Any trip to Bandon Dunes is a memorable one. We upped the ante this time though.
What would it take to get you to walk 72 holes in one day?
Yeah, that’s a loaded question. For most people, the idea of walking 72 holes in one day takes a backseat to the bar after a cart friendly course. But, for the few demented golfers out there, there is an annual event that takes place on the Bandon Dunes property. It’s known as the Solstice Event and for those ill golfers, the idea of spending 14 hours out on the course is a dream.
I have to admit my desire to play 72 holes, in one day, at Bandon was at an all-time high when we signed up. As the days approached the nervousness set in, and as we walked to the first tee at 5:30 am, I started thinking to myself, “What the hell is wrong with you.”
Those diabolical emotions quickly faded away though as I stripped my first drive of the day down the middle of the first fairway on Bandon Trails.
So what is the Bandon Solstice Event?
The summer solstice is pretty much a golfers holiday. It’s the longest day of the year, meaning the daylight is available for golf longer than any other day in the year. Unless you travel to Norway for some 2 am daylight golf.
For us in the continental United States, Bandon, Oregon is the place to be for a day of golf that can go from 5:15 am until 9 pm. That’s a lot of daylight, and nine years ago Bandon decided it was time to take full advantage of the allotted sunlight and created the Bandon Solstice.
I’m not sure how the event took place that day nine years ago. However, I do know precisely how this years Solstice Event happened, and I’m glad to share with everyone.
For those of you unsure what the Bandon Solstice is, here’s a quick breakdown.
This year 136 players ranging from weekend scrubs, club pro’s, legendary MLB pitchers, Phenomenal Headcover craftsman, NBA stars and golf bloggers, like me, took place in a full day of golf. The idea behind the Solstice is to play all of the 18 hole courses on the property in one day. It doesn’t seem too crazy, but when you realize Bandon is a WALKING ONLY resort, then the drama becomes a little bit more intense.
You start early in the am and then rotate to the next course once you’ve completed your round. The Bandon vans, shuttle you to and from the courses and in a few 14-15 hours you’ve played all of them. And, you’ll probably log close to 60K steps along the way. It’s an adventure.
What possessed me to think this was a good idea?
For those of you who didn’t know what the Bandon Solstice event was, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Why would you do that?” and I can’t blame you for thinking so.
The idea of participating has been more of a pipe dream than a reality. My partner in this event, Andrew, has been trying to get us into the Solstice event for several years now. Oh yeah, you need to know that there is a growing “waiting” list to get into the event. As the years have gone by the lore around the event has become practically legendary. The Solstice isn’t something you think about attending in May and then sign up. If that’s the case, please explain how for those looking to play in 2020.
Earlier this year we, um Andrew, received notice that we had been granted a spot if we wanted it and the pipe dream quickly turned into THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN!
The crappy part was a few weeks after I told Andrew I was in, my MRI came back with the news I had a ruptured tendon in my ankle. Before surgery, I said to my doctor “OK, the deal is this, I HAVE to be ready to walk 72 holes in June.” he was up to the challenge, and I’m here to tell you, Doc knows his shit! My ankle was the least of my worries as we came down the final fairway on the 72nd hole. More on that later.
Bandon, this place is special.
A trip to Bandon Dunes is something everyone needs to partake in, and it’s life-changing. I was lucky enough to play 18 holes at Pacific Dunes back in 2015. It was something I’ll never forget. My only gripe was I didn’t get to see or play, the other courses on the property.
Bandon Dunes as a resort, houses four 18 hole courses. Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, and Old MacDonald. There is also a short course, The Preserve, it is comprised of 13 Par 3 holes that are incredible. Pacific Dunes is known as one of the top courses you can play in the country. PAC, as it’s called on site, battles back in fourth with Pebble Beach as the best public course in America. Every time the rankings come out, they flip-flop. Having never played Pebble Beach, it’s hard for me to judge if that’s true, but I will tell you PAC is as good as it gets in my opinion. It’s Tom Doak magic.
Andrew made a damn good executive decision and chose to arrive a few days early so we could enjoy some golf in Eugene (we were driving down from Portland) before heading into Bandon. That was such a fantastic decision. We played Eugene Country Club and then had a relaxed day as we drove from Eugene to Bandon. And yes, Voodoo Doughnut was apart of the drive. I mean when in Oregon, you have to get some Voodoo!
After our drive, we checked in then headed over to The Preserve. After 13 glorious holes, we headed over to the Gazeebo adjacent to the Bandon Trails Bar and Pro Shop. There we watched as Gary Woodland wrap up the US Open Championship. It was a fantastic start to an outstanding trip.
