Some of the bunkers are so deep and treacherous that you are better off taking an unplayable lie, biting the bullet by taking the penalty stroke and saving yourself even more frustration and a much higher score. There are also numerous tiny bunkers scattered about, making for challenges to your backswing and/or follow-through, so prudence might require you to pitch out sideways or backward rather than advancing your ball toward the hole.
The undulating fairways and numerous hazards require a plan, but there are relatively few blind shots on this course, so what you see is pretty much what you get. You definitely need a caddy at St Andrews because of all of the blind tee shots, but we did not hire caddies at any of the three courses we played and did just fine. Some advance planning will do you good as there are detailed descriptions, photos, and yardage on their website for all holes or you can purchase yardage books for all five courses at $10 each or $40 for all five, money well spent in my opinion unless you happen to have a former Bandon Dunes caddy master playing with you.
You will almost always have a good lie if you find the fairway although you will likely have a side-hill lie of one sort or another. The fairways are firm and consistent throughout all five courses, but do not expect thick, lush, green grass because this is a links course and plenty of roll on the fairways is part of the challenge and fun.
The greens are massive and fast, some with large undulations, but most with subtle breaks, so distance control and good lag putting will do you well. I am a decent putter, averaging 1.85 putts per hole, and I had little difficulty reading greens and hitting good lag puts. You may even find yourself so far away from the hole on these massive greens that only a chip will get you close to the hole. The greens have no collars because the grass on the greens is the same grass and mowed to the same height as the fairways, so your Texas wedge may very well be your best option around the greens rather than risking chunking a pitch or chip to a tight pin. Finally, the greens are so fast that the wind does affect the ball, so make sure to add another 10% to 20% more oomph into the wind, and vice versa, as well as taking it into consideration on the break in sidewinds. Good luck!
In all, the views at Pacific Dunes are incredible, the land rough and rugged, but beautiful, and the course very challenging, but fair, unless the weather fails to cooperate as it did on this day. I play to a 13-handicap and floundered on the front nine, partially because of the headwinds on five of the nine holes (1,2,3,6, and 8), but mostly because I teed-off without striking a ball and understanding what I had to work with that day. I shot a 14-over par 50 on the front nine, but finally found my game on the back, shooting a 7-over par 42 for a total score of 92. I was not displeased with that score considering the difficulty of the course and the wind we had to contend with all day.
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