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So, if you’re reading this now, you may have read my previous posts regaling my sappy experiences at the church of Golf at Bandon Dunes. What I deliberately left out of my previous posts are some curious moments that (although comical) seemed to deter from the genuine homage I wanted to pay to the courses. But as we all know, golf trips are never just about the golf. It’s the little moments between shots and rounds that bind these experiences together. So without further adieu, let’s get into some other juicy bits from the trip.

Just like any small fish in a large pond, being a woman in a variety of male-dominated fields can offer a unique lens on some time-honored experiences traditionally held by the opposite sex. My experiences in golf are no different, but I will say, that I am grateful that I picked up the game later in life when the archetypal chip on my shoulder had long smoothed over.

Like any person making their way into the world (often professionally speaking), I learned how little one is “offered a seat at the table” and if you want a “seat at the table”, you must simply take it. There are graceful and not so graceful ways to do this of course, and like all useful qualities, there was a steep learning curve for me. It’s a lifelong balancing act of room reading, self-authority, ethics, and personal boundaries. But I can confidently say that with the sage advice in Theodore Roosevelt's Foreign Policy (“speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far”) and years of practice, I have learned how to relish not only taking a seat at any table but doing so with grace and a deeper respect and understanding of the social intricacies that lie therein. Let's just say that a whole new world of doors open when you feel curious, confident, and rightfully included enough to hop on the tee sheet with anyone, regardless of gender or club social standing.

So, what does any of that have to do with golf? In my experience, a lot actually. I don’t consider myself to be overly sensitive, nor inversely calloused and closed off. There is no true living in indifference, so I guess that leaves me somewhere in the middle. Feeling my feelings, but filtering the input/output. I have learned that the healthiest social option for me (at the advice of my husband) is to first seek to understand, rather than seek to be understood. This is much easier said than done, but I will say that it has saved me and others at the proverbial “table” a fair amount of awkward exchanges. My social default in any interaction is to always provide others with the benefit of the doubt, perhaps to a fault at times. With that being said, unless I am otherwise being made to feel unsafe, it has become a favorite pastime to invert the would-be unwanted advances or comments of the opposite sex to my advantage. With lifelong experiences in sports, music, construction, and golf, one can imagine many times I've encountered such situations.

*smiles, sips drink, and scans the room, sets drink down*

Now, it’s no secret that Bandon is a sausage fest. Now, this was made mentioned to me ahead of time, but no joke I think I saw like 3 other golfing females the entire time we were there. Now, in no way does this bother me, and in no way is this story going to make a statement about gender neutrality in golf (we'll save that for another time). In fact on the contrary; if women want to go to Bandon, then they should get their asses to Bandon! It's a ridiculously good time! But back to the sausage fest - as you might have guessed, I am pretty indifferent to this particular dynamic. In my professional and personal experiences, it's pretty par for the course, and I'm merely stating this as a context reminder for the following story.

The first night we went to the bunker bar, I experienced one of the funniest albeit rare moments as a girl golfer. We got there somewhat early, grabbed some drinks and sat at the bar. Played some dice and eventually moved onto the pool table where we parked for a while until traffic in the room picked up. At some point, I went to use the restroom and when I re-entered the room (which at this point happened to be packed) I hear someone yell at the top of their lungs: “GIRL!”. I shit you not, it was like a record-scratch from a movie where the whole room just stops and looks. I scan the room and see 1 other female in a sea of dudes playing dice and she’s pointing right at me smiling. Without skipping a beat I yell: “GIRL!” and we high five, and I swear to God the entire room cheered. In merely 1 exchanged word a piece, my moment with this woman and the rest of the room was one of the best moments of comradery I've ever experienced in golf or otherwise. Talk about calling a spade a spade, this shit was hilarious and heartwarming.

