This year, Sean Gunn has temporarily left his operations job at Castle Stuart Golf Links to take up an internship at the renowned Bandon Dunes golf resort in Oregon as part of his career development.
In the second of a series of blogs on his new role, he describes swapping the Moray Firth for the Pacific coast.
Now that I have spent more time on the resort, I really am beginning to come to terms with just how big the place is. To compare it to Castle Stuart back home I would probably say it is four times the size. Bandon Dunes has four courses on site, as well as a Par 3 course, the practice centre, accommodation, restaurants, gym and a massage treatment area.
With so much happening on the resort it really does require a big operation to help run it, and our guest services department is really on the ball when it comes to that. Shuttle buses are always at the ready to rush golfers between courses to make tee times or transport guests and items from A to B with ease. It really is quite impressive to watch. The sheer size of the resort and everything it has to offer makes it feel like a mini town.
Even though it is a huge place, the staff are very close and like a big family. So, it has been a tough few weeks for the whole resort with the tragic passing of one of our professional golfers, Rob McVicker, the first assistant at Bandon Dunes, who died after being involved in a car accident at the end of February.
I feel very fortunate to have met Rob, who was definitely one of the most passionate people on the resort about both his role and for the game of golf. He was someone I had hoped to spend more time with, both on and off the golf course, and he will be sorely missed by all at the resort. My thoughts and sympathies go out to the McVicker family at what has to be a very difficult time.
The type of work that I have been doing here has been very similar to my role at Castle Stuart, although my tasks do not include meeting and greeting guests or managing the range as they do at home. Here, I am very much based within the golf shop, checking in golfers and making sure that they have all they need prior to their round. Outside of that, ensuring that anything that is bought is swiftly replaced is an important part of the role, as the shop does really well in terms of sales. I’ve also been allowed to either help with creating displays, or create my own displays for the shop, which is a lot of fun.
In addition, I’ve recently become more involved with the events that go on around the resort. As most groups that come here are usually upwards of eight golfers, we offer our ‘tournament services’ which includes creating a bespoke tournament experience for each group if they require it.
Another service we offer to larger groups is night golf. The pros on site set up a four-hole route and light the middle of the fairway and a 30ft circle on the green with glow sticks. This, alongside glow-in-the-dark golf balls, makes for a lot of fun, and left me feeling pretty jealous of the guys who I walk and score for. This definitely is an idea that will come home to Scotland with me!
Aside from looking after guests, we are also trying to establish the top golfer on the resort in our annual employee/caddie matches. In my first round I drew Brandon Carter, Head Professional at Pacific Dunes (AKA my boss). A pretty daunting experience – to firstly take on a head professional, but also play against my day-to-day boss. As a highly competitive person I really did not relish the prospect of losing heavily and having to come to work the next day to face the inevitable banter.
On the day of the match it poured rain from the minute we stood on the first tee to the time we walked off the 18th green. Eventually, I lost on the 17th hole which wasn’t bad, and to be congratulated by Brandon at the end on my ‘relentless short game’ was praise enough for me to think that my golf is not as bad as first thought. Now all I need is Brandon to win the competition so at least I’ll have the satisfaction of saying that I was beaten by the winner!
Away from the resort, I managed a trip to the Redwood National Park in California. Having heard all about the redwoods since my arrival, it really was an exciting prospect to be able to go and see them for myself. They are unlike anything I have experienced before. Driving through the woods with trees reaching between 100-200ft makes for quite a spectacle, albeit a very eerie one.
After seeing the redwoods, it has made me even more motivated to explore, to see what this amazing place has to offer. Currently there are plans to go to Crater Lake National Park in Oregon, which is mind-blowing from what I have been told. Other trips include a visit to the Multnomah Falls waterfall in Oregon and perhaps a road trip to San Francisco to play some golf.
It will be a welcome break as the next few weeks promise to be an insanely hectic time with the resort getting increasingly busy as it nears peak season.