One more round to play before the Solstice.
With one more day to kill, we got up and took the short walk to the main lodge. We were staying at the Lily Pond Cottages, which I highly recommend.
We arrived at the main lodge, grabbed out clubs, and we were shuttled off to the practice area. A quick warm-up and then we were off to our tee time at Pacific Dunes. Had I known what was coming the following day, this round would have taken place at Bandon Trails. I do love PAC, but after playing Trails during the Solstice, I found a new love at Bandon. The Trails course is a 12/10.
PAC was outstanding. The wind was brutal, but it was going to be there. Afterward, we hung out on the PAC patio and had some lunch and chilled before The Punchbowl meet and greet.
The Punchbowl, by the way, is as much fun as you can have while wielding a putter. They set up two 18 holes layouts, and it was harder to walk away from the green than to put down some beers. It’s so much fun, and an absolute MUST DO when at Bandon Dunes.
Some more drinks, a cigar, and some wonderful conversations, and we were ready to call it a night, which is hard to do when the sun is still up, and it’s light out! But, much rest was needed. Tomorrow was only a few hours away, and the golfer’s marathon was vastly approaching.
It was here; The Bandon Solstice was happening.
The 3:30 a.m. alarm on my phone was a mild distraction. I was so eager to get after it. I didn’t sleep much. We prepped for the long day ahead then ventured over to the main lodge for a little breakfast. I wasn’t looking to carbo-load or anything like that; I just wanted some toast, some eggs, a banana or two and some juice to kickstart this old engine. We hit up the bag storage area first and found our clubs. Andrew decided to skip out on breakfast and chose to use the downtime between now and the tee time to stretch. He is wise in his young age.
We did happen to see a few “celebrities” in the mix as the morning chaos was unfolding. NBA Stars JR Smith and Deron Williams were on site and while I was eating some big Texan that looked a lot like Roger Clemens was making his way through the dining room. I’m sure there were more, but those were the ones I spotted.
After tossing down some food, I met up with Andrew by our shuttle and headed over to our first course of the day; Bandon Trails.
The Bandon Solstice in a nutshell. It’s a big NUTSHELL
I’ll start by saying this. The Bandon Resort is as good as it gets as far as customer service and accommodations. You feel like royalty every minute you are on site, and that’s a feat to pull off. The staff goes out of their way to help you. Like when it’s 10 p.m. and the front desk tracks down a bushel of bananas for you, Or is quick to send some Ibuprophen your way. When you are a guest at the resort, it’s easy to feel like you own the place. They make you feel that well at home.
I could also go on for hours about the food served. Oh man, it is so good. The Sliders at the Gazebo are to die for!
In all seriousness, Bandon could never pull off this type of an event without their staff and the caddies. Everyone is ready and willing to serve you as needed, and they are happy to do so. Here’s a less detailed, quick wrap up of what took place on the course.
OK, on to the golf. First Up Bandon Trails
Andrew told me when we got our draw, we were lucky. We drew Trails, Mac, Bandon, and Pac. Bandon Trails has some dramatic elevation changes, and you feel it in your legs after the first half of the course. At times I was wondering are we ever going to go back down? This course blew me away. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve loved PAC since the first time I played it, but Bandon Trails changed me. It is that good of a course.
When we tee’d off, it was overcast and still a little dark. I saw my ball leave the tee (I stripped it by the way) but never saw it land. The temperature was around 50°, and there was a slight breeze in the air. I chose to wear shorts, mainly because of how comfortable I was at PAC the day before. It’s cold, but it’s a warm cold if that makes sense.
The trees on Trails protects you from the wind you feel on every other course. Having the early tee time on Trails was ideal. Had we ended on the Trails course I may not have made it back to the lodge.
We finish the first round in just over 3hrs. I think it was 3:12 or something like that. As we walked off the 18th green, the starter met us and hustled us aboard the shuttle on to our next destination; Old Mac.
I’ve never hated a course from the start like I did Old MacDonald
Old Mac was another new course for me, and it kicked me dead square in the nuts. We got our first real feel for the wind on the first tee and let me tell you; it was BLOWING! The first tee shot played dead into the wind. If I had to guess it was a steady 25-30mph bastard. I again stripped my drive a whopping 200 yards down the fairway. I had no idea that was as good as it was going to get for me. Lol
There is zero protection from the wind on Old Mac, and it kicks your ass every second. Even the breaks I got didn’t help. The layout is a lot of fun, though, and I did have a good time playing there, I’m just bitter.
