Blog 216, 7/2/12 - A 40th Birthday Party at Bandon Dunes

The four amigos with the author on the far right.
A funny thing happened on the way to my 40th birthday earlier this month. My wife knows I don’t like surprises, so a party was out.  I believe the conversation went like this:

Mrs:   What do you want to do for your 40th birthday?
Me:     I want to go to the U.K. to play golf with my buddies.
Mrs:   You’ve never taken me to the U.K.; I’ll be going with you guys.
Me:     Bandon Dunes, it is then!

What better place in the United States is there for celebrating my 40th than Bandon Dunes? I invited my friends (editor Tony Dear couldn't make it) and made our reservations on February 29th. I then considered the order in which we’d play the courses and made the necessary tee times. Since this was my fourth trip to the place, I had it all carefully planned out like a seasoned veteran. But isn’t it funny how golf trips devolve into unplanned adventures?
My travel group ranged in age from 40 (me), to my pseudo-dad at 60 (we’ll call him ‘Norm’ to protect the innocent). The other two characters are my buddies Monty (Mike Montgomery - head professional at Bellingham GCC) and Tattoo, somewhere in the middle.
We started with Pacific Dunes and Bandon Trails. All four of us actually scored pretty well, but our swings were still rusty from riding in the car for nine hours the day before. The only thing that kept us going was the Birdie Juice (a delightful custom blend of Fireball & Crown that was administered anytime a birdie was carded in the group). By the end of the day, we were glad to have the shuttle available to take us back to the rooms.
The big 40th birthday, Day Two, was the perfect day for golf with the weather, location and company. We started off on Old MacDonald and finished on Bandon Preserve. We had so much fun playing Old Mac, we switched our tee times for Saturday so we could play it again. It was during our Par 3 adventure on the Preserve that Norm threw his back out – no amount of Birdie Juice could cure his misaligned spine! All that way to play 3.2 rounds. But hey, now we had a chauffeur to drive us to fun times in Bandon, Coos Bay and North Bend.
I’m going to skip the story of what happened on the night of my 40th birthday. It is apparently a ritual that all men celebrating their 40th on a Friday night on the Oregon coast go through. At least I remember it. Let’s just leave it at that.
We played Bandon Dunes in the morning on Day Three as a three-some (Norm was definitely out since his spine looked like the S-curves on Pacific Coast Highway). I played my worst nine holes at Bandon going out, but salvaged a 34 coming in. The Birdie Juice was flowing! After playing Dunes, Monty and I lost Tattoo to a nap before our re-round at Old Mac later that afternoon.
Monty and I played as a two-some in the penultimate group of the day (never used 'penultimate' before; it’s kind of fun). We loaded our bags with refreshments, and off we went. The front and back nine yardages at Old Mac are 800 yards different (3076 vs 3868), so we decided before we teed off that we would pick the tees we wanted on each hole to mix it up a bit. We weren’t keeping score, just trying to hit the shots. Hitting great shots, with a great friend, on a great course, at sunset is my ideal round of golf. But little did I know that perception of a perfect round was all about to change the very next day.

(Part 2, Day 4 coming tomorrow)
James is currently in his fifth year as a member of Golf Digest’s Course Ranking Panel.  Follow him on Twitter

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