Golf Course Reviews

Course review: The Dunes Club lives up to its lofty reputation

The 430-yard 18th has a pond fronting a green that slopes forward from a back plateau and has bunkers left, right and back.
The 430-yard 18th has a pond fronting a green that slopes forward from a back plateau and has bunkers left, right and back. For The Sun News

The Dunes Golf & Beach Club opened in 1948, and for 67 years it has been the standard on the Grand Strand.

The Robert Trent Jones design remains the standard today.

“If a course exists in heaven, it would be The Dunes Club,” said Cory Martin of North Myrtle Beach, a roofer and pro mini-tour golfer who participated in a review of the course in early December. “The course has lots of character. It’s exquisite. It’s timeless. It’s peaceful.”

Joining me and Cory in the review foursome were Trey Atkinson of Myrtle Beach, a real estate developer and former Dunes Club member with a 3 handicap, and David Medlin of Murrells Inlet, a retired Springs textiles worker with a 17 handicap.

“This place is awesome,” said David, who played the course for the first time. “The course was great.”

In addition to hosting members and vacationing golfers over the year, the semi-private club has hosted a number of the top professionals and amateurs in the world, having hosted the 1962 U.S. Women's Open, final stage of the 1973 PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, Champions Tour Championship from 1994-99 and 2014 PGA Professional National Championship. It will host the 2017 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship next summer.

“With it being the only area course on the beach it has ocean views, and it’s rich with history with the Senior Tour, PGA Tour Q-School and Women’s Open,” Trey said. “It’s just a great, traditional southern layout. You have palm trees and oak trees and everything is mature, and you have great views of nature and scenery.”

A number of new tee boxes, predominantly on the front nine, were added to the layout through a renovation in 2013 that added 175 yards to push the back tees to 7,370 yards. The lowest slope rating from any tee box is 130 from the senior green tees. “It’s a big golf course,” Trey said.

It has the difficulty and length for a championship. “This is definitely a championship course,” Trey said. “There are several holes they could put the tees back from where we played today, and they can grow the rough out and roll the greens.”

Added Cory: “They could host a U.S. Open here.”

The Dunes Club has holes framed by mature tree lines and several with water and marsh to carry including the stretch of holes 11-13 dubbed Alligator Alley. Greens are generally elevated and well-protected by bunkers, and were firm and fast for our group. The 2013 renovation included the installation of Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens, and they were in impeccable condition. The greens are large and add to the course’s challenge with multiple undulations.

“The greens rolled nice and were true,” said David, who found the light bunker sand consistent and to his liking.

The group found the course to be in very good condition. Carts were allowed on the course without restrictions. “I think for the rain we’ve had the course is very dry,” Cory said. “I only had two or three mud balls in 18 holes, so the drainage must be good.”

Greens aren’t being overseeded this year, but winter ryegrass overseed in the fairways is already well grown in. “The grass is bright green,” Cory said.

The Dunes Club has five tee boxes and a formidable red tee length of 5,310 yards considering the trouble around often elevated greens.

The Dunes Club is semi-private and outside rounds can only be booked through one of the course’s many partner hotels.

Likes

The entire group appreciated the impeccable condition and fast speed of the greens.

Markings and signs keep players well informed throughout the course. “The course is well-marked, both with yardages on both sides of the fairways and directional signs to holes,” David said.

David found the buffer between houses and holes, as well as the cleared areas of pine straw and mulch in sparsely wooded areas, to be beneficial. “There are houses around the course, but there is space between the hole and their backyard and for a slicer like me that’s a big thing,” David said.

Trey appreciated the course’s scenery – “I love all the palm trees and ocean views,” he said – which include hardwoods that offer fall foliage. “The course has some of the better fall foliage on the Grand Strand,” Cory noted.

Dislikes

The practice facility is extensive, but the group was disappointed to find we were relegated to using mats on the driving range for iron shots, which is a winter policy. “The practice facility is great, but I don’t like hitting off mats,” Trey said. “You can warm up but you can’t hit a true shot off a mat.”

With six par-4s measuring 350 yards or longer from the green tees, David found a few par-4s to be long for seniors, particularly with bunkers guarding the front of a number of greens. “Sand traps in front of greens made it a little hard,” David said.

Greens are firm, though they’re softening from the 2013 green renovations. “The greens are hard yet they are smooth putting so give them time,” Cory said.

