Sheep Ranch 1

The 16th hole at Sheep Ranch is a scenic par-3 that finishes on Five Mile Point. 

Opening Day for Sheep Ranch is officially set for June 1, 2020, and I can’t wait.

The resort announced the opening day Tuesday and is taking reservations for next summer.

The fifth 18-hole course at Bandon Dunes promises to bring some of the best views at the resort. Our first close-up view during a preview round that featured nine holes left me eager for more.

The sixth hole at Sheep Ranch is a dogleg to the right, one of several holes that play along the bluff overlooking the beach and ocean. 

I got my first peek at the course, then mostly still dirt, back in May when we were working on previews for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championships. Michael Chupka, the resort’s director of media services, provided a tour for news editor Ron Jackimowicz and me.

That day, we watched them hydroseeding the first of the 17 greens — one is a giant double-green on Five Mile Point. Now all 18 of the greens are growing in.

Since that day in May, I have been looking forward to actually hitting balls on the course and Ron and I got that chance during the preview round with Michael and his dad Mike, who is visiting from the East Coast. It was the first chance to play the course for all of us.

From our first hole, which will be No. 15 when the full 18-hole course is completed, the experience was fabulous (and not just because I somehow rammed in a 45-footer for birdie).

The eventual 16th hole (our second) is one of the two using the green on Five Mile Point and is visually stunning.

Throughout our stroll, Ron remarked how the generous fairways make the course very playable for recreational golfers like us.

Several of the greens are huge, similar in size to those at Old Macdonald on the main resort property. They also have the challenging undulations found on the rest of the resort.

All of the holes in the preview round were fun. A number came with breathtaking views.

One of those was on what eventually will be the sixth hole, a dogleg to the right that might entice many a golfer to try to cut the corner, which means hitting over a gorse-covered cliff. I wasn’t trying to cut the corner, but that didn’t keep me from putting a ball (or three) into the foliage on the cliff (somewhat better than the beach below, though the end result is the same).

My ball seemed to have a mind of its own, despite this helpful advice from Michael: “We do have the whole continent out there to the left.”

I was sold on Sheep Ranch long before we got to the green that we had seen seeded back in May. That hole, which eventually will be No. 9, is part of a brand new section of the course that wasn’t in any way part of the former Sheep Ranch course, which did not have a defined routing, but included a bunch of green complexes and fairways that allowed players to pick their own holes.

And when I left my par putt on the final hole an inch short, I was in no hurry to get back on the shuttle to return to the main part of the resort. I would have happily spent the rest of the sunny afternoon doing what we had been doing, experiencing the new course.

I asked about what the other golfers have been saying, and got a response I could relate to. Not just the golfers, but the caddies who were escorting them, came off the course wowing about their experience.

A lot will happen between now and June 1.

The fairways for several of the holes are still being prepared for planting. All the greens have to mature to where they can be mowed to the proper length to run at the speeds typical of the resort. Lesson to John: that 45-footer would have rolled 45 feet past the hole in June if it was an inch off line.

A logo needs to be selected. A temporary clubhouse needs to be built.

And the reservations are going to start coming in.

And starting on June 1, hundreds of golfers will get to experience what promises to be a fabulous addition to the resort.

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.