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Friday
Nov092012

Film Review: A Journey To Golf's Past: Creating Old Macdonald

In this week's Arts Issue of Golf World, I review Michael Robin's film on the making of Bandon Dunes' Old Macdonald.

The film sets a new bar for storytelling in the design world. It also proves that when professionals like Robin--a prominent television producer and director who is also a fine golfer--and his team conveyed the many dimensions of a golf course, it shows just how mediocre network television has been at bringing courses alive.

And don't be fooled by the title, this is more than just a "making of" film about Old Macdonald. Some of the best moments come when the team travels to the world's most famous holes and dissect their attributes, including the Redan, Road and Macdonald's template holes at The National Golf Links.

The extras-loaded DVD is a must for anyone who loves architecture or Bandon Dunes.

You can order the film for all of $10 (!) via the Bandon Dunes shop site.

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Reader Comments (25)

It probably is just me, but did anyone else feel totally underwhelmed after having played Old Macdonald? It feels to me that praising it ad infinitum has become the thing to do for golf course design cognoscenti...and any critical thinking has gone out of the window! I thought the design was bland & trying too hard to be "old school", the land unspectacular and the conditioning of the course not up to its reputation.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFT
Nope, it's probably just you. Bland???? With holes like 3, 7, 8, 11, 16, etc...? I strenuously disagree.

Admittedly, I am no architect, but I can speak to the fun factor, which is off the charts.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSari
How long is the DVD? The main segment, that is.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered Commenter3foot1
just discovered this site, cozy little place, a little off the wall but good for the game, thanks
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBobby D
@FT - I think I know what you are talking about. It is a very good course, but somehow lacks the details of the truly great courses where one's senses are really heightened. Also, the holes that are meant to be inspired by other great holes around the world only have a very subtle and passing resemblance. At ground level it is sometimes very difficult to see any similarities when one is hoping to spot a few.

The condition wasn't a problem when I played it - no better or worse than St. Andrews for example.

But, don't get me wrong, it is a course very much worth playing, although a clear notch below Pacific Dunes which borders the property. Old Mac is in a tough neighborhood which may also highlight some of its lackluster features. Old Mac is manufactured American links-style, and in that genre it is a very good course.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
The film runs around 90 minutes as I recall but with the DVD extras it's at least a 2 hour overall package of stuff, and as I noted in the review, the extras are outstanding. Not filler. In fact, my favorite thing on it might have been Don Placek taking viewers on a tour of the Renaissance Golf Design offices and the visit to the Redan, both extras.
11.9.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Old Macdonald is a real gift to American golf, a working golf museum of sorts that is rollicking fun to play. The lack of definition of the layout to the naked eye may be off-putting to some, but I was just gobsmacked when I got to the top of the hill on #3 (Sahara) and saw all of those holes laid out in the meadow. Just amazing.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered Commentertlavin
tlavin-

Totally agree, Old Mac is awesome, one of my favorite courses anywhere.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSun Mountain Man
It says the DVD is no longer available.???
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterDBLHIT55
DBL,
I'm guessing they sold out and will get more because a few people reported that they successfully ordered it today. Will double check though.

**There was a brief sellout, more on the way and orders being taken. Thanks for the heads up!
11.9.2012 | Registered CommenterGeoff
Old Mac DVD's are in stock and back up for purchase.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBandon Dunes
FT.....you must have had one of the worst hangovers in HISTORY......O. M. is one of the best courses ever made.......
@Wozeniak PGA - if it it was in the British Isles, it would hardly get a second look.

Dornoch, Country Down, North Berwick, Machrihanish, Portrush, The Old Course, are among some of the best even made. Old Mac is a wonderful golf course, but, it is not "one of the best ever made."

I know that some people have subjective favorites due to personal preferences or experiences. That's fine.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterAbu Dhabi Golfer
It's an interesting video that I have watched several times. It's very polished which you would expect from Michael who is in the TV business. My thought is that Old Mac is a very tough golf course to photograph much less video so it doesn't blow you away visually. Regardless it's a video I will keep and view from time to time.
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoel
Really cool DVD and the passion of those who produced it is plain to see. It's just a shame I've seen the DVD and am yet to see the course!
11.9.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthewM
A D G......I stand corrected, OK....."ONE" of the best in THIS COUNTRY!!!!!!!
Hope they have some in the shop when I'm there next weekend.
11.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSomeone else
I finally visited the Bandon resort for the first time last year and there's only one course I played twice: Old Mac.

