9000 N Ocean Blvd,
South Carolina (SC) 29572,
- +1 843 449 5236
Off North Ocean Blvd - Myrtle Beach
With a member or part of accommodation package
The Myrtle Beach area, known as the “Grand Strand”, is a 70-mile coastal strip of golfing and vacation heaven stretching from Pawleys Island in the south to Brunswick County in the north. Boasting more than 100 golf courses of many styles and price ranges, it is a difficult task to choose the top course on the Strand. However, since its opening in 1948 when the Robert Trent Jones Snr layout was only the second course on the Strand, the Dunes Golf & Beach Club has been at or near the top of every Myrtle Beach golf course list. The Dunes has hosted the Ladies US Open (in 1962) and the PGA Tour “Q-school.”
Although located barely more than a block from the beach and with most holes subject to strong ocean breezes, the style of the course is not seaside or links by any stretch of the imagination. It has woodland, parkland and marshland elements, with the 9th being the only hole where a player catches a glimpse of the Atlantic. Most holes are lined with beautiful old oaks and water comes into play by way of ponds and marshes on more than half the holes. The mostly elevated green complexes are extremely challenging as a result of large and deep Augusta white sand bunkers. Other RTJ trademarks are the runway tee boxes and a generous dose of strategic fairway bunkering, requiring well placed tee shots. Typical of the Jones design philosophy, for the good golfer there are risk-reward options on most holes that can mean easy par if you choose the safer option and difficult birdie – with a risk of much worse – if you choose the riskier option (or for the high handicapper, easy bogey/difficult par.)
The 13th hole, known as Waterloo, is a 590-yard par five in a crescent moon shape along the perimeter of Lake Singleton. A slice or push off the tee (for a right handed golfer) is wet. Any thought of going for the green in two requires a very long tee shot. However, the longer the tee shot, the narrower the fairway becomes. On the other hand, the more conservative the tee shot, the longer the remaining shots will be. Even with a moderately good tee shot, the player is then challenged to cut off as much of the lake as he dares. Bite off more than you can chew and you’re wet. Meet the challenge and a possible birdie awaits.
The course has four outstanding par threes, among them the 12th hole which is all carry over a salt-water marsh. The finishing hole is a beautiful long par four with a green fronted by a pond. On either of these holes a front pin position makes firing at the flag a particularly risky choice.
Since early in the new millennium the club has had Rees Jones and his associate Steve Weisser working alongside long-term superintendent Steve Hamilton on course improvements. Greens have been brought back to their original size, new tees introduced and a state-of-the-art irrigation system installed.
Bunkers have also been reviewed, with Better Billy Bunker liner installed throughout. “Every bunker has been rethought and relocated or rebuilt,” said Rees Jones. “We also carefully evaluated the depths of the bunkers. We’ve taken some fill away and cut them down into the surface.”
The public may play the Dunes only if booked into a limited number of Myrtle Beach accommodations, so plan your trip accordingly. While there you must also play Caledonia Golf & Fish Club located about a 30-minute drive to the South. Figuring out which of the remaining 100 or so courses to play after that will be a fun challenge.
Since I went to college in South Carolina I've had the good fortune in playing The Dunes a number of times over the years. Given the overwhelming number of so-so layouts that call the greater Grand Strand home, The Dunes clearly resonates above them. The style of the course has smartly maintained the core philosophy of architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and the golf experience is enhanced in a big-time way by the overall presentation of the turf.
Years ago, when The Dunes was rated among the Top 100 courses in the USA by Golf Digest the overall bar for competition in the Palmetto State was far lower than it is today. In the years that followed the depth of courses in South Carolina clearly accelerated. Go back 30 years ago and any top ten listing from the State would undoubtedly include The Dunes. That's not the case any longer. By no means is that an indictment of The Dunes being less of a course -- it's a statement that magnifies the array of solid layouts that now have entered the picture.
I concur with the various comments brought to bear by Mark, Doug and Adam, respectively. Each highlighted certain attributes of The Dunes as well as the areas where the course slides downward. For those giving the layout six stars I too have to wonder how many total courses one has played before pronouncing the layout among the global elite.
Certainly, any visit to the greater Myrtle Beach area must include a round at The Dunes. The club exudes a certain character and charm that evades so much of the lifeless golf that pervades the broader area. However, being notable for a given area is not the same as being among the finest in either South Carolina and most clearly the USA.