Now onto a different kind of story:

I am never going to speak on anyone else’s behalf, so what I say herein is purely based on my own subjectivism. So based on my own experiences, I have seen a wide variety of social dynamics between men and women in golf, both on and off the course. Anyone could tell you that this sport continues to grow and change with time, and it has been fascinating to see this change happen in real-time. Golf is a culture all its own; riddled with traditions, rules, and decorum. It even has its own language and dress code. Having respect and understanding of this culture can take you far within this society. I feel like I have patiently approached learning these customs with grace and humility; what's more, I feel that I belong, and that's a pretty cool feeling. Even at Bandon (golf mecca), I’ve paid my “golf-society member dues” via my dedication to the game enough to feel like I have a right to be here. Being a woman in golf is not a rare thing, but every once in a while, believe it or not, I encounter someone who just hasn’t quite gotten on board with the idea that belong in the same places that they do. On our second night at Bandon, I encountered such a someone, and this someone missed the mark, big time.

(It’s important to note here, that I was not wearing anything out of the ordinary for Bandon, just normal golf clothes, and nothing that would otherwise imply I am here for no other reason than the other patrons.)

We got done with dinner and decided we were going to go down to the Bunker Bar for some pool and drinks. For those who don’t know, the Bunker Bar is located down a flight of stairs, past the locker rooms, and at the end of the long hallway. It's a cozy, windowless, cigar-smoke-filled fun fest nestled in a dark downstairs corner of the facility. It's just my kind of place. Now, at the top of the flight of stairs that leads down to the Bunker Bar, there is a set of bathrooms. On this night, Chris needed to stop at the bathroom before we went down, so I waited for him outside for him and watched as groups made their way past me, and head downstairs to the bar. As I am waiting, a group of about 5 men enter from an adjacent door leading from the outside and start making their way past me to the stairs. I make it a point to greet people and make eye contact where I can, which would be perfectly normal in this setting. Each nods and says “hello” as they pass me and head down the stairs, I politely return a courteous: “hi there”. The last gentleman makes his way about halfway down the stairs right as Chris is exiting the bathroom, just in time for us both to hear this guy’s voice echoing up the stairwell: “well THAT was subtle! hahahah”. (Yes, they were implying what you are thinking...) I look at Chris with a massive shit-eating grin, spin toward the stairs and start marching down the stairs right past this whole group of rioters and announce:

“Alright, boys it’s time to go get us a BIG glass of subtlety!".

Subtle Guy: "Wait what? What's going on?"

Katie: "Ya didn't you know it's subtlety night and You’re buying!”.

Four of the guys immediately start laughing and giving the one guy a world of shit for what he said while Subtle Guy goes: “Well it is a MENS club!”. (*slow clap*) Well sir, if that's true, then you just put the nail in the coffin by insinuating I was a hooker, so pay up :)

Everyone laughing their asses off, we entered the bar, and within two shakes of a lambs tail, Chris and I each had an apology drink in front of us courtesy of foot-in-mouth Sublety guy.

Now look, I never game him guff, we laughed it off. Watching this dude crumble because I had the fortitude to call it out was *chefs kiss* priceless, and I doubt he’ll make the same mistake again(or who knows, maybe he will).

These were just two of the many other stories I have, but these two were my favorite stand-out moments. Every night we went to the Bunker Bar or any of the fantastic other bars and restaurants, we met incredible people and chatted with the staff. The folks that work here are so much fun and highly dedicated. They learn your drink, they learn your name, and are never short on personability and professionalism. Hats off to them; they are the glue that made our seamlessly enjoyable experience possible. And for any other women that might hesitate to join in on the fun at Bandon, just remember that a world of fascinating experiences just like these await you. Cheers bitches.

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It's been a minute, but I haven’t forgotten about you all!

On our last day at Bandon Dunes, we were rewarded with 60 degrees and clear sunny skies for one of the most beautiful courses I have ever laid eyes on. Pacific Dunes is saturated in true blue, rich teal, and vibrant yellow. The gorse here is… loud. Although we had seen it two days prior fading into the surroundings at Bandon Dunes, here, it unapologetically charged forth into the visual surroundings. It pierces the landscape, framing the fairways and greens, both bright and distinguished against kelly green and primary blue. The course is positioned cliffside against the beach, and there is no better security than the intimidating thorns on this plant, keeping golfers on the path by the awareness of their presence alone.

