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Sit on Every Bench at Bandon Dunes (Day 1 - The Preserve & Day 2 (part 1) Bandon Dunes)

The next day was going to be our most challenging day with Bandon Dunes in the morning and Bandon Trails in the afternoon. So we planned an easy night that started with a phenomenal shared meal at the lodge and ended with a round at The Preserve for some EOD fun. (Okay okay, so we actually ended at the Bunker Bar, but that’s a different story, and I will be regaling it in another post to come). Cocktails in hand (of course) we made our way to the bench overlooking the first tee box.


We start swinging and I quickly realize I had no idea how tired my body was going to be. After just one morning round? (*tomorrow should be interesting*). Needless to say, I was not hitting the ball, so it was time to crank up the tunes and have another drink. Golf be like that sometimes, and I wasn't about to let a few bad shots on the par 3 course kill my vibe. In my defense, this par 3 course is like mini golf on steroids. Carved into the hillsides, it leans into the elevation changes with highs, lows, bunkers, and no bailouts. It is fun, beautiful, and If nothing else, a fanciful trust exercise with your short irons and chipping. The evening was the perfect time to play this spot; watching the shadows grow long and the colors change along the hillside. Catching glimpses and sounds of the other groups enjoying themselves – it was the perfect golf nightcap.


(fast forward a few hours later)


It's 3am Sunday morning, and I am waking up to searing pain in my left shoulder blade, radiating up through the left side of my neck. (*huh, I must have been sleeping on it funny or something?*) I adjust my pillows and try to stretch my head to the opposite side to gain some relief and try to fall back asleep. It's now 4:30 am and I am awake again. It’s raining, hard, and my body hasn’t moved at all but this time the pain is even more intense. So much so, that I cannot turn my head to the left…at all. Shit. I try to remain calm, but my mind starts kicking into full panic mode: “No. No, no, no! I’ve waited so long for this trip. Come on body – don’t do this to me now!”. I sit up, stretch, and once again try to readjust, hoping to just fall back asleep and pray that this goes away while I sleep. It's 6:30 am, and my eyes crack open. I.can’t.move. I am immediately awake, stretching, laying on whatever I can use for a pressure point (shot glasses included) against the knot in my shoulder blade which is so inflamed that it is numb to the touch.


Chris’s alarm goes off an hour later, he looks at me – I am almost in tears; why THIS, and on THIS day!? (I know exactly what this is - It happened before, about 6 months prior when I went to the driving range, took 2 swings, and subsequently threw my neck out.) I start to go to a dark place. “What if this is it? What if I get one round at Bandon and then I’m held up in bed for the entirety of this trip?”. I look outside at the rain pummeling down – I had prepared for unpredictable weather, but not for an unpredictable body.


I crack my literal and proverbial knuckles: “NOT TODAY SATAN!” Chris is reassuring and gets to work massaging my back and neck. I am popping Aspirin like candy and get into the shower under the highest heat I can stand, stretching and letting the water pound my muscles. I get a little movement back, but I know that with all that heat in my body, and all that doubt in my mind: If I happened to stop moving, or don’t start drinking – this body is going to lock up and my golf dreams are all but lost. I shrug (*wince*), throw on my rain gear and head out the door to the Lodge for breakfast. And liquor. And a healthy dose of prayer that I make it to the first tee. They serve fortitude at the breakfast buffet, right?


I’ve played a lot of sports and taken up many hobbies, and although I’ve participated in many team sports, I have always gravitated towards activities that pit you against yourself and the elements. I'm not unique in this, but my mind has always been a hearty challenge all on its own. It is easily the biggest hurdle in any game, and today I was showing up for a race I felt wildly unprepared for. But above all else (the weather, the blinding pain, and the sea of self-sabotage running amuck on my brain), I wanted to be here, and that willful stubbornness (although I like to think of it as a burning passion for the game) alone got me out the door, and into the bar, and onto that course. After a full breakfast, double greyhound, and some inspiring self-talk, I ordered another cocktail to go and we are off to the first tee box at Bandon Dunes to swing and pray.


Onto the good stuff - Bandon Dunes. The colors here are forest green, navy, and taupe. Pops of yellow gorse make their presence known, but it doesn’t seem to be the major visual element competing for attention in the overall design. Dunes, much like most of the courses here, starts off by piquing your interest with hints of what’s to come. Hole 1 is a Par 4, long dogleg right, and a fairly flat view which can challenge your depth perception if you’re anything like me. No big deal, for a fader like me this should play just fine. (Worry not sweet innocent golf baby – there is plenty of obstacles to overcome). It is green here – very green, and the blind green itself on this hole (if you end up short and on the right as I did), gets you spider senses tingling - I am mindfully aware that I have no idea where this course is leading me, but I am very curious to find out.


Through the first 3 holes I am introduced to the key visual elements of this course, one at a time. The rolling green of the fairways, the fescue, the gorse-lined rocky canyons and hillsides, and of course – the water. The trees here are surreal; even without the wind, they are combatively frozen in motion from years of unyielding sideways wind and rain. They too are a blessed reminder of how subject you are the elements on this course. The well-worn stone walkways and weather worn wooden benches give this place a sense of maturity. As the first course built on this property, it has had time to settle into the environment, adopting much of its finishing textures from the sea. The course and nature have compromised with one another here and created something spectacular. You can see it, and you can feel it. Nothing seems manufactured, everything feels settled. This wasn’t my best round but I was able to surprise myself on a few spectacular holes, notwithstanding the notable par 3rs along the cliffs and water (*muah – chefs kiss*).


Now, I had thoroughly been enjoying my time with my caddie up until this point. Having laughs, sharing drinks, and getting to know one another, but this day (with some obvious physical distractions at play) was when I truly embraced leaning into the caddie/golfer relationship. The course knowledge and social engagement of the caddies here are invaluable; it is so easy to overthink every single shot on this course, by either striving to make every shot a golf shot, or, inversely by just trying to survive getting up and down - but they’re always able to bring your focus back in, and kind of absorb all of your mental distractions. Think of it as clearing mental space so you can have enough room for the confidence you’re going to need to make the next shot. And mine came through with great aplomb, I owe her BIG TIME. Caddie Rae Lynn – You are a master of your craft.


We finished the round cold and a bit tired from fighting the waves of rain and wind that swept through the round, but I broke 100 which (considering how the day began) was way more than I could have hoped for. We grabbed our gear and prepare to head off to Trails. While waiting for the shuttle, I look up and see that fateful bench overlooking the Lodge; I make a mental note. Hungry and tired, we get onto the shuttle and scoot over to Trails End to grab a quick bite before the madness of the day’s second round was to begin at Badon Trails. Little did I know just how valuable that quick bite would be...


Chris "enjoying" just one of the bountiful bunker offerings at Bandon Dunes. Don't worry, he got out just fine

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