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Follow the Sheep |  SHEEP RANCH

Follow the Sheep | SHEEP RANCH

Starting today, June 1st 2020, a new top-notch course where these shaggy creatures once grazed is now open.

    One of the many pleasures of a trip to Bandon Dunes, the wildly popular golf resort in southern Oregon, is to gather with your partners in the pub after your rounds and argue over which course is the best. The resort is home to four 18-hole layouts—Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald—all of which are among Golf magazine’s “Top 100 Courses in the United
States.”

     Ask a dozen golfers to rate the quartet, and they’re apt to give you a dozen different rankings. Everyone has an opinion, and no one is wrong. Friendly debates are just part of the fun. And they’re about to get even more entertaining, because a fifth course at Bandon is in the works. It’s called the Sheep Ranch, and according to Golf, it might just be the finest of them all. 

     Never mind the name; the Sheep Ranch, which will start welcoming guests on June 1, is not a ranch. Never has been. At one point, though, it was grazing ground for sheep.

     That was in the early aughts, when a rough-and-tumble layout was created on the site. To say the place was bare-bones is an understatement. It had just 13 holes, with no set routing; you could play the holes in any order that you liked. There was no irrigation system, only a fire truck for watering greens. A small flock of sheep served on the maintenance staff, chomping on the layout’s unkempt fairways.

     It was, in short, a quirky course, with an air of mystery around it. To arrange a tee time, you called the property’s caretaker and set up a rendezvous at a dirt road, where, for a greens fee of $100, he’d unlock a gate and let you in.

     But that was then. And it’s not how things will work at the Sheep Ranch anymore. Two years ago, the property’s longtime owners—Bandon Dunes developer Mike Keiser and business partner Phil Friedmann—decided it was time to elevate the Sheep Ranch into a full-blown, world-class course. To orchestrate the project, they hired the celebrated design team of Coore & Crenshaw.

     Scrapping the original makeshift layout, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw  dreamed up a stunner in its place. Among the striking features of the Sheep Ranch is the way it seizes on the drama of its setting. The property includes roughly a mile of coastline, more than any of Bandon’s other courses, with nine greens located along the bluffs. Everywhere you look are ocean views, except when you turn inland. At that point, what you see are artfully shaped fairways, threading their green fingers through gorse and ghostly pines.

     Because the Sheep Ranch occupies a windy site, its design is willfully player friendly. There are no sand bunkers—only grass bunkers—and the greens are open in front, so you can bound your approach shots low, under the breezes. The routing is intimate, with holes radiating out from clustered tee boxes and a shared green for the third and 16th holes. But the grandeur of the coastline also lends the course an impressive sense of scale.

     Like most anyone who visits Bandon Dunes, Keiser is often asked to name his favorite course. His answer never varies: He’s equally in love with all of them. Now, he’ll have one more to love.

By: Josh Sens