Course review: The Dunes
Consistently ranked among the top 100 golf courses in the United States, the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is a classic Robert Trent Jones design, with his signature elevated greens and deep bunkers. While the front nine meanders through mature oaks and pines, tidal marshes and Lake Singleton frame many of the holes on the back nine.
The Dunes, along with Grande Dunes Resort Club, will present a formidable challenge to the participants in the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship, to be held June 22-25. Players will tackle each course once over the first two days, with the Dunes hosting the final two rounds.
GETTING THERE: Myrtle Beach International Airport is served by several major airlines, including Delta, United, Southwest and U.S. Air. From I-95, it's about a 90-minute drive to Myrtle Beach on U.S. 501.
ABOUT THE COURSE: Robert Trent Jones was still in the process of making a name for himself when he was asked to design a seaside course by a group of Myrtle Beach citizens just after World War II.
"It was built in 1948 by Robert Trent Jones," Dunes Golf and Beach Club head golf professional Dennis Nicholl said. "It was one of his first major designs. They did what’s now known as the back nine in 1949, and the front nine in 1950. This course kind of put him on the map as one of the premiere architects. This club has a lot of history with him."
The Dunes has hosted several major events, including the U.S. Women's Open, PGA Tour qualifying, Champions Tour events, the Carolina Open and South Amateur. The course has been updated several times since the original design. Jones changed five of the holes in the mid-1970s, and son Rees Jones was instrumental in updating the course to its current 7,400-yard configuration. The Dunes has a course rating of 76.1 and a slope rating of 148.
"Over time, we’ve had a few renovations here and there," Nicholl said. "We had Rees Jones here last summer and we switched from bentgrass to the champion Bermuda grass, added some new tees and stretched it out to almost 7,400 yards. We think it’ll be a huge test for these players to come in here and play the typical elevated Robert Trent Jones greens."
MEMORABLE HOLES: No discussion of the Dunes is complete without mentioning Waterloo, one of the most celebrated holes in golf. It's a supreme test of length and accuracy, Nicholl said.
"Waterloo is our 13th hole, which is a 640-yard par 5," he said. "It wraps around Lake Singleton, with a two-tiered green surrounded by bunkers. So it’s definitely a challenge. I think there will be a lot of talk about that hole."
Another hole to watch is the finishing hole.
"The 18th hole is a massive par-4, 440-yard hole," Nicholl said. "That second shot into the green there will be a lot of fun, watching that front pin location on the final day.
"The typical prevailing wind pattern for the summertime is from the ocean, so the 18th is playing dead into the wind usually. But in the summertime, with the heat and humidity, it helps the players in one way, but hurts them in another when they’re hitting into it."
WHAT TO DO WHILE YOU'RE THERE: If you can't find something to do in Myrtle Beach, you're not trying hard enough. Just check out VisitMyrtleBeach.com for a few suggestions.
"Obviously, the beach is the No. 1 attraction for anybody coming here," Nicholl said. "That’ll be the focus, and in the summertime, all the hotels are full – we call it ‘kids with sand buckets’ time. At night time, we have the Broadway at the Beach, the Market Common, the theme parks, race tracks, water parks, all those things that anybody of any age would want to do."
If you're looking for entertainment, there are a number of shows and dinner theaters.
"There’s the Carolina Opry and Alabama Theater and the Pirate’s Voyage dinner show," Nicholl said. "There are shows for everybody, and something for everybody to do."
Hungry? Good, because you won't run out of choices any time soon, according to Nicholl.
"Over the Grand Strand, which stretches 60 miles, at last count there were over 1,400 restaurants," he said. "That means you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at a different place every day for the whole year and never eat at the same place.
"There’s a lot of options out there, like the theme restaurants are at the major attractions, or at Murrell’s Inlet, where you can sit out on a deck and watch the Atlantic Ocean and enjoy some Southern hospitality."
Oh, and don't forget the golf. There's plenty of it at Myrtle Beach. Nicholl is chairman of GolfHoliday.com, which represents 88 golf courses in the area.
"I think what’s going to shock people when they see the tournament on television is that we really do have quality golf here," Nicholl said. "Myrtle Beach has always been known in the past as sort of a discount place to go. But it’s changed over the past 20 years or so. There’s a lot of great golf out there."
In addition to the Dunes, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club is always highly ranked as a go-to golf destination, along with the four courses at Barefoot Resort. But there's a course nearby for every budget and skill level, Nicholl said.
"There’s a golf course for everybody here, from the very affordable where you can walk on and go out and play nine holes to the top-of-the-line resort destinations," he said.
KEY COURSE DETAILS:
Address: 9000 N. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29572-4424
Phone: (843) 449-5914
PGA of America Championships
Benton Harbor, Mich.
Sahalee Country Club
Baltusrol Golf Club
Hazeltine National Golf Club