Par-3s

Par-3s measure between 185 and 221 yards, and are between 140 and 165 from the white tee. “The par-3s were attractive and a manageable length,” David said, “though it’s a little hard to hold the ball on the greens.”

The 215-yard fifth hole has bunkers front left and front right of an elevated green that features a slight false front and is otherwise relatively flat. “I like that they don’t have a bunker behind the green so it gives you the option of bailing out long,” David said.

The 221-yard ninth has the ocean as a backdrop. A pair of bunkers squeeze a slightly false front and another bunker is behind the green.

The 190-yard 12th has a seldom-used 245-yard tee box and requires a shot over tidal marsh to a green that slopes slightly to the front and right with bunkers on all four sides. The 185-yard 17th has bunkers front left, front right and behind a green sloping to the front.

“The par-3s have very fair green sizes from all tee boxes and fair depth of bunkers based on approach yardage,” Cory said. “If you miss the green you often still have green to work with to save par.”

A 19th hole is an alternative 205-yard par-3 after the 13th hole has water to the left of a green that slopes toward it, and it was used during the PGA Professional National Championship in summer 2014. “The par-3s are good,” Trey said. “The alternative par-3 14th hole is the best par-3 on the course. It’s a great par-3. It’s very Augusta-esque. They should play it more.”

Par-4s

All but two par-4s measure at least 425 yards, with the other two 380 or less, and they all measure 390 or less from the white tees. “There’s a great mixture par-4s,” Trey said. “You have birdie opportunities and you have the long 4s where you try for a par.”

The 425-yard first hole has a bunker short right and long left off the tee and the green is protected by deep bunkers front right and front left. The 440-yard second is a dogleg left around a tree line with a low dip in the fairway in front of an elevated green with a false front.

The 452-yard third has a drive into an incline and elevated green with bunkers left and front right, the 465-yard sixth has another drive into an incline and large bunker front-right of the green, and the 425-yard seventh has a shallow green that slopes off the back of a front bunker.

The 380-yard 10th has a pond 80 yards from a green atop a hill with bunkers front left and front right. The 430-yard 11th requires a good drive to get past trees on the right that can impact shots to a long and narrow undulating green that juts into a peninsula in the marsh on the right.

The 450-yard 14th is a slight dogleg left with a downhill approach shot to a green protected by four greenside bunkers a pond shy of the green on the left. The 370-yard 16th has a downhill approach to a two-tiered green surrounded by seven bunkers, and the 430-yard 18th has a pond fronting a green that slopes forward from a back plateau and has bunkers left, right and back. Tees options can make the hole a slight dogleg left or right.

“The par-4s were a little long at times,” David said. “There’s a fair amount of doglegs left and right, and the fairways are wide enough to make it less stressful.”

Par-5s

Three par-5s are between 529 and 540 yards from the tips and between 430 and 475 from the white tees and are potentially reachable in two, while the 640-yard 13th is a three-shot hole from all tee boxes. “The Dunes has great par-5s,” Trey said. “Two are reachable, giving you potential eagle opportunities.”

The 529-yard fifth hole turns left around a pair of bunkers and has water fronting a green that slopes sharply to the front and mildly to the left and is also protected by bunkers on all four sides. The 538-yard eighth hole has left bunkers to avoid off the tee and numerous bunkers to avoid on the second shot leading to a small green with deep undulations protected by three more bunkers.

The 13th is dubbed “Waterloo” and curls to the right along Lake Singleton. Players must determine how much they want to cut off on the second shot. The approach shot is uphill to an elevated green that is two-tiered and surrounded by three bunkers. The 540-yard 15th has a pond to the left and bunkers right off the tee, and a very elevated rolling green slopes slightly right and has a large, deep bunker front right.

“The par-5s have lots of character with some risk-reward,” Cory said. “They are great layouts for bunkers and undulating greens.”

Favorite holes

David’s favorite hole was the par-4 11th, which measured 345 yards from the green tee and still required a good drive to get a clear look at the green for the approach. “The hole was very nice and you get a good look near the marsh,” David said.

Trey’s favorite hole was the par-5 fourth hole. “If you hit a good tee ball you have a chance to reach it in two shots,” Trey said. “It’s a great risk-reward hole.”

Cory was partial to the 425-yard first hole, primarily because it kicks off an anticipated round. “It’s a fairway where you look back at the tee with the ocean in the background,” he said.

