The Takeaway: Perhaps the most unique of the courses at Bandon Dunes Resort, Sheep Ranch boasts the most oceanside holes, the fewest sand bunkers (zero), and the windiest location at the resort. While Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes reign supreme as the king and queen of Oregon’s coast, Sheep Ranch is the sexiest course of them all. Grade A+
Designer: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw in 2020
Cost: $110 - $400 ($100/bag plus gratuity for a caddie - Walking Only facility) Click for current rates
Phone Number: (855) 220-6710
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Sheep Ranch's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 57744 Round Lake Road, Bandon, Oregon 97411 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: The sixth course (fifth 18 hole course) to open at Bandon Dunes features more holes on the ocean than any other at the resort which is the opposite experience Coore & Crenshaw were given when afforded the opportunity to design Bandon Trails 15 years earlier. The 140 acre property originally had 13 greens designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbana about three years after Pacific Dunes opened. The initial intent of the property purchased by Mike Keiser in 2000 for $4 million was to build a private club. But after locals began mumbling about a secret project that Keiser feared would sabotage the success of Bandon Dunes Resort, the property sat as an unirrigated playground with crisscrossing fairways and a routing that allowed players to attack greens from various tee boxes; the golfer with the honors dictating what green to go to next. Getting on the original Sheep Ranch required getting in touch with the right guy, meeting said guy in a truck at the gate, and being ready to present $100 each. But now it was time to bring this spectacular property to the people. Reflecting on the legacy they would eventually pass on, Keiser and partner Phil Friedmann elected to hire Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to create a routing that would fit on the relatively small parcel that would work for walkers while taking advantage of the most varied shoreline available at the resort. The result is a stunning track on rippled terrain with nine coastal holes and more eye candy than any Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue ever thought of publishing. Without question the easiest of the resort’s courses on a calm day, Sheep Ranch counts on Mother Nature to deliver teeth to the design. The notoriously windy location chased off a wind farm in the 1970s when the windmills couldn’t withstand the powerful gusts. It is these winds that convinced Coore & Crenshaw to design grass bunkers rather than sand ones where the tiny particles would constantly be billowed out of their cavities. Not only is the setting unique to Sheep Ranch, the routing is as well with tees and greens clustered in spots while playing in and away from different angles; a reason a caddie is a great idea on your first loop around. This routing allowed C&C to maximize the number of holes on the ocean. At one point the spectacular par five 11th volcano hole was slated to be the finisher, but holes 15-17 along the ocean were simply too good in the routing to pass up as creating the climatic finish and are located well away from the 11th. All in all, Sheep Ranch fits in perfectly at Bandon Dunes Resort and will certainly be a favorite among patrons. While Pebble Beach is vastly accepted as the best course among the resort courses on the Monterey Peninsula and course No. 2 at Pinehurst’s famed North Carolina resort, at Bandon Dunes it isn’t that cut and dry which course is best and Sheep Ranch only muddies the waters more in that debate; the best problem it could possibly create.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 1st Hole – 549 Yard Par 5 – Without question, the best opening hole at the Bandon Dunes Resort belongs to its youngest member. Fairly unassuming from the tee, a ball that splits the trees while favoring the left side will maximize its capable distance and tumble down the fairway and out of sight. Much like the 5th hole at New South Wales, the moment you crest the high point in the fairway you are blown away by the visual in front of you and inspired by its grandeur. The crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean create the background while a downhill sloping fairway feeding into a green forms the foreground with a ghost tree framing the right side of the putting surface. The right to left slope in the fairway can help players work the ball in a draw shape that is ideal for attacking the opening in the front right portion of the green. Not only is it an inspiring way to start the round, it is also a great chance to card a birdie and get under par early.
