While on a recent trip to Bandon Dunes, we had an unusual resort guest sit next to us at breakfast one morning—Ben Crenshaw. As it turns out, he was there on business. The Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch course has long been part of the Bandon Dunes story, but unless golfers knew who to ask, it was unlikely they would know the property existed. Since then, Friedmann has used the property as a sort of personal golf playground, occasionally allowing access to friends and those in-the-know. The original course was designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina and contained 13 green sites, but no numbered holes or an actual routing. Golfers picked targets from any point on the property and hit to it, creating a wide array of playing opportunities on what many consider to be the best piece of land for golf in the area. While Friedmann admittedly relished the solitude at Sheep Ranch, he believed it was time to share the breathtaking property with the general golfing public. Once the news was announced that the Sheep Ranch was to become part of the resort, there was immediately speculation about its fate.
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Or for some, a re-introduction. Sheep Ranch is now the fifth hole course at Oregon's Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, as the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw course opened officially on Monday, even amid covid restrictions on the resort this spring. To understand why this is such a highly anticipated opening, one must appreciate the evolution of this land. Sheep Ranch sits on about acres north of the resort's Old Macdonald course, and for the past 16 or so years, there were 13 unirrigated greens played by a very small group of golfers.
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Is it the best course out there? The wind can whip anywhere, anytime at Bandon, but nowhere harder than it does here. In its original iteration, the Sheep Ranch or should it just be Sheep Ranch , without the article in front? As with Batman, I was told, you can go either way was even smaller and rougher cut, a sleepy, semi-secretive hole course that you had to access by special arrangement. To get there now, you drive to Old MacDonald, what used to be the northernmost course at Bandon, and keep going on a freshly paved road, a minute ride to the new Sheep Ranch entrance. A low-slung, fog-gray clubhouse greets you, backed by a Pacific panoramic, a visual tease for the day ahead. Bandon Dunes owner Mike Keiser , who developed the Sheep Ranch with his longtime business partner, Phil Friedmann, is not given to gushing. He calls the 1st hole of the Sheep Ranch the best opener in golf. A broad-shouldered par 5, it plays through a wide, sparse corridor of pines, then elbows gently leftward over a ridge and tumbles toward the water. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw dreamed up the design, and the routing is inspired , making the most of modest acreage.
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