Least favorite holes

David’s least favorite hole was the 18th, which measured 350 yards from the green tee. “It’s a long hole and you had to hit a great drive,” he said, “if not you had to lay up with water running across the front of the green.”

Trey’s least favorite hole is the par-4 11th. “It does not fit my eye and I have a bad history with that hole,” said Trey, who recalled a round of 71 during the club championship one year in which he made 10 birdies but also an “11” on the 11th and finished runner-up.

Cory found the large depression in front of the par-4 second green to be too extreme. “The big dip in front of the green should be filled in. It’s so steep it’s hard to walk for older folk,” Cory said, “and the bunker short left of the green is too deep to get out of.”

Alan Blondin: 843-626-0284, @alanblondin

Getting There

The Dunes Golf & Beach Club

9000 North Ocean Blvd.

Myrtle Beach, SC 29572

DIRECTIONS: From the center of Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 17 Bus. North past 82nd Parkway and Carolina Opry and veer right at the bend to the left. At the stop sign, turn right and follow to the stop sign and turn left on Ocean Blvd., then follow to The Dunes Club guard gate.

Yardage

Out

In

Total

PAR

36

36

72

GOLD

3700

3670

7370

BLUE

3372

3243

6615

WHITE

3090

3078

6168

GREEN

2885

2905

5790

RED

2609

2701

5310

Details

COURSE OPENED: 1948

COURSE DESIGNERS: Robert Trent Jones

PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Semi-private

PRO SHOP PHONE: 843-449-5914, 1-866-386-3722

WEB SITE: www.thedunesclub.net

GREENS FEE: Ranges from $75-$205

GENERAL MANAGER: Donna Eddington

HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Dennis Nicholl

COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Steve Hamilton

Rules

WALKING: Members only

CARTS: Electric

GREENS: Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass

FAIRWAYS: Bermuda, ryegrass overseed

Facilities

CLUBHOUSE: Pro shop; members’ restaurant; Waterloo snack bar, grill and bar open to all players and including TVs and ocean view porch; guest locker rooms with showers; restrooms; member locker rooms; banquet room.

PRACTICE FACILITY: Full-length driving range with target greens – mats used for irons in winter – practice putting green, practice chipping green with bunker, lessons available.

SPECIAL AMENITY: Club/ball washers on carts, post-round club cleaning

Ratings

COURSE RATINGS: Gold: 76.1, Blue: 72.5, White: 70.6, Green: 68.3, Red: 71.6

SLOPE RATINGS: Gold: 148, Blue: 140, White: 135, Green: 130, Red: 132

Course Ratings

All scores are based on a scale of 1-5.

1-poor; 2-satisfactory; 3-solid/average;

4-very good; 5-the best

 

TA

CM

DM

AB

Avg.

FACILITIES

5

5

5

4.5

4.88

CONDITION

5

5

5

4.5

4.88

AESTHETICS

5

5

5

5

5.00

DIFFICULTY

5

5

4

4.5

4.63

FAIRNESS

4

5

4

4

4.25

PAR 3s

3

5

4

3.5

3.88

PAR 4s

5

5

3

5

4.50

PAR 5s

5

5

3

4

4.25

VALUE

3

3

3

3

3.00

SHOT CREATIVITY

4

5

4

4

4.25

Course Reviewers

Trey Atkinson

Age: 34

Home: Myrtle Beach

Birthplace: Myrtle Beach

Occupation: Real estate developer

Handicap: 3

Tees played: 7,370-yard gold

Highlight: Getting up-and-down for par on the first hole from the grass lip of a greenside bunker on his birthday.

Cory Martin

Age: 32

Home: North Myrtle Beach

Birthplace: Kenosha, Wis.

Occupation: Pro golfer, owner Martin & Sons Roofing

Handicap: N/A

Tees played: 7,370-yard gold

Highlight: A hybrid to 12 feet for birdie on 18 to win a quadruple-or-nothing bet with Trey.

David Medlin

Age: 67

Home: Murrells Inlet

Birthplace: Columbia

Occupation: Retired from Springs Textiles engineering dept.

Handicap: 17

Tees played: 5,790-yard green

Highlight: An 8-iron to 6 feet on the 130-yard par-3 17th hole.

Alan Blondin

Age: 47

Home: Myrtle Beach

Birthplace: Lisbon, Maine

Occupation: Golf writer

Handicap: 13

Tees played: 6,168-yard white

Highlight: Hitting the 150-yard wooden stake with a punch-out attempt on 18 but still managing a bogey.

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