Prairie Dunes - Kansas - USA

Prairie Dunes Country Club,
4812 E 30th Ave,
Hutchinson,
Kansas (KS) 67502,
USA


  • +1 620 662 0581

  • Randy Hunt

  • Perry Maxwell

  • John Lanham


Prairie Dunes Country Club is an inland links jewel, which is set in the heart of America. The inland Kansas location is about as far away from the sea as you could possibly be but the course has many characteristics of a classic seaside links.

The course, or at least 9 holes, opened for play in 1937 and Perry Maxwell laid them out. Maxwell believed absolutely that “the golf course should be there, not brought there,” and he surveyed the 480-acre site day after day for weeks before making any decision on the routing. Perry’s son, James Press Maxwell extended the course to 18 holes in 1956.

Naturally, the end result is a course that is natural, and although there’s no salty taste of the sea on your lips, there’s everything else that is essential to make a perfect day’s golf. First of all there is sand and sand to spare, secondly there is the ever present Kansas wind – the energy from which is being harnessed liberally across the state – thirdly the land pitches and rolls in a delightful seaside style and fourthly the holes are designed in a thoughtful, cunning and strategic fashion. The sum of this is pure golfing heaven.

Writing in Tom Doak's Little Red Book of Golf Course Architecture, the author commented as follows: "What makes Prairie Dunes special is the severity of the greens and the wonderful choice of green sites. Interestingly there are a lot of uphill approach shots, which a lot of people don't love and some don't like about my own work, but those green sites are what makes the course challenging. It's also a special place in terms of atmosphere... it takes some effort to get there, but they are always so hospitable to people who have made the trip to see them, and they are really humble about what a good course it is because they aren't there to impress anybody, they are there to enjoy it themselves."

Prairie Dunes is a private club and casual green fees are not accepted. If you want to experience this stunning inland links course and you are willing to make the long journey to Hutchinson Kansas, we suggest you ask your home club to prepare a letter of introduction. Who knows you might find yourself teeing it up at the 1st “Carey Lane”.

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Description: Prairie Dunes Country Club is an inland links jewel, which is set in the heart of America. The inland Kansas location is about as far away from the sea as you could possibly be but the course has many characteristics of a classic seaside links. Rating: 5.4 out of 6 Reviews: 8

The scorecard at Prairie Dunes says the course is a Perry Maxwell Masterpiece and I would have to fully agree. Ben Crenshaw, the designer of Sand Hills has said of Prairie Dunes, "this is golf on the first order." Jack Nicklaus called it the Pine Valley of the West. I was lucky to play Prairie Dunes on a nice day and with a two-club wind, which is enough for you to get a good feel for how the course should play, without being overbearing. The greens almost all have at least two tiers so placement of your ball on the correct spot on the green is of paramount importance.

I can see the similarities in the two Perry Maxwell designs - lots of sharp doglegs and intelligent use of the terrain, particularly the uphill shots required into the greens. In almost no instance on the course is your shot to the green a level approach. Maxwell also took a minimalist approach to fairway bunkers which works out very well since the rough is quite penal and you don't need additional hazards.

Two holes in particular are truly world class - the 8th hole, which is the #1 handicap hole is a 430-yard dogleg right that plays uphill all the way. The feature that makes it unique are the massive ripples in the fairway that look like waves coming in from the ocean.

The 12th hole is a 390-yard par four where you hit your tee shot from an elevated tee to a fairway below. The strategy of the hole comes from two large cottonwood trees that are on either side of the fairway about 75 yards from the hole. These force you to either lay well back off the tee and then hit a high shot over them to the green or more typically to have to hit a low trajectory shot to a well-protected and difficult green.

Although it is a difficult to get to course, it is easily worth the journey and rewarding to visit.

John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs

5 / 6
Prairie Dunes
November 22, 2016


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Prairie Dunes, designed by Perry Maxwell in 1937, is a Scottish style course with hardly any trees and lots of trouble. God forbid they should put up a few trees to protect you from the wind. There are basically two velocities of wind here; windy and windier. On that rare occasion of calm, this would not be a very difficult golf course, so how difficult with wind you ask? Jack Nicklaus, in eight appearances here, never broke par. Sam Sneed, after his first look at the narrow fairway on Number 1, turned to the gallery and said. “Okay, folks, we’ll have to walk single file today.”

