When Mike Keiser discovered the beautiful land along the southern Oregon coast that became the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, he was determined to preserve its beauty. According to the resort’s website, he and Howard McKee did so by “creating an undeniable connection between nature and those who have walked the resort’s grounds.” This sustainability-centered mission was not new for Keiser; his first business made recycled greeting cards.
During the resort’s development, great care was taken to protect native wildlife and vegetation and limit the number of buildings on the property. More than half of the resort’s 2,525 acres remains unmanaged land.
Named one of America’s top 10 most eco-friendly golf venues by Links Magazine, Bandon Dunes is home to a 250-acre conservation area containing 13 separate natural resource habitats. Their conservation effort has produced significant growth in the population of one endangered local plant species, the Silvery Phacelia, whose numbers blossomed from 6,115 in 2014 to 32,570 in 2020.
Photo Courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf
Bandon Dunes’ “natural” approach plays out a bit differently when it comes to insects. A good deal of the pest control is left to the golf resort’s bat community; 10 bat houses exist on the property.
Additionally, the Dunes boast more than 60 bird boxes, and at least 120 bird species have been sighted on the grounds.
Perhaps ranking first among the resort’s impressive list of green achievements is having five of its six golf courses receiving certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, an elite designation based on sustainable design, construction, and long-term management.
The Dunes’ design was geared to minimize the need for water and mowing. The fescue turfgrass requires little fertilizer, and when fertilizer is used, it’s spoon-fed to restrict runoff and prevent the possibility of overgrowth. Staying with native grasses has greatly decreased the necessity for irrigation, with only around a quarter of the grounds being irrigated. The decision to be a walk-only course also reduces the resort’s carbon footprint.
Photo Courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Water processed through the golf resort’s wastewater treatment plant gets repurposed for irrigation. During peak season, 40,000–50,000 gallons of water gets recycled daily at Bandon Dunes, a WasterWise partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency since 2016. The irrigation system also benefits by employing portable moisture readers and special software to fine-tune efficiency.
Similarly, installing eight waterless urinals lowers annual water consumption by approximately 128,000 gallons. A switch from conventional storage water heaters to on-demand ones also reduced fuel usage, per unit, by 30–40% and electricity by 10–15%.
Bandon Dunes, in fact, has attacked electricity consumption in multiple ways. The power produced by the 188 solar panels located in five arrays across the property equals a monthly average of 9,525 kWh.
As part of becoming carbon neutral, the resort has been transitioning to energy-conscious LED lighting, replacing two-stroke, gas-fueled equipment with electric devices, and utilizing tubular daylighting devices and skylights to reduce the reliance on electricity. With the help of its energy supplier, Coos/Curry Electric Coop, Bandon Dunes’ energy supply is more than 85% renewable and 95% carbon-free.
Photo Courtesy Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Putting its money where its environmental mission is, the Dunes added the Bandon Preserve golf course in 2015. All the net proceeds from Bandon Preserve’s green fees, the charge for playing at the property, go to Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, the Dunes’ grant-making department that supports community, conservation, and economy on Oregon’s South Coast.
After the Preserve course opened, the resort was recognized for its sustainability leadership by being named the National Resort Environmental Leader in Golf by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) in 2016 and winning the Michael Hindal Environmental Award in 2015.
Not willing to rest on its laurels, Bandon Dunes has continued to look for ways to improve its levels of sustainability. A recent target has been plastics — specifically single-use plastic bottles. The resort has placed over a dozen water refill stations around its grounds to reduce waste. The Dunes also partnered with a nonprofit, The Freshwater Trust, to promote reusable YETIi-brand bottles over plastic ones.