M. James Ward
I tip my cap to Mark. What a review, I am not worthy.
One needs to lower expectations when heading to Myrtle Beach. It is the fast food restaurant of golf destinations, high volume mediocre quality. The Dunes is the best course that I have played there. All kind of analogies are passing thru my mind, but they would just get me in trouble.
The Dunes Golf and Beach Club is the best course in the greater Myrtle Beach area, consisting of more than 100 nearby courses, of which less than ten are private. It is considered by my “unofficial” polling (asking anyone who has ever been to Myrtle Beach and played it) to be the best golf course in the area. It is deserving of its ranking among the top twenty courses in South Carolina, although whether it stays there remains to be seen as more new courses are built.
It is a fine golf course, with a very nice blend of holes that are difficult as well as offering an opportunity. For me, there is only one hole I did not like on the golf course, which I will comment on later.
Built in 1948 by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and located near the ocean, the difficulty of the course is accentuated by the strength of the sea breezes. Interesting, it is only the ninth hole that offers a view of the water, which has the appearance of a bluish-grey wall off to the right side of the green. However, the course does wrap itself around many marshes and ponds. Water is prevalent on half of the holes, although not always as a strategic element. The course is characterized by a large number of tree lined holes yet with generous fairways. There are numerous elevated greens, manufactured by moving dirt. The higher the green is elevated, the deeper the greenside bunkers. Whether the bunkers are deep or shallower, they are steep faced. Sometimes one wonders how sand can even stay on what appears to be near-vertical faces.
The bunkering is well placed throughout the course. One critique I have is that the back nine has seven holes with at least one bunker at the rear center of the green. It is a bit redundant and unnecessary on some greens where the back to front slope is more severe.
The green contours are excellent, although one hole appears to be overdone. The green surrounds are also well done.
There are six doglegs on the course.
If there is a weakness in the golf course, it is in the par 5’s, with three of them now being on the short side due to changes in technology and one being a quirky hole. This is offset by a good set of par 3’s.
While the course has been both lengthened and modified slightly by Rees Jones and Associates working with the course superintendent, the course is essentially unchanged. It is a course that has stood the test of time. It is also a course considered to be strong enough to host a women’s US Open and for six years a senior pga tour event.
From the Gold tees, the course is a par 72 measuring a substantial 7370 yards, rated 76.0/149. There are not many courses in the USA more difficult than the Dunes. We played the Blue tees at 6615 yards, rated 72.6/142. There are four sets of tees at lesser yardages. The course was slightly wet due to an overnight rain.
1. Par 4 -425/405. While many courses begin with an easier hole, that is not the case here. Teeing off over water that is not in play, there are staggered bunkers left and right on the fairway with the left one having a higher lip likely resulting in a lay-up shot. The green is elevated, providing a taste of what it to come on many holes. There are large, deep bunkers flanking the front.
2. Par 4 – 440/391. This dogleg left has two bunkers on the right side. Trees are thick down the left side yet one wants to hug the tree line as close as possible for the best line into the green. This green is also elevated with flanking bunkers, although not as elevated as the first. The left rear of the green has a fall-off.
3. Par 4 – 452/413. The fairway slopes uphill before plateau roughly 260 yards from the back tee. Longer hitters have a definite advantage here as they can reach the plateau and their ball will roll out. There is a single bunker on the at the point of the plateau. Once again the green is elevated with flanking bunkers at the front. The green has separate tiers to it although not as pronounced as the first two holes. It is one of the better holes on the course with regards to making par.
4. Par 5 – 529/479. This hole has a sharp dogleg left with two large bunkers on the inner corner making them more like a center-line bunker. These are two of the shallower bunkers on the course as evidenced by the long hitter in our group having his ball land short of the bunker and pop out twenty yards on the other side. Longer hitters face a decision to go for the green in two or lay-up short of a fairly wide pond that starts on the left side running all the way across the front of the green. Bigger hitters might even try to cut the corner of the dogleg although there is a collection of trees there. The green has two bunkers on the left and one on the right. There is an upper plateau to this green with a substantial fall-off behind the green.
