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 first of a series of blogs on his new role, he describes swapping the Moray Firth for the Pacific coast.
My initial thought on arrival at Bandon Dunes was that the place is extremely impressive. The resort has four 18-hole courses and a 13-hole par 3 course. All four courses have recently been placed comfortably in the Top 100 in North America and to have them all on the same property makes it all the more impressive.
I have unfortunately only played one of the courses in full, but have been lucky enough to play at least 9 holes at each, and I can see why they get such accolades! They are in a word AMAZING!
To come this far from home and to still feel like you’re in Scotland is a testament to the designer of each course and to the staff because it has an American style of Scottish hospitality that I love.
What also made me feel at home when I first arrived was the weather. I’m based at Pacific Dunes, the Number 1 rated course on site, and a Top 20 course in the US. And it was fair to say that I was thrown straight into the deep end – during my first week we had three days of frost delay and one with three inches snow! Not your average weather for this area from what I was told, which led to calls of ‘let’s blame the Scot!’
And being Scottish has helped too. When word got out, a lot of people were interested in talking to me, especially the golf fanatics. Guest frequently come from our restaurant at Pacific dunes to the shop to say “Are you the Scottish guy everyone upstairs is talking about?” I’ve never been used to so much attention!
I have an apartment on site which is very homely and a room-mate, Connor, who shares the same passion for the game as I do, so needless to say we are getting on really well.
What also helped me settle in was on my first night being invited to a social gathering hosted by a local golf accessory company, Seamus Golf, who were founded in Oregon. This turned out to be a great way to be introduced to my work colleagues and to learn about a brand that I had not been very familiar with back home with a view to making contacts and possible ventures within the Scottish market, especially as they specialise in Tartan headcovers.
At this time of year Pacific averages somewhere between 90-100 golfers per day. As the weather continues to get better and the daylight stretches this will only increase. So, there is definitely always something to be doing to keep yourself busy, whether it is keeping the shop floor presentable and well-stocked, or greeting guests or preparing the end-of-day reports.
Pace of play is just as big a deal here in the states as it is back home, and we fill out place-of-play logs daily, while there is also a heavy ranger presence on each course during the day.
I’ve already picked up some good ideas to take home which I feel may help with the issue of pace-of-play, one being having the early morning tee times each day as “pace times” which help the rangers as they are assured of 4:30 rounds.
Next to the courses, we have a 2.5 acre, 36-hole putting green. The Punchbowl, as it is known, is where the party begins each night! With well over 100 people on the green at the peak of the day, it is the place to go to hear the golfing stories of the day.
Then there is the practice centre, which is 52+ acres and the perfect place for golfers to go pre and post round to fine tune their game or work out some things after playing. This is the place where I seem to have spent most of my golfing time since being on site, especially with my intention of getting my handicap significantly lower.
All in all the resort is massive, and I can honestly say that I have not seen anything on this scale in golfing terms anywhere. The best way I would describe Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a golfer’s Disney World.
Outside the resort, Bandon is a small town which is only a little bigger than my home town of Invergordon, with the closest city around two hours away. Luckily my room-mate has a car so with a bit of planning of our schedules we are hoping to get away from time to time to see what the state of Oregon has to offer and possibly some of California too.
One thing I’ve picked up on quickly is that people love their food here, with portions being far more generous than back home. I’ll have to make sure the exercise regime stays on track.