Southern Dunes Golf & Country Club was established in 1993 and was designed in a links-like style where the mounding is meant to emulate the sand dunes which are such a feature of British and Irish links courses. Steve Smyers was the architect of Southern Dunes and he’s used the undulating, sandy, free-draining site to good effect.
Massive traditional sand bunkers and blow-out-styled, tufty waste bunkers do not naturally go hand-in-hand, but they work pretty well here at Southern Dunes alongside the occasional strategic water hazard. The greens are large, well contoured, slick and true, so you’ve only got your trusty putter to blame if you’re having a bad day on these greens.
What you see is what you get. There are no tricks at Southern Dunes, nothing is hidden, and everything is fairly laid out in front of you. But you’ll need to keep your shots in play and hit it long to card a decent score. Southern Dunes is a 7,227-yard monster from the black tees, so put your ego to one side and choose the right tee for your ability otherwise you will experience a torrid time.
Southern Dunes is located a few miles to the south of Orlando, pack your hot putter and your favourite sand wedge for an incredible value golf experience, especially if you bag one of their bargain twilight rates.
I had played Southern Dunes numerous times since it opened and having moved to the Orlando area last year it has become my favorite public access course within a 50 mile radius of Orlando. I play all over the region... this is the one course I never tire of. The fairways are generous and the bunkers are numerous and large. However on most holes there are risk-reward options that provide choices to either play away from or closer to the sand if you dare. With water hazards on only two holes (#5 and #12) it is unlike the "typical Florida course" that is tight with lots of water. It has significant elevation changes, particularly on the back 9, which make it unusual among Florida courses. The greens are fantastic with loads of movement. The greens are what really distinguish Southern Dunes. They have a lot of movement, are usually very fast and they are among the most fun (and sometimes confounding) greens this side of Streamsong. Southern Dunes is usually in fantastic condition. There was a prior review that complained of slow play. Afternoon rounds at any public access course near Disney in the Winter will be slow. I try to play in the mornings when the rounds are typically very well paced. Although the course is in a residential development, the playing corridors are very wide and housing never intrudes. The cart paths do wind through the development between holes 1-4 and between 16 and 17. Other than that the routing is such that teeing areas are close to the preceding green. The course could be walked fairly easily, although walking is a rarity in Florida.
Wow this course was the surprise of a recent trip to Florida that my wife and I took to play some of the courses in the area. It's less than a 30-minute drive from the Orlando/Kissimmee area near the theme parks and well worth the trip down. The entrance is actually a little frightening as you drive through multiple houses with no golf holes in sight. Visions of a golf course winding through a housing development and dodging backyards and OB immediately come to mind. However the course was thoughtfully laid out and architect Steve Smyers did a fantastic job of routing the course. The front nine actually consists of tow counterclockwise loops of holes 1-4 and then 5-9. The back nine is basically one large loop but the holes are angled so that the wind is always coming from a slightly different direction.
This course actually reminds me of many the design characteristics of the so-called minimalist movement that is so popular now. Despite an incredible 182 bunkers, the fairways are actually quite generous and bunkers help to define play, not dominate it. But more remarkable are the fantastic green complexes. There are numerous slopes, false fronts, and subtle drop-offs that put a premium and precise approach shots and excellent judgment around the greens.
Both nines were enjoyable but I thought the back nine the stronger of the two. I liked this course a lot and I will give it a 4 1/2. I think the course is very underrated and deserves a higher ranking.
This review is spot on. Southern Dunes is very underrated and does deserve a higher ranking.
Southern Dunes is a great play if you are on the west side of the Orlando area. It's convenient. It's a good course in nice shape. It has a broad following so play in the prime winter is usually a long slog. Fall and early summer best. Enjoyable day, worth a visit.
Worth the drive. Great conditions, great layout.
A Steve Smyers design it opened in 1993 and was redesigned by Smyers in 2016. From the tips it is long, over 7200 yards. It does have 5 tee options and this course plays hard and fast, to the point where you do not think you can reach a hazard and inevitably your ball rolls in. I was surprise d by how much dirt was moved in the course creation, over 400,000 cubic yards. This creates the illusion you are in the Sand Hills of NC not central Fl. The fairways and the greens are large and there are almost 200 bunkers.
I would not characterize the first hole as welcoming. A straightaway 426-yard (back tees) with bunkers right in the landing area and a Big Ass Bunker left. As there are so many of these, I wil just refer to them as BABs. The 2nd should be an easy hole, bomb it over the bunkers. With a staggered bunker complex, starting about 180 on the left, 200 on the right and then another on the left with a 240 clear, it appears tougher than it is. The 555-yard fourth and the 378-yard fifth have gaggles of bunkers that enter play diagonally On the 4th stay left of these bunkers on your second shot to give you the best approach. The 5th looks like your drive should avoid the bunker cluster right, however, then you must carry the water hazard on the right. I think a better drive favors the left side. The par 3 6th is polarizing. You either love it or hate it. Off the elevated tee there is a large mound on the left side. The green is protected right by a trio of bunkers. The 7th is a long uphill par 4 and is the number one handicap. Dogleg left with bunkers on the inside elbow. I would advise taking an extra club on your approach. The par 4 8th is somewhat a reprieve even though it has 3 BABs. Carry one off the tee, one running the length of your approach on the right and one short left. The 9th looks and is rated harder than it is. Avoid the BAB right and stay left with your second shot to give you a true green light approach.
The back starts with a bang, the longest par 4. There is a bunker complex on the right side and the hole narrows considerably the closer you get to the green. The par 5 12th will be hard to reach in two unless you are a stallion and have no fear of a 200 + yard carry over water. In addition to the water hazard, the 12th has 12 bunkers. The par 3 14th is the shortest of the par 3s, all you have to do is hit the green, pay no attention to all those bunkers. The short par 4 15th may be your best shot at birdie on the way in. Make sure you are short of the bunkers on the right. The par 5 16th has a huge fairway but it also has 3 BABs and a huge mound in front of the green. Play conservative and make sure you hit the right club on your approach. I think this is the most undulating green on the course. What you see is pretty much what you get on 17, straight away with two BABs. This green does not hold as well as the others as it slopes front to back and to the right. The finishing hole is a dogleg right and it should not come as a surprise, but there are a boatload of bunkers protecting a ginormous green.
This is not your typical FL course in that I think there are only 3 holes that have water. When you drive in you may think you are lost as you are going through a commercial and then residential area. Just as you are prepared to give up you should see some golf holes. Also, while there are lots of hoses on the course, the good news is they are well removed from play. Having said that, I never under estimate the high quality of bad golf shots that people are inexplicably capable of hitting. Lastly, be prepared for a lllllloooooooooooonnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggggg round, especially if you are there between December and April. Off-season it is a good value, in season, not so much.
With all due respect, this is not close to a links course