When it opened in 1949, The Dunes Golf and Beach Club immediately put Myrtle Beach on the golf map.
Over the last seven decades, more than 100 golf courses have opened along the Grand Strand, dozens of them designed by the world’s top golf architects and built on spectacular properties filled with pristine wetlands, centuries-old live oaks and ocean views. But the Dunes Club has remained the gold standard, the measuring stick by which all other Myrtle Beach golf courses are judged.
The Dunes Club was built to stand the test of time, and the club’s membership has made sure the layout has stayed ahead of the curve by continuing to keep the finest putting surfaces on the greens and updating and improving playing and practice facilities.
Why has The Dunes Club reigned as the Grand Strand’s most-popular course for more than 65 years? It all starts with three big factors of real estate – location, location, location.
The course is situated on the north end of Myrtle Beach, near the intersection of Highway 17 Business and Bypass. Convenient to the hotels and condos in Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, the course is surrounded by a quiet, upscale neighborhood. Once you approach the gate, you know you’re going someplace special.
Then there’s the course itself, which is what one might expect of a Robert Trent Jones design in an oceanfront setting – tough and spectacular. Many landing areas are uphill, cutting into the distance of tee shots, and the elevated greens, reshaped by Jones’ son Rees for the Senior Tour Championship in 1994, are undulating, smooth, slick and well protected by deep sand bunkers.
In Jones’ trademark fashion, bogeys are within reach, but pars are tough to come by. Heroic options are provided on the par-5s, most notably No. 4 and the signature hole, the par-5 No. 13. Appropriately nicknamed “Waterloo,” No. 13 can stretch to nearly 600 yards from the back tees, and is the John Hancock of the layout. Alligator-filled Lake Singleton extends down the entire right side. Avoid the water on the tee shot and the second shot is a carry over water – at least 150 yards if you want to reach the green in three. A tiered green makes keen accuracy important on the third shot; nobody gets home in two.
Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 18 could serve as the signature holes at many other courses. The par-5 No. 4 is short enough to be reached in two with a good drive over bunkers and an accurate, mid- to long-approach over a lake to a wide but shallow green. No. 9 is a par-3 along the dunes and adjoining beach back to the clubhouse, and No. 12 is a long par-3 over the marsh. At the finishing hole, players must carry or roll over an uphill landing to have a reachable approach over water to a sharply undulating green rolling back toward the water.
No. 11, a long par-4 stretching along marsh, is a great example of The Dunes Club’s constant evolution to stay great. Formerly a short, simple par-4, the hole was transformed into a scenic monster requiring a long, scary carry over marsh to a green sitting at the end of a windy peninsula.
Somehow, despite the marshlands, dunes, oaks and alligators, the Dunes Club manages to maintain a park-like appearance. The fairways, greens, bunkers and tees are immaculately kept. Fox squirrels roam the layout, unfazed by golf carts and the occupants.
Even the practice facilities are top-notch. The driving range was more than doubled in size during a renovation in time for the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship. The practice green is conveniently located only a few steps from the pro shop. The vast clubhouse has spots for various occasions, including multiple dining options with a scenic ocean view.
The Dunes Club has an impressive history that continues to grow. A rainy day in the busy clubhouse was illustrated on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. The Women’s U.S. Open and the Senior Tour Championship were previously contested there, and the USGA announced that its new Women’s Four Ball Championship was coming to the club in 2017.
It’s all farther proof that the historic Dunes Club just keeps getting better with age.