The Dunes Club is located near the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. The tiny, sandy 60-acre plot was reputably bought by Mike Keiser to stop other developers building on the site. Keiser – who made his fortune in recycled greeting cards – is also the man who founded Bandon Dunes in Oregon so the Dunes theme actually started here in Michigan, seven years before the burgeoning Beaver State resort opened for play.
Dubbed as the “Pine Valley of the Midwest” and “the best nine-hole course anywhere”, the Dunes Club is certainly one of the world’s finest nine-holers, designed by Chicago-based architect Dick Nugent in 1992. With Pine Valley-like waste areas, stunning tee to green conditioning and dramatic bunkering, the “walking only” Dunes Club is an American rarity.
The 513-yard 8th is rightly regarded as the best hole on the scorecard but, in truth, there is not a weak hole on a course where all the par fours are less than 400 yards in length. Such is the informality at the Dunes Club, there are no markers on any of the tee boxes so golfers are given the freedom of choosing the length of tee shot that best suits their own individual game.
In the book The Finest Nines by Anthony Pioppi, the author introduces the Dunes Club chapter thus:
“When the Dunes Club opened in 1990, not far from the shore of Lake Michigan, there was barely a ripple in the golf course architecture world even though what Dick Nugent designed was easily the best nine-hole layout built in the modern era.
“Back then, though, the owner of the course had not changed the world of golf. That would not occur until 1999, the year that Mike Keiser’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern coast of Oregon with the David McLay Kidd design opened.
“As more eyes turned toward Bandon, The Dunes Club was finally recognized and given its due as one of the finest nine-hole golf courses in North America. The course remained relatively unchanged until 2016 when Jim Urbina made substantial modifications to the layout, especially on and around the greens.
“Urbina said his focus for the renovation was to add some variety to the greens, as four of the originals had two tiers with the back always the higher one. He also reworked fill pads and green surrounds, removing severe features so the ground game became more of an option.
“Fairway and approach mowing lines were altered, and Urbina called for the removal of trees and undergrowth to increase sunlight and airflow throughout the nine holes (and he) performed alterations on nearly every one of the holes.”