An Exclusive Interview with Bandon Resort Owner Mike Keiser
Old Macdonald, the most highly anticipated golf course in America, is scheduled to open on June 1 at southern Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
Based upon how much as been written about Old Macdonald, you probably already knew this, and the concept behind the course, i.e., that it’s an homage to “Golden Age” architect C.B. Macdonald.
But I recently read an exclusive interview that the editors of Golf Odyssey conducted with Bandon Dunes Golf Resort owner Mike Keiser, and he revealed a few things about the course (and the new course he’s planning) I haven’t seen published anywhere else.
By the way, Golf Odyssey helped facilitate a special trip for its subscribers to play all 18 holes of Old Macdonald before it opens to the public (and to meet Bandon owner Mike Keiser and one of the course architects, Jim Urbina, at a private cocktail party).
I believe the trip is filled to capacity, but there may be another one coming up. Just one more example of why it pays to be a Golf Odyssey subscriber.
Ok, back to the interview with Mike Keiser, the full version of which appears in the January 2010 issue of Golf Odyssey:
Golf Odyssey: How did Old Macdonald turn into an homage to C.B. Macdonald?
Mike Keiser: The original Lido Course in Long Island was once considered the best course in America…and then it disappeared. [Editor’s note: It was taken over by the military in 1942.] So, a number of us thought that one day we could recreate the Lido and have back a fabulous golf course.
The problem was, even though Lido was totally manufactured by C.B. Macdonald, the concept didn’t quite fit our site. [Architect] Tom [Doak] and I talked several times about what to do with the site, and out of that evolved the idea of doing a course in the style of C.B. Macdonald.
I saw it as an homage to Macdonald, the father of American golf and American golf architecture. It was grounded in significant part on my feeling that Macdonald’s National Golf Links is my favorite golf course in America.
Golf Odyssey: Tom Doak told us you had some unique instructions for him.
Mike Keiser: In retaining Tom, I told him that I didn’t want Tom Doak. I wanted C.B. Macdonald. Tom just had to act as his interpreter, or his heir. That was three years ago, and now it opens June 1st on the 100th anniversary of the opening of National Golf Links.
Golf Odyssey: We understand the site is really better than you gave it credit for.
Mike Keiser: This is one of the few courses that I’ve seen where from many vantage points you see 14 holes laid out below you. There are no trees and there’s nothing blocking your view. You see the ocean, you see Pacific Dunes. Once you come up and over the tall blocking dune on No. 3, you’re in this big golf playing field until you reach the 17th tee. I’ve heard many people say, “Wow, this is neat,” because it is so unique. Until you see it, you will have to take my word for it.
Golf Odyssey: You also made some key adaptations to the routing as you went along to better incorporate the dunes. The finished product turned out more dramatic than the original design.
Mike Keiser: That’s understating it a bit. As we were going over the routing and got to the 7th, I asked Tom, “If a Golf Odyssey reader is down here playing the 7th and he hears the ocean up there, he’s going to ask, why can’t he go up to the top of the dunes and overlook the sea.” Tom then asked, “Can we go up there?” I said “The sooner the better!” So the 7th and 15th greens are the two especially “wow” moments, and they work very well up there.
Golf Odyssey: Do you have a favorite among your courses at Bandon Dunes?
Mike Keiser: I try very hard not to. I love all four children equally and for somewhat different reasons. I do have to admit that Old Macdonald is the most fun. That’s how I find it, and when I play with people I see they use that word very often. I hear that word a lot more with Old Macdonald.
Golf Odyssey: It’s interesting to hear you use the word “fun,” because that’s what we look for when we do our reviews. What makes Old Macdonald so much fun for you?
Mike Keiser: It’s big and bold, and the bigness makes it forgiving. The fairways are enormous-it plays like St. Andrews, and St. Andrews is nothing but fun. [Players can hit] drives virtually anywhere and not only have a play, but still make birdie. It’s not that wildness is rewarded-it’s just that there are many ways to the green. Big forgiving landing areas, i.e. fairways, and even more so, the biggest greens, we think, in the world. St. Andrews has 244,000 square feet of greens. We have 261,000 square feet.
These are just a few of the interesting points that I haven’t seen mentioned much (or at all) in other publications.
As for the fifth course planned for Bandon Dunes, Golf Digest’s Matt Ginella wrote about it back in September, and Keiser covers it in the full Golf Odyssey interview, too. If you’re not already a Golf Odyssey subscriber, you can still read it by taking a limited time, free trial here.
Did you know? Golf Vacation Insider and Golf Odyssey are the world’s only golf publications that conduct “secret shopper” site inspections and do not accept advertising from golf courses, resorts or restaurants in order to provide you with expert, unbiased, and trusted advice.
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