I bogeyed Number 1 and made a 60-foot putt for par on Number 2. Number 8 was picked by Sports Illustrated for its “Best 18 Holes in America.” I got a double bogey. On Number 9, Jack Nicklaus once scored an 8, and I actually beat Jack Nicklaus on that hole. Wait till I tell him. Number 11 is a 442-yard downwind par 4. I am not a big hitter, but I was a 9-iron away. According to the yardage book, “The approach shot must negotiate a knob in front of the green that is specifically designed to prevent roll-up shots.” I hit my 9-iron high and short in front of that knob. The wind was so strong that my ball went up and over that knob onto and off the back of the green. Now that’s windy. Larry Berle.
3 / 6
Prairie Dunes
October 14, 2014


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Keith Baxter
October 14, 2014
The above review is an edited extract from A Golfer’s Dream, which has been reproduced with the author’s kind permission. A Golfer’s Dream, by Larry Berle, tells the story of how a regular guy conquered America’s Top 100 Golf Courses (following Golf Digest’s 2001/2002 list). Larry has exclusively rated for us every course in the hundred, using our golf ball rating system. However, Larry did not rate the 100 courses against every golf course he has played, but instead he rated them in relation to each other within the hundred. Consequently, in some cases, his rating may seem rather low. A Golfer’s Dream is available in Kindle format and also on Kindle Unlimited via Amazon... click the link for more. 
It's so good I would move there to play it everyday (if it were in a better locale). Must play before you die.
6 / 6
Prairie Dunes
October 27, 2011


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Since I moved to Kansas with work nearly two years ago I have hoped to be lucky enough to play golf at Prairie Dunes. A call to the club manager last autumn suggested that it would be possible, even without an introduction. Unfortunately, when I called him back a month ago, as he had instructed me to do, his message changed: club policy precludes golfers from playing without an introduction from a member. This is my serious gripe with golf in the USA. It seems contradictory that such an egalitarian society guards its privacy (as a sign of wealth and status) so jealously. However, thankfully an acquaintance of mine knows a member who turned out to be extremely generous and offered to sponsor me: a complete stranger. An email or two later I was booked in to play!

After a 0430 alarm call from my 14-month-old daughter, I started out on my four-hour drive from my home in NE Kansas; my pilgrimage to Hutchinson, Kansas began. Hutch, as the locals call the town, is pretty quiet: a typical mid-western agricultural small town. The area is generally disparaged by people from both coasts, but is full of really genuine good folk: People without pretense and who welcome in strangers with interest and generosity. I arrived at the club at 0900 excited and ready to get going.

The course is sensational and fully deserving of its place in the top 25 in the world. There is not a weak hole out there; but there are some that stand out from the rest. I enjoyed the first four holes enormously, the par 4 first offers a generous landing area but you must be long enough to get a look at the green, hidden behind a dune on the left. The hole toughens up as you advance towards the raised green which is protected by a bunker right and a swale left. The putting surface is treacherous and a foreboding sign of things to come: big undulations and remarkably quick - even though the last signs of a stiff Kansas winter only passed 2-3 weeks ago. I advise any golfer to spend at least 20 mins on the practice green before starting their round!

The second, a 160-yard (gold/championship tees) par 3, is up hill to a tiny green with a gapping bunker in front and bunkers and the local rough behind. This rough is ever-present on this course, lurking and ready to swallow any wayward shots. It is more than a simple hazard! It must be avoided at all costs: thick fescue, plum thickets and the local yucca plants conspire to severely punish any errant golf shot. After a short climb up some steps to the 3rd tee box the front nine is displayed like a model display, even if you don't play from the gold tees do go up to the tee to take some photos and see the lay of the land. The tee shot, when you get to it, is extremely intimidating especially in to a stiff northerly wind as I faced yesterday. Just such a great hole. The fourth, another uphill par 3 plays a club longer and again anything missing the green will present a difficult 'up and down.'

The next great hole is the 8th. It is one of the greatest par fours on planet earth. Fact. A 470-yard dog leg right with a fairway that looks like an tempestuous ocean; four rolling dunes, which get bigger and bigger, take you to the corner of the hole at about 300 yards from the back tee. The approach shot is to another small raised green with trouble both left and right. I made bogey...and it felt like a birdie!

After a quick stop in the delightful clubhouse, full of welcoming staff and friendly members, to refill my water bottle, I stepped out onto the 10th tee. Wow! In front of the dining room, where members and their guests watch through the large windows, it is one of the most intimidating par threes I have ever played. In part due it is due to the clubhouse being so close behind and also because yesterday it was into the teeth of the wind but mainly because visually it is such a good ones shot hole. Regardless of the double bogey I recorded on my card, I still rate it as one of the best par 3s I have ever had the privilege of playing. I agree with Perry Maxwell, the course designer, "It is the best par three in all America." Bold statement. Difficult to dismiss.

