Inside Comments: Steve Turcotte

Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes’ Sheep Ranch: Another magical golf course

Sheep Ranch. A pair of words that might not mean much to anyone, except for sheep. Maybe a place where a herd of sheep are hanging out and feasting on food morning, noon and night.

But to golfers, Sheep Ranch are two words that conjure up magical golf at Bandon Dunes Resort along the southern Oregon Coast. Sheep Ranch is one of five 18-hole championship courses that make up one of the world’s best golf resorts – and the newest member to join the Bandon Dunes family. What began with Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser buying 400 acres north of the original resort course, has turned into one of the most featured golf properties around.

When golf architect Tom Doak was designing Pacific Dunes, he spent some time doing a little work on the property north that Keiser bought creating 13 greens and turning the property into a rough golf course. Fire trucks were brought in to water the greens and sheep roamed the property to keep the grass down. Golfers needed a special invitation to get past the locked gate on the road leading into what they called the Sheep Ranch.

But the resort had greater visions for that piece of property that ran high along the Pacific Ocean. A new championship golf course was the plan. And the design team Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were brought in to work their magic on another Bandon Dunes course. When their version of the Sheep Ranch opened in June of 2020, the reviews were coming quick and fast. Golfers from around the world liked what they saw.

And what they saw was golf magic. Sheep Ranch was a course that featured 18 holes with views of the Pacific Ocean. A golf course which has nine greens sitting on the edge of a bluff overlooking the ocean. A mile-long stretch of golf course running parallel to the Pacific Ocean and a golf course with no sand bunkers but enough trouble and wind to keep your attention throughout the 18 holes.

Sheep Ranch might play to only 6,636 yards but when you throw in variables like the wind, the gorse, the huge undulating greens and the wind (whoops we mentioned that already), the Sheep Ranch is just everything you need or want in a golf course.

It all starts on the opening tee box. It’s a blind tee shot on a par-5 hole and when the starter says “just hit the ball into the ocean,” you know you are in for a treat. The first couple of shots seemingly go straight into the ocean.

And it just gets better after that. There are short what seem to be drivable par-4 holes for the longer hitters. There are par-3 holes which seem manageable until you get to the greens and see what you have to negotiate. And there are views from every vantage point on the golf course.

Don’t forget about the par-3 16th hole, it’s from 90 to 151 yards and has a green that seems to extend over the bluff and overlooking the ocean. It is also a hole where a woman once pulled out a putter, used it as her tee shot and rolled the ball over 100 yards, onto the green, and into the hole for a hole-in-one. Don’t believe it? Google it. You will see the reaction from her playing partners and caddies.

The Sheep Ranch was the only course at Bandon Dunes I had not played until recently. I had seen the property and walked a couple of the holes. But until you tee it up and see it for yourself, this is truly one of the most fun and challenging courses you will see or play.

Steve Turcotte can be reached at sdturcotte@comcast.net.