5. Par 3 – 215/184. This green is elevated with two flanking bunkers at the front although the left one goes down most of the left side. The green has a swale in the front middle which makes any putt coming down the green towards a pin placed there become very speedy. This is a consistent feature of many of the greens whereby there are at least one part of each green where the pace is quicker than the rest due to the severity of the slope.
6. Par 4 – 455/415. This was my favorite hole on the front side, playing uphill to a plateau with a bunker on the left side of the fairway and the second bunker on the right front of the green. The green is elevated with another false front. The contouring of this green is slightly more subtle and our pin placement seemed to be on a small spine with balls going in breaking in different directions based on whether one was above the hole or below.
7. Par 4 – 425/400. There is a bunker on the left that longer hitters ignore. The green has two fronting deep bunkers. There is a mound on the front left and a lower swale that can send balls in different directions or even back off the green.
8. Par 5 – 538/515. This slight dogleg left has one hitting over a pond off the tee that should not be in play if one chooses the right tee for their length. There are two bunkers on the left side but one can play away from them given the width of the hole. The hole gets better as you approach the green with two bunkers about 50 yards short of the green on the left and a single one on the right about twenty five yards short of the green. Fronting the green are two deep bunkers with very steep faces as well as a bunker placed on the left side. The green is another excellent one with good shaping and a fall-off at the rear.
9. The most visually pleasing hole on the course is the ninth, due both to its ‘peek” view of the ocean off the right side of the green as well as the four bunkers fronting another raised green. This is the first hole on the course with a rear central bunker, a feature of many of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. courses. Our longer hitter nearly holed out off the tee. Based on where the ball finished, it certainly appeared as if the ball must have touched some of the hole. There are also substantial fall-offs left and right of the green.
10. Par 4 – 380/340. Bigger hitters have to lay up off the green or hit well left of the pond that comes into play about 230 yards off the tee that bisects most of the fairway. This is the most elevated green on the course, rising up like a small mountain. Any ball hitting the front of the green will likely release back down the hill at the front of the green. There are two bunkers left and one right. There is a final bunker at the rear center. This is one of the steepest and thinnest greens on the golf course sloped back to front. For a short par 4, this is a tricky hole and one should be satisfied with a par.
11. Par 4 – 430/385. This is rated the third hardest hole on the back nine, but for me it is arguably the first or second hardest hole on the golf course. The hole is a dogleg right that wraps around a marsh. Trees go down the right side and a drive must advance far enough to have a shot at the green that sits hard against the marsh on the right side. For those laying up, the marsh cuts deep into the fairway and can be blind if one is short off the tee. There are two fronting bunkers to a thin green at the beginning. The green does not seem to hold balls no matter the height coming in so landing the ball on the front of the green is preferred. There is a swale on the middle right side of the green where a pin placement there must be judged perfectly for pace. It is a devil of a hole.
12. Par 3 – 245/190/168. There are two alternative Gold tees on a hole where the marsh comes into play on most of the right side of the green. Four bunkers surround the green. This is a large green where the right side of the green is thin offering difficult pin locations. The green is sloped back to front. Along with the eleventh, this is one of the rare greens on the course that is not raised.
13. Par 5 – 640/545. This hole is called Waterloo as it becomes one’s “Waterloo.” It wraps itself around Dunes Lake like a semi-circle. For shorter hitters, it plays more like a “V” since they are unlikely to even get to the green in three shots. Trees go down the right side of the fairway and unless one gets beyond them, they have to lay up before trying to cross the pond. In essence the shape of the hole makes the water play down the entirely of the right side. Crossing the pond if one goes down the left side of the fairway could take as much as a 200 yard carry over the water. It is a strange hole. I could accept the quirkiness of the hole if it had a better green. The green is raised with two deep fronting bunkers and another rear center bunker. What I do not like about the green is the vertical spine of nearly two feet separating the left from the right side and a mound that creeps into the right middle. To have a quirky, albeit unique routing to a hole is one thing, but to add an overly contoured green is unnecessary. While longer hitters can now have a chance to reach it in two shots with perhaps two three-metals, for the average player it is simply too much. Sports Illustrated once named it one of the best eighteen holes in the USA. To each their own.
There is an alternative hole that is used when a hole is being renovated. It plays as a par 3 of 205/174 straight downhill with water off the right and a green that slopes to it. The two members said it was one of their favorite holes on the golf course.
