Mike Keiser, who took 1,215 acres of remote Oregon coastline and built what turned into the top-rated U.S. golf resort, is thinking outside the teebox again.
His Bandon Dunes, which emulates traditional links-style golf courses in Scotland and Ireland, today opens a par-3 short course with 13 holes, five fewer than the standard layout. It may be the only 13-hole course in the U.S., said Greg Nathan, senior vice president of the National Golf Foundation. The $100 fee to play it is donated to conservation on the south coast of Oregon.
“This is our attempt to elevate everyone’s concept of what a par-3 is,” said Keiser, who is the founder of Chicago-based Recycled Paper Greetings Inc., the third-largest U.S. greeting card company.
Keiser in 1990 paid $2.4 million for his swath of dunes, pine forest and gnarly gorse bushes in Bandon, Oregon, a five-hour car ride from Portland. It’s now a five-course resort that Golf Digest ranks best in North America.
Keiser opened the resort’s first 18-hole layout, called Bandon Dunes, in 1999.
“It was probably sometime in the first year when we realized it wasn’t going to be 8,000 rounds, it was going to be 24,000 rounds,” Keiser said in a telephone interview from the resort. “That’s when I stopped being a moron.”
Pacific Dunes opened in 2001, followed by Bandon Trails in 2005. Old Macdonald, which pays homage to Hall of Fame architect C.B. Macdonald, debuted in 2010. The four courses at Bandon Dunes combined for about 130,000 rounds-played last year.
Keiser hired Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to design Bandon Preserve, a course with 13 ocean-view par-3 holes, none of which plays longer than 185 yards (169 meters). Built on a 20-acre piece of property adjacent to Bandon Trails, it has a routing that tumbles down toward the Pacific Ocean and then back toward the shared clubhouse.
“It’s unique,” Nathan said in a telephone interview. “I don’t know of any others. If there are, it’s very few.”
Keiser said there was discussion about an 18-hole par-3 course that would stretch to the ocean. That plan, however, required crossing preserved wetlands and probably would have taken years to get environmental approval, he said. Building a 12-hole course would be more simple, then Coore discovered a spot for a 13th hole just as construction was set to begin.
The cost of playing 18 holes at Bandon Dunes’ other four courses is $230 from today until the end of October.
“Bandon Dunes is not really a part of the golf economy,” said Casey Alexander, who analyzes the golf industry as a director of equity research at New York-based Gilford Securities Inc. “It’s a special destination resort with an extremely well-heeled clientele that after golf and three beers, if they want to pay $100 to go out and play a par-3 course, that’s what they’re going to do.”