We wrapped up round two in the same amount of time as the first round — a little over 3 hours. I was starting to feel it by this point. The adrenaline and excitement got me through the Trails round. The wind annihilated any ambitious thoughts I had after Old Mac.
Thankfully, the Bandon team put together some sack lunches for us, and we had a short rest before we headed off to Bandon Dunes. That lunch relit a spark in my ass, and I was ready to go after a quick wardrobe change.
Bandon Dunes woke me up, and I was ready to conquer the world again!
After arriving at the main lodge where Bandon Dunes starts, I quickly ran inside and used the bathroom. I decided it was time to take the jacket off and I headed over to the first tee in a new polo and was ready to go. The looks I got from my playing partners was priceless. Like I had just robbed the pro shop! They were shocked. I was out there in shorts and a polo. Most of the guys were still in layers and had yet to warm up to the outside temps. I was ready, though, and I yet again stripped my first tee shot on the first hole.
My highlight of this round came on the 9th hole. It is a 520 yard Par 5 that was playing downwind. My ball came to rest on the edge of a fairway bunker but was sitting up nice enough to get my 7 wood on it. It was the shot of the day for me. The ball came to rest about 4 feet from the hole, and I had my second eagle attempt of the trip. Sadly my putting wasn’t up for the challenge, and I let the best chance I’ve ever had for an eagle slide right by the left edge of the cup. It was still a hell of an approach shot, though!
We kept up with the pace we had set throughout the day: another 3hr and some change round. Another quick shuttle ride, this time over to PAC, and we were ready to start the last round.
The final act was before us, one last loop around Pacific Dunes
When we hopped off the shuttle, we were greeted by some very enthusiastic Bandon employees. I wish I could remember their names and what they did. Most of the closing rounds are a blur. They were so happy to see we were on the last leg and probably delighted their day was nearly over. Those words of encouragement and the sendoff to the 1st tee was such a lift to push through. The late prevailing winds had picked up even more, and we were now dealing with a robust 35mph force that was doing what it could to take me down.
It almost succeeded.
After doing my best to get the ball down the 1st fairway in the violent winds, I had a decent line at the green. The first at PAC is a short hole, so a big drive is not needed. My approach made the green, but it was short of it’s intended position, and I had a long uphill right to left putt. For one shining moment, I felt like I knew what to do on the greens and I dropped that 35′ putt like a bad habit. Starting off the last round with a birdie had me telling the wind “This is my house!” Oh my goodness I was so wrong.
There was a couple of times after that I was ready to sit my ass down and see if Uber Eats was available to deliver to the roadhouse between number 4 and 13. But I knew I just had to get through 13, get the wind at my back and all would be better.
It was brutal, and I was gassed, but I made it to the last tee box. I finished off my final tee shot of the day just like I started. Stripped it dead center and enjoyed the walk to the fairway.
The end was even better than the beginning.
You’re greeted as you walk off the 18th green of the 72nd hole and are handed a crisp $100 bill. Why? I have no idea, but I wasn’t about to analyze it more than WOO HOO, BEER MONEY!
We gathered up or things and headed over to the shuttle area. I said thanks to my caddie, Eddy was his name, and shook hands with the other two gentlemen we had played with. Not having a group of four had us paired up with a few other guys. That made for some interesting conversations. Things like, what they do, where they are from, how’d they hear about the solstice, etc. The fun part is everyone is a golfer. You’re not going to get paired with someone who doesn’t understand the game and isn’t willing to punish their bodies for it.
After we said our goodbyes we shuttled back to the Lily Pond, showered and headed back to the main lodge for a celebratory dinner.
Many kudos to Bandon for having the breakfasts and dinners. It was a great way to converse with the other players and see how everyone did. The breakfast the following day was even better. The moans and aches were louder than the winds and wild animals on the property.
Was putting my body through literal hell worth it?
Yes, it absolutely was. And I’ll do it again. The adventure was the real story and the memories and friends I made along the way I’ll cherish forever. Walking 72 holes maybe insane, but if you’re going to do something crazy it might as well be at Bandon Dunes! Am I right?
Next year is already in the works. The good thing about the solstice is once you’re in, you’re in. So we have a spot next year, and I’m already geeked out about it and its 358 days away! What makes next year even more special is it’s the 10th anniversary of the Solstice, and Sheep Ranch is on schedule to be open by then! Holy Crap 90 in one day? Is that even thinkable?
Think you’re up for the Solstice?
After the gallery below is the comment box. Let us know what you think about the event, this article and if you’re going to consider signing up. Your body may hate you the few days after, but it’s an experience you’ll never forget!