak (one with Jim Urbina) and three from Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Many of Bandon’s architects will return to join developers Mike Keiser and his sons Michael and Chris for the quarter-century celebrations.

They will be joined by another team of designers too – Rod Whitman, Dave Axland and Keith Cutten – who have become the first new architects at Bandon for almost twenty years – since Coore & Crenshaw laid out Bandon Trails in 2005. All three principals of the WAC Golf team have spent substantial time on site over the past year to shape the features of the new 19-hole par-three course, with assistance from their design associate Kurtis Lavis.

Shorty’s has been built on sand dunes immediately south of Bandon Preserve. Cutten has described the site as “more undulating than elsewhere on the Bandon property” and their goal being “to make the best short course in golf”.

“We spent a great deal of time figuring out the sequencing and placement of the holes within the undulating terrain,” says Cutten. “The routing itself evolved over several months, starting with a 12-hole loop – this initial sequence was through the most walkable portion of the site. We were then urged to keep going and easily added another six [holes one to six]. However, the clubhouse shifted, giving us enough room to add an additional short hole, raising the total to 19. We could have easily kept going south, but the routing as it stands today takes full advantage of the site.”

Another short course – Coore & Crenshaw’s Bandon Preserve is a 13-hole par-three layout – was a priority for the resort, and was to be designed with fun and memorability in mind. Both of the short courses fund the Bandon Dunes Charitable Foundation. “The dunes on Shorty’s are some of the most severe on the property, and the sand is consistent and pure,” says Cutten. “This site was made for a par-three layout, as any longer holes would have required the removal or flattening of the abrupt ground movement. For a short course this land was ideal – we have used all the best attributes of the property for the creation of 19 memorable par threes.”

The site has numerous ridges, some rising up to 30 to 40 feet, which create some particularly dramatic holes, like seven, eleven and fourteen. “We utilised natural green sites scattered across the landscape as the foundation for our design,” says Cutten. “However, the key to the routing was to link these greens together using the natural dune ridges between each hole. This allowed us to traverse this wonderfully undulating site in the most pragmatic of ways, making each hole not only a pleasure to walk but also puttable!

“The greens and bunker strategies presented at Shorty’s are as varied as the dunes in which they reside. A variety of scale and severity of contour were purposeful design goals, some greens are more dynamic, while others lay more quietly on the ground. Our shaping mimics the natural forms of the site, therefore green complexes were shaped to best fit within their surroundings. Whereas the biggest bunkers are simply natural blowouts, other smaller pits were added to set off strategies. These additional bunkers were shaped to reflect the more natural dunes look of the site. However, it is the abundance of shortgrass and funnelling contours that will make navigating the site so enjoyable.”

Golfers are barely a hole in before Shorty’s delivers its first big thrill.

“The view from the second tee will make your mouth drop,” says Cutten. To the south is the town of Bandon and the Face Rock formation, and to the north is an outlook of the entire course, and long views to the Bandon Preserve, Bandon Dunes and Sheep Ranch layouts beyond. “There is no doubt that a round at somewhere special is underway,” adds Cutten.

“The hole itself features a tabletop green perched on a dune ridge. The green is hidden behind a portion of the dune, which masks its generous size. A contoured putting surface places a premium on accuracy from the tee. However, generous feeding contours from the right will allow for creative shotmaking, even putter strokes, to reach a variety of pin locations.”

Another highlight among the opening holes is the fifth, a change from WAC Golf’s original routing. Local constructor Tony Russell, who has worked on every course at Bandon, cleared some trees to the left of the planned fifth green site. “When we looked at the result, the benefits to golf were great,” says Cutten.

“The new clearing allowed the fifth green to slide left and closer to the property line. This new siting allowed for a green that, instead of sitting into the dune and being pitched from back to front, now sits beside the dune ridge and runs away from play. The result is a unique green unlike anything else on the property. The variety of shots that can be hit to this green are infinite.”

Russell and his crew assisted WAC Golf with the heavy lifting components for the construction of Shorty’s, and the project team also included irrigation designer Greg Baer and Bandon’s head of agronomy Ken Nice and team, who assisted with irrigation and managed grow-in.

“Among the many natural holes at Shorty’s, that nature simply gifted us, the sixteenth was so very obvious; just sitting there waiting to be grassed,” says Cutten. “With a natural blowout front-left, and the largest dune sitting directly behind, the formation of surrounding sand had created a huge natural bowl for the green. We kept the natural movement and simply enhanced the existing contours within the bowl to create a hole with a lot of options. From the elevated tees, the most fun shot here would be to simply send the ball low and allow for it to rollercoaster over the contours onto the putting surface.”

It would be fair to say that Bandon’s new design team has delivered a gift for the resort. And fair too to say vice versa. Either way, golfers will be enjoying the present when Shorty’s opens on 2 May.

This article first appeared in the April 2024 issue of Golf Course ArchitectureFor a printed subscription or free digital edition, please visit our subscriptions page.