14. Par 4 – 450/410. This slight dogleg left plays relatively flat. There is a bunker on the right very much in play off the tee as it pinches into the fairway. The safe play is away from it but that leaves a more difficult shot into the green due to the front bunkers. For the fourth time in five holes, there is also a rear central bunker. The green has various subtle sections to it but is speedier on the right side.
15. Par 5 – 540/500. This hole is straight with a slight rise to it at the beginning. There are two bunkers on the right side off the tee that pinch into the fairway. Another bunker is up the left about 110 yards from the green. The green sits behind a large bunker on the front right and has another raised green with a back to front slope. This is one of the holes where putts on the same line seem to break in different directions.
16. Par 4 – 370/345. The second most scenic hole on the golf course as you play over a pond off the tee with a bunker on the right set inside the line of the fairway. Surrounding the green are seven bunkers making it a visual feast. Balls landing just off the green are likely to come back onto the green. There is a horizontal plateau to the green so anything on the back half of the green putting to a front half pin will have to be perfectly judged to come within three feet. All of us liked this hole.
17. Par 3 – 185/165. The two members felt this is the easiest par 3 on the course. It plays to another elevated green with two large bunkers and a rear central bunker. It certainly is one of the lesser distinctive holes.
18. Par 4 – 430/385. This straight hole is tree-lined on both sides which pinches in the fairway. Bigger hitters need to ensure they do not hit it so far that they catch the downhill slope before a pond that fronts the entirety of the front of the green. The green has a bunker on each side and another central bunker at the rear. The green is sloped sharply back to front. It is a nice finishing hole due to its all-or-nothing design although I do not think it to be amongst the better finishing holes that I have played.
I enjoyed the Dunes course. It offers a lot of challenge. There is one bland hole which is the seventeenth, and the use of rear bunkers on the back nine is redundant and sometimes unnecessary. I do not like the “Waterloo” hole. It does not offer any sense of fun or joy. Perhaps if I played it numerous times I might change my opinion. Those are the only critiques I have of this course. As mentioned, this course has stood the test of time and will continue to do so as it offers a fine mixture of long and short holes, it’s incorporation of water in the routing is very well done, and the green complexes are very good. I am doubtful that many members would ever say they truly know the greens due to the slopes and subtleties. The green surrounds and bunkering are good. It is a course that one would enjoy playing over and over again.
Wow! I thought my reviews are fairly detailed, I now consider myself a Readers Digest Condensed version reviewer. Well done
Worth the surcharge to add to your Myrtle Beach trip! Hosted several Senior Tour Championships and other significant tournaments.
Truthfully, Myrtle Beach does not have the most glamorous reputation as a travel destination. When you hear “Myrtle,” most people probably conjure up hotel-lined beachfront, chain restaurants, and tourist traps. However, the more I visit the area, the more I find charming old eateries, quiet sandy beaches, and real local flavor.
Myrtle Beach’s golf scene follows a similar pattern. While Myrtle Beach has a very high quantity of courses, the quality of golf is thought to be fairly modest, with condos lining tight fairways and small, uninteresting green complexes. Again, though, there are exceptions to the rule. The Dunes Club breaks this stereotype for Myrtle Beach golf, and its architectural interest stands the test of time.
I was fortunate to play the Dunes a few years ago as a guest of a generous member, and the visit did not disappoint. Having learned the game on a Robert Trent Jones original, and having played most of my college golf on another Jones design, I expected the Dunes Club to have naturally flowing fairways, bold green complexes, and tough bunkering throughout. It delivered on all fronts. The Dunes Club captures the lovely, atypical rolling topography of its site beautifully, and using mixed width fairways, Jones created fascinating corridors on the flatter pieces of the property.
The Dunes Club boasts a number of outstanding holes which include:
• #4: A complex, risk-reward par five where players can take one of two routes off the tee. The fairway is wide before making a sharp turn to the left, and one can easily play safe to this area. However, from this wider portion of the fairway, the second shot is difficult, requiring a hard snap hook. The aggressive right-to-left play on the drive can pay off only if the golfer finds an extremely narrow strip of short grass over two menacing traps. To reach the green in two, a player must be able to hit a high, lofted long iron often from a slightly downhill lie.