Speaking of awareness, it was somewhere at the turn of this course when I looked down and realized that the outfit I had picked for this day was deep blue and teal, comically matching my surroundings. (Okay full disclosure, I laughed my ass off with my caddie when I realized I was straight up wearing gorse-yellow underwear to match - I swear to God I did not plan this). The wind howled, the sun shone, and for the first time on our trip, the sky was so clear that the ocean and sky were truly distinguishable. Architecturally it is spellbinding here; this is the church of golf and there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place. We battled the wind with as much club as we could muster, and this may well have been the first and last time I laugh at the perfect tee shot making a full u-turn, and absolutely blasting it all of 50 yards… simply put, it just didn’t matter. We had our drinks, we had our laughs, we had spectacular weather, we had good shots and bad shots, and we soaked it in. 10/10 would play again, and again. And again.

We headed out for dinner on our last night and took the walking path that winds through the property. As we made our way up to the lodge I remembered, we have 1 last bench to visit. We make our way up the trail leading to the top of that hill overlooking the Lodge, and upon reaching the top, we both just stood there. Gobsmacked is a word that comes to mind. I had made it a point to sit on every single bench on every single course we played, and here we were, sitting down on our very last bench. Even now, I am still at a loss for words for how this moment felt, so instead I’ll leave you with one last photo...

Alright, I need a second to go off-course here for a paragraph (PUN INTENDED). I know, I know, I said I was at a LOSS for words, but this is a blog which means we BOTH signed up for words, so here we go)

It is so easy to ramble on and on, gushing about the significance of this place, but since I’m itching to create an adequate analogy – let’s see if I can actually sum it up here: If you were to take the average golfer, and discuss the nature of picking up this masochistic past time and the dollar amount they spend on average to participate, you could write a dissertation on the irony therein. The longer I play this game, the more I feel a shift in the connection between both myself and the game, in tandem with a growing distance between myself and those around me who do not play. There – I said it. In no way is that meant to be a slight to the non-golfer; if anything, it’s a snub to the one spending copious amounts of time, money, energy, and countless brain cells on this capricious past-time. If baseball gets into your blood, then golf gets in your brain. Golf looms in the back corners of your mind whispering words of encouragement like that high school friend that your parents were convinced was a “bad influence” on you. And just like that high school friend – I’ll have to admit, one has to be very mindful of their expectations about how much they get out of what they put into this game, or it can quickly turn into a highly toxic relationship. That being said, as a self-proclaimed emotionally intelligent individual, it is my humble opinion that Bandon Dunes is like the ‘love-bomb’ of golf, lavishing its patrons with an abundance of gifts and leaving them with the: “See! It WAS all worth it!” mentality. I mean just look at that photo, like, what the hell Bandon!? Where even are we right now?! When someone asks why I do it, I think I'll just show them this photo from now on; after all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

(Alright back to the fairway)

I feel like most vacations end with a sigh of relief and longing for my own bed and the comfort of my daily routines, but this one hit differently. Simply put, I was not ready to leave, I couldn’t believe the trip was ending. Chris and I had a lot of time to talk about this trip before we finally arrived, a year in fact. And in that time, it was gently ingrained in me that this trip was going to be highly influential in my deciding just how much I loved the game of golf. At dinner that night he asked me: “So, what do you think?” I told him: “I don’t really think like golf, I think I’m in love with golf” (*love bomb dropped*). From the moment you arrive on campus, Bandon holds your senses hostage. It commands your attention at every turn, but what you receive in return is personalized symphony sights, sounds, and feelings, all curated to your own specific rhythm. All you have to do is give yourself over to 'the walk'. There truly is no detail left unturned here, and the designers have exercised every opportunity to invite you into their immersive experience. There are little moments everywhere, from the plaques on benches, to the labyrinth walking paths, and even the bunker bar. It is impossible not to feel like you are the guest of honor at this special club and they have just let you in on all of its best-kept secrets. This is where golf addicts are born, and veterans come to feed their habits. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be able to stay away for long, my new goal is to make as much money as possible so I can get back here as soon as humanly possible.

It has been a pleasure writing about this place, to say the least. I am currently writing my "off-course" post with tales from the Bunker Bar so stay tuned...