The 12th is another fabulous par 4, after driving from a raised tee the approach is to a green protected by two cottonwood trees standing like sentinels 70-yards short of the green. Only a well thought through strategy has any chance of offering up a par or better. The 14th is a great risk/reward hole: a short par four at which you bite off as much corner as you dare. The green is treacherous with a four-foot high ridge running across the center. Ball control is everything for a back pin position. The 15th is a 200-yard par three called 'The Chute'. An apt name considering the tee shot must be hit through a narrow gap in a range of cottonwood trees. The last hole of note is the 17th, a short par five(530-yards) which demands that after a well struck drive the golfer attempt to get on in two. But, a small green and buckets of trouble suggest that a lay-up be the more prudent approach. I leave it to you to make up your own mind on the day!

I loved Prairie Dunes and consider myself extremely lucky to have played there. The course is tough, really tough, and is made infinitely harder by the Midwestern wind that sweeps across the area. Yesterday it blew at 25mph and gusted 10mph faster. I suspect that it is nothing in these parts! But for me it meant that I played the course 10 shots over my handicap; and I felt I played pretty damn well! If ever you get the chance, you must go. MUST. It will be a trip you will remember for a long time.

For what it’s worth I think that this is a better course and club than Sand Hills, I never thought I'd say that after I stayed there last year. The only thing Sand Hills does better is allow a repeat round at no extra expense. Prairie Dunes unfortunately want yet more money (after an already substantial green fee) for another 18 holes. I was priced out of the market. None-the-less, I think that this course should be rated higher than the 25th position it finds itself in the latest Golf Digest rankings. In fact I think that Prairie Dunes and Sand Hills should swap places.
6 / 6
Prairie Dunes
March 20, 2011


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If it were not for the hardwood trees, particular the beautiful Cottonwoods, one could easliy imagine that one of the great links courses of the UK or Ireland had been lifted and dropped in Hutchison, KS. This is a truly great American course. We found the condition top notch and the service friendly and efficient (although each of our two groups found the fore caddies somewhat lacking in energy). Each hole is different, and I don't think there is a bad hole on the course. Without going through all of them, the beginning lets you know you're in for a tough but wonderful day. The first, a dog leg left to a difficult green, is a bear. The second, a par three, with the green huddled in among the sand hills is as difficult as it is beautiful. And there is no letdown from there. I urge anyone who can to make arrangements to play Prarie Dunes. It's an American golf treasure.
6 / 6
Prairie Dunes
May 18, 2010


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great golf course that demands accuracy off of the tees. Can play very differently from day to day due to the winds.
6 / 6
Prairie Dunes
February 15, 2010


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This club and course is so good that only God could have dreamed this place up in America! Designed much like a European Links this course P.Dunes is as jaw dropping visually as well as in difficulty. The terrain is so good it rivals Cypress Point and surpasses Pebble Beach as far as judging just the land. (A body of water, views or conditioning should never make or break a design only be icing on the cake). A must play before you die, take your camera, hire a caddie, and play with a teaching pro. You will need all of your A game to manage this USGA venue. This club is all about tradition, class and masterful golf design.
6 / 6
Prairie Dunes
December 30, 2008


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With no weak holes, Prairie Dunes could potentially claim to rival one of the true British Open Championship links courses but without the sea, the maritime winds and the fine fescue grass it’s is never going to really compete on the same ball park. Nevertheless, the golf is good and the setting quite beautiful and it’s certainly worthy of perseverance to get a game here. We enjoyed it immensely and make sure you have you’re “A” game intact if you plan to card a score.
5 / 6
Prairie Dunes
October 27, 2006


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jay
February 20, 2008
I played 72 holes in 2 days in summer of 07 and the course was set up with 10 yards of rough then....death. 4 foot tall native grass. 3 of the 4 rounds the winds were between 15-30 miles per hour. On the "short" uphill par 5 17th(520) I had pure driver, pure 3 wood, pure 5 wood to the green. On any other 520 hole that would be pure driver, pure 5 wood but the dead in the face wind blowing from the back of the green added 200 plus to the hole. Greens were ultra hard and if you can shoot your number there you have accomplished a lot. Expect to shoot 5-10 shots over your normal number, and if you are not very good..stay at the pool cause you will lose 40 golf balls. AWESOME COURSE