• #6: Rolling gently over a knoll, players must hit their drives as close to a large bunker guarding the left hand side of this fairway in order to optimize their angle on this long par four.
• #8: Players have tough decision to make on this excellent par five. The fairway is wide for a conservative player both off the tee on the lay-up shot. Aggressive players must avoid a pinched fairway and bunkers left. While a lofted metal shot will be necessary to stick the landing, a collection area is hidden beyond the putting surface and quite frankly, may be a better place to miss. Atypical for a Jones’ course, 40 yards long of this putting surface is arguably better (and easier to achieve) than 40 yards short.
• #9: Opening to the ocean, the long par three 9th is beguiling and complicated due to coastal wind.
• #10: Among the most interesting Jones’ fairways I have encountered, pin placement will dictate strategy at the turn. The initial portion of the fairway is hourglass shaped. The player must navigate wind to choose an exact yardage and side of this oblong shortgrass to provide a strong angle while also avoiding a pond long. Depending on the wind direction and position of the tees, longer hitters may also have a chance to reach a thin piece of fairway beyond the pond. Personally, I think the course should always make this an option, essentially providing three distinct route possibilities day-in and day-out.
• #11: Intricate corridors continue at the 11th as the fairway blossoms into a wide area beyond a bunker left. Playing out to the right provide a much shorter route to the hole, but also can be treacherous with a swamp; aptly played shots to the left can provide a better angle but lengthen an already deep par four.
• #13: The Dunes Club’s crown jewel does not disappoint. With a tapered fairway to start, the more aggressive one is from the tee, the more exacting their drive must be. From there, Jones offers two wider lay-up zones extended into the pond that quite frankly, seem so natural and elegant in person. There are so many risk/reward options on this hole that it could never get old to play.
• #16: From the tee, the player can either choose to play conservatively to a wide fairway, or aggressively by avoiding a bunker right. Surrounded by seven menacing sand traps, this putting surface was my favorite on the course. At this stage in the round, using your last bits of energy to hit such an exacting wedge shot was no easy prospect. (The Dunes Club has an alternate par three that, when in play, makes this the 17th hole)
The Dunes Club, steeped in rich tradition, breaks the stereotypical golf norms on the Grand Strand. Mixed wide/narrow fairways, a demand for a variety of shot-shaping techniques, and thoughtful challenges greet players throughout the round. Perhaps the only disappointing factor is that aerial approaches are required on essentially every single hole. This does not honor the Dunes Club’s firm, seaside links ancestors. With that said, if in the area and choosing where to play, I would strongly encourage anyone to check out Jones’ work on this property. Strategic interest abounds regardless of whether or not holes were laid upon rolling or flat terrain.
Had the pleasure of playing the Dunes in October. Was there for a trip with some buds and we played what we thought were the 5 best in Myrtle Beach. I believe we chose right. The Dunes is a great complex. Staff is very welcoming. The course is in great shape and is very classic. The standard discussion is always around Waterloo. The par 5 which plays around a large pond. As I review the previous ratings I am confused as to why anyone would give this place 6 balls. It is very nice. It is about the 10th best in the state though. It is not 4th best. There are some tremendous courses in SC.
I first visited Myrtle Beach in 2013 and could not play this one as it was changing the greens from bent to bermuda. But after The Masters 2016 I made a trip to Myrtle and finally could experience this Masterpiece. In a sunny and very windy day we arrived to the club just 20 minutes before the tee time and could only hit a couple of putts before teeing off from 10th. When we arrived to the tee our 2 playing partners were both 1 handicappers and wanted to play the Gold Tees (7300 yds) so we did and played a match against them beating the Philly guys 2/1. The course was wet due to some rains the previous days so it played really long, course rating of 76.1 was some strokes higher.
Said all this, this venue is a Masterpiece. Not only in design but also in course shape, greens design, speed (at least 11 in the stimp), trees and service. Put all together and there is no course in Myrtle like this one, not even the other private one. There are some holes that are among the best in the World, specially par 4 11th, par 5 12th and par 4 18th. The 9th hole is a 230yds par 3 from the tips, the downwind helped but into the wind it could be a spoon or even a driver. I would not compare it to private venues as Winged Foot or Oak Hill which I have played before, but Dunes is among the best public courses in USA and a must play in the Myrtle Beach area, I should even recommend it to be played twice in a vacation.