I played it a second time to confirm my gut feelings about it. I also played the second round with a knockdown game only.

It's a very versatile and flexible course in my opinion. A ton of fun with some very high moments. I think it stands on its own and differentiates itself well from the other courses there.

Best logo out of the four courses too.
11.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPHK
Can't tell you how many times me and my caddie stood in the fairway, going over the options available to get to a particular flag, on a course that fires your imagination like few others you'll play.
And to stand on the 7th green, the sun setting over the Pacific on one side, the course laid out below you on the other side, is one of the more special places a golfer can stand and take it all in that you'll find anywhere on the planet.

That's Old Mac.
11.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterFester
Any truth to the rumor that Old Mac is scheduled for a major overhaul ???
11.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterOldandbald
North Berwick's 1st and 18th holes are poor holes. The rest are quirky fun. Machrihanish's back nine is a bit of a slog, and the 18th isn't that good of a hole although the first eight (can't remember if the ninth hole had powerlines) were sublime. I think Old Macdonald is better than both. In fact, my four favorite courses I've played are Old Mac, Pacific Dunes, Royal Dornoch and The Old Course. I don't know which I think is the best of the four. So I think Old Mac is one of the best courses ever built.
11.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterChene
Sorry, Chene, but I love North Berwick's 18, especially with friends cheering a drive pin high on the left and toasting a birdie putt from the clubhouse balcony. As for No. 1, it is the definition of "quirky fun" IMHO. I do like your four faves, but would sub Bandon for Pacific before they mowed all the fescue and tore up/burned all the gorse.
11.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterPasaplayer
As of a few minutes ago, Bandon website says dvd not available.
11.16.2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
I've been to Bandon on 6 separate trips. The first time I went only Bandon Dunes and Pac Dunes were there.

I love the place. It is truly amazing. All 4 courses (have not played the Preserve yet) would each be THE standout course at virtually any other golf destination.

Now, to splitting hairs:

Old Mac is a fun course, but in my humble opinion it is a far inferior course to either Bandon Dunes or Pac Dunes. I possibly even enjoy playing Bandon Trails more than Old Mac. We play 7 rounds on the trip I organize each year, so we only get to play 1 of the courses once. This year our group is debating whether to play Bandon Trails or Old Mac once.

Old Mac is fun. It is not spectacular. You will hit shots there you don't hit on other courses. But there are fewer memorable holes than any of the other courses on the Bandon property. If you dropped Old Mac down in Scotland it wouldn't crack a top 50 list in that country.

Also while I'm at it: I was disappointed by many of the hole re-creations at Old Mac. The "Road" Hole has nothing forcing you to shape a drive left to right, nor does it have a road or modified road (ie a deep Bunker like MacDonald always built) behind the hole. The Redan hole has barely any left to right slope. The Biarritz trench is not nearly defined enough. The Cape barely moves right to left. Hogsback has its ridge all the way on the right side of the fairway, not in the middle where it should be (plus that hole is unnecessarily long at ~500 yards from the normal tees).

Don't get me wrong: I am trying to find issues with the course. I enjoy playing it. But the hype does not hold up. Towards the end of the DVD, someone says "If MacDonald could have played Old Mac, he'd have made changes to National." HA. Could not be farther from the truth.
11.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMP
I agree with FT and MP. I have played many of the top golf resorts in the US, including all four courses at Bandon. Old Mac is an enjoyable course due to how different it is from the other tracks at Bandon, but standing on its own, I believe it remains merely a "nice" course. Clearly everyone won't agree with this comment, but hey, that's why ice cream shops sell more than vanilla: people have different tastes. On the next trip, I'll reround on Pacific Dunes or the Trails before I'll spend the money to play Old Mac. Again, it's not a bad course; it just wasn't spectacular, (in my opinion).
11.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLR

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