Best Par 3: 16th Hole – 151 Yards – Many visitors to Sheep Ranch will identify the 16th as the signature offering with its gorgeous setting, shared green, and undulated putting surface. Perched on a cliff edge overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the left, the 16th falls in line with Coore and Crenshaw's pattern of saving a compelling par three late in the routing with a short length whereas most architects fall back on a 200+ yard test. The modest length 3rd hole shares this green and can be seen cascading in from the right side of the putting surface with a series of undulations that mimic the rolling waves of the Pacific. Hitting the green here isn't the challenge, it is how well you can roll the rock. With a large putting surface that features multiple breaks, it is all about snaking something close. Ultimately this is just a beautiful hole and a Kodak moment your foursome should take advantage of.
Best Par 4: 17th Hole – 326 Yards – No hole at Sheep Ranch delivers a more different experience from the back tee than the 17th. While you generally won't find the alternate tournament tee set up, hitting your driver from this location next to the 16th green is as invigorating as it is nerve wracking. Perched on a cliff edge nearly 100 yards further back than the next closest tee, this hole goes from a driveable par four to a solid test where anything missing left will tumble 100 feet down the beach. The "Gallow" tree on the left side of the green rivals the "Ghost" tree on Old Mac's 3rd hole as the most famous hardwood at Bandon Dunes. From the non-tournament tee, this hole becomes a scoring opportunity where chasing a tee shot up on the putting surface becomes a very real possibility. In fact, in my first loop around Sheep I knocked my tee ball onto the front edge of the green and managed to snake in a lengthy double breaker to card a tighty deuce; fun indeed.
Best Par 5: 11th Hole – 529 Yards – This hole is so good that at one point in the design process it was a strong contender to be the finishing hole at Sheep Ranch. Ultimately it was determined that the ocean side stretch of 15-17 was too good to have anywhere other than at the end and so players get to enjoy Sheep's "Volcano" hole as the 11th offering with the ability to grab a quick snack at the clubhouse next to the green. Reachable in two, the key to creating an eagle opportunity is to first get yourself in the correct position off the tee. Center is always safe and provides the best angle to approach the green through the bottleneck fronting it, but a tee shot that hugs the left side can find a speed slot that has the ability to leave players with an iron into the green. The risk of the left side is that the speed slot also feeds left which can bring the trees into play that frame that side of the fairway. Known as the "Volcano" hole due to the raised crater greensite that mimics a volcano top, players need to decide whether to attack the flag in two or if they are going to back off and play the hole as a three-shotter. Those laying up would be wise to not get closer than about 100 yards from the green as that would keep balls short of the bottleneck that ascends to the crater top and features cabbage-like lies on either side of it. Sheep Ranch has so many fun and memorable holes, which you can also score well on, and this is certainly one of them.
Birdie Time: 18th Hole – 464 Yard Par 5 – This hole feels like the biggest gift on an 18th hole since Jean van de Velde gave the British Open away to Paul Lawrie. Tipping out at a mere 464 yards with the wind often coming off the ocean to your back, this is one of the easiest par fives I've ever teed it up on. A bomb up the left side of the fairway can leave a short iron in while the conservative play to the right side of the fairway can still leave an iron into the green that is fronted by a pair of bunkers. From the left side you can take dead aim at the flag, from the right side you can utilize the large backstop long and left of the green to work the ball back onto the putting surface. Even if you don't manage to reach the green in two, there are plenty of up-and-down birdies yielded here. If Coore and Crenshaw's goal was to have golfers leave Sheep Ranch with a smile on their face, their mission was accomplished.
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 460 Yard Par 4 – There are plenty of gettable holes at Sheep Ranch . . . this isn't one of them. With a limited view of the fairway, it is natural for one's eye to be drawn right and be consumed by the gorse covered cliffside and ocean below. While that is a nice visual, it is the last place you want your ball to end up. The two gorse mounds at the beginning of the fairway mark a good set of uprights to utilize for a safe shot while those challenging the mound on the right can be rewarded with a shorter approach into the green. With the coastline hugging the hole the entire way, there is no escaping that it will come to play at some point; even if you play extremely safe off the tee. In fact, the safer you play off the tee, the more the coastline is an issue on the approach. Not only is 460 yards a long distance to cover at sea level where winds are notoriously peppy, this hole plays slightly uphill to deliver a little extra test to you. Par here is an extremely good score as this beast will likely take you more strokes than the par five finisher.