Brad and I like to do a golf trip every year. This year, we decided to go to Northern Michigan. It was going to be hard to surpass the experience of our last two trips – The Monterey Peninsula and Bandon Dunes. In fact, I’m not sure anywhere, outside of a trip to Scotland or Ireland, would compare to those locations, each of which I would highly recommend. Northern Michigan, on the other hand, wasn’t anywhere near the top of my list of golf destinations. In fact, it wasn’t even on my list. Needless to say, my expectations were pretty low.
The moment I heard that the USGA had chosen Los Angeles Country Club to host the Mens US Open Golf Championship, I knew I wanted to go. I just had to given how close I live to the course. I’d been to a major golf tournament venue before, but that was a practice round at the Masters back in 2018. It was an over-the-top experience, but I wanted to attend a major during the tournament rounds, and the US Open has been an event on my “to attend” bucket list.
When rumors started to swirl that the USGA would be limiting ticket sales to the tournament, I decided to sign-up as a volunteer. One of the perks of volunteering is that you get access to the grounds on both the days of your volunteer shifts and the days you’re off. Yes, I had to pay for the volunteer gear (which, by the way, is very nice), but it’s a small amount compared to what I would have paid for a ticket. In my mind, the cost of the gear and my time would be worth the experience.
Last year, I signed up as a volunteer for the US Open, which is being held at The Los Angeles Country Club. I’ve been wanting to attend a US Open for some time, and this seemed like a good opportunity given how close it is to home.
When the USGA sent out their request for volunteers, I figured, why not? The cost for the volunteer package was on par with the cost for tickets. Plus, it guaranteed access without having to go through the ticket lottery, which is more challenging than usual this year. Tickets are in limited supply due to capacity constraints at LACC.
At the end of last year, I got the opportunity to play in the SCGA Tournament of Club Champions. As the name implies, it’s an annual event held by the SCGA that is open to those who win their golf club’s club championship. I’m still unsure how I happened to win the Sterling Hills Club Championship. It’s a 36-hole event, and I was mired solidly in the middle of the pack after the first 27 holes. Over the last 9, the putter came alive, I made a few shots, and lo-and-behold, I was told that I won by one stroke. Little did I know how important that last birdie putt on 18 would be.
Earlier this year, I signed up to volunteer at the 2023 US Open golf tournament, which is being held at the Los Angeles Country Club. I decided to do it so I could attend the event, which is not far from home, and to see the tournament from a different vantage point – inside the ropes.
Having never volunteered at a professional golf tournament, let alone a major, there was more than a little uncertainty about what I should expect. So when the LPGA posted notices for volunteers at the Mediheal Championship being held at The Saticoy Club just minutes from my house, I jumped at the opportunity. I figured it would be a great chance to get some experience at a lower key event so I would be prepared for my assignment next June.
Overall, it was a great experience that was not without its share of an interesting story or two, which seems to have become a regular occurrence for me lately.
Originally, we had only planned on playing the Old Course. However, after completing our round in a tidy 3 hours, I twisted Brad’s arm and convinced him to play the Ocean Course. It was a treat since I wasn’t sure when I would get a chance to return to Half Moon Bay.
Below are my thoughts on the two courses, including which I liked best.
A few years ago, a good friend asked if I had golfed at Bandon Dunes. I told him that I had heard of the place but didn’t know much about it. He attempted to explain his experience. While he struggled to find the right words, he used a lot of superlatives. Exasperated, he finally gave up trying to describe it and said, ” You have to go. You just have to go.”
Having just returned from Bandon Dunes, I can finally understand and appreciate his fascination with the resort. Words cannot adequately describe the experience, nor will I do it justice in this post. However, I’m going to give it my best shot and will tell you in advance – if you are a golfer and have a true passion, love, and appreciation for the game, it’s a place you have to go.
Wait, let me rephrase that – Bandon Dunes is a place you MUST go.