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The following morning we arrived at Old Mac, and so did the wind. It was colder today and the wind only made it colder. The first 3 holes at Old Mac are a stark contrast to the other courses I had seen thus far. You start out moving north along the back side of a single massive dune to the west, and for the first 3 holes you are pinned between this dune and a vast clearing of trees to the east. I say pinned because this area of the course has what I can only assume to be deliberately induced liminal vibes, and the feeling of an impending “something” is palpable. My senses start vying for definition and control here; the course to this point looks open, but it doesn’t feel open. In fact, the landscape here seems deafeningly quiet. Too quiet. The pressure in the air and in my awareness builds, whipping over the hill into my body. I find myself leaning into it to stay upright, a would-be theme for this entire experience. Eyes watering, ears burning, and anxieties intensifying, I step on the to 3rd tee box that faces me directly into the impending fray; a massive “extra-club” incline to reach the fairway, and atop sits the omnipresent (or rather omniscient) Ghost Tree: Gatekeeper to the West. It’s hard not to feel like I’m being watched while I stew in the anticipation of what lies just beyond that hill. I think of the stories that tree could tell, hit my shot, climb the hill, and in reaching the top I take my first full breath of the day.

The build-up does not disappoint, and my fight or flight is instantly gratified with one glorious view. Amber, gold, green, and gray roll out like one giant comforter draping over the land in almost every direction as far as the eye can see, which happens to be nearly the entirety of the property. Old Mac is carved into a giant bowl between the forest and the ocean and offers the feeling of playing in a variety of settings from meadows and canyons to deserts and oceanside. I’ll leave the mixed reviews I have received about this course aside, and simply state that at face value - as far as golf courses go, it’s a lot of bang for your buck. The dynamic style of this course is born out of necessity where form meets function in its conceptualization, and although it flows nicely, true to Bandon form it did catch me off guard on holes 6-10 when the wind and rain made their appearance in a big way.

We went from cool breezes with sun breaks to full rain gear and “I can’t feel my hands” in 5 minutes flat at the turn. I was told that the elements can pass as quickly as they arrive, so I battled my blow-up holes with great gusto (all puns intended), and it paid off. The clouds broke, and we cranked up the tunes and carried on.

Sometimes the wide-open forgiveness of a space can make me feel like an unruly toddler, and after a while, I feel myself starting to crave the safety of boundaries on the course. This happened at just the right moment on the back 9 of Old Mac when you start nestling back into the hillside your sense of security kicks back in. The landscape gives your eyes a natural backstop and something to hold onto; it naturally relieves you from the at-times overwhelming sense of shot options and just picks out an easy one for you. I loved the back 9 on Old Mac, it was where I felt the most connection to this course, just in time to turn the proverbial corner and dogleg left to the green on 16. Ringing the bell and coming full circle back to the east side of the dune for the last two holes, is a well-timed point of reflection. Between the architecture, and the weather, there is a lot to take in on this course and if you’re not paying attention, attention pays you.

Even with a core-rattling 5 blow-up hole streak (I would say this was the ONE TIME I was adequately whiny, I just couldn't feel my hands in the freezing rain), I still managed to break 100 at Old Mac. This course seems to get a lot of guff, or, inversely minimal praise from the folks I talk to that have played it. But honestly, I think it's a great knock-around course because you get a little bit of everything here! It's like food at the fair. You want corn dogs? We got corn dogs. You like crazy big railroad tie-laden bunkers? We got those too. And knowing this, it makes for the perfect even playing field to take on a match, or just as easily party it up with no agenda. In my experience, it was the palette cleanser of the trip, and every trip needs that! Embrace the Mac, I say.

Old Mac, Bandon Dunes

Chris and I on the 3rd tee box waiting to tee off with the signature Ghost Tree looming in the background

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Well hey there friendship

It's me Katie, I'm so glad you're here. I'm going to take a wild guess that you clicked "blog" on my website menu in an effort to get to know me a little better, I love that for us. So without further adieu, welcome to my blog! Have fun, be safe, and don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss out on any fun. Cheers, Katie

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