University Park Country Club

University Park Country Club

University Park Country Club

Within the gates of University Park Country Club in Sarasota FL sits 27 holes of championship golf that will test even the best of players. Each layout was designed by Ron Garl and can be played in 3 different combinations, offering members a wide variety of golf holes.

University Park opened in 1996 and has been rated 4-stars by Golf Digest in their Places to Play. This semi-private facility offers both memberships and daily fee rates, so it is accessible to anyone who wants to accept the challenge.

A community that was once referred to by the Association of Home Builders as the “Best Community Design in America” deserves a great golf course and Garl certainly delivers. Garl used whatever the topography of the land gave him and carved a beautiful golf course from the woodlands and natural habitat. Many of the holes feature fairways lined with trees and natural Florida vegetation and only a couple do not offer wide, ample landing areas off the tee. Although water is visible on a number of holes, it really only comes into play on 12 or so. Some holes require an easy forced carry over water or wetlands that shouldn’t pose a problem to any golfer – provided you’re playing the right set of tees.

Rather than having catchy or symbolic names, the holes are simply numbered 1–9, 10-18 and 19-27. Each nine presents its own unique set of challenges.

University Park Country Club

Holes 1-9

From the back (Diamond) tees, Holes 1-9 play 3,548 yards. Most golfers will be amply challenged from the Platinum tees (3,023 yards), while the ladies’ yardage is 2,394 yards. Number 2 is a par 5 that will be reachable in two for many players and can help get a good round off to a quick start. It requires a precise approach shot to a narrow green protected on the left by water, and with the green set on an angle, you may need one extra club to reach a back pin placement.

It’s not often that bogey can be considered a good score, but it is on Number 3, the layout’s #1 handicapped hole. It’s a dogleg right that slopes to the right, so unless you know you have the length, cutting the dogleg is not a good idea; that is unless you enjoy hunting for golf balls. A good line off the tee is the fairway bunker on the left with a little bit of a fade. Almost 93% of the players out here do not hit number 2 green on their second shot, so be prepared to go for an up and down to save par.

The par 3, number 5 is University Park’s signature hole and at only 140 yards from the Platinum tees, it provides many with a fitting challenge. You may want to consider hitting one extra club off the tee in an effort to clear the front bunker that sees a lot of play. Long is better than short!

University Park Country Club

Holes 10-18

Holes 10-18 are roughly the same length as 1-9 (3,456 from the Diamond, 3,072 from the Platinum and 2,481 for then ladies), with water factoring into the equation on all but two holes (13 and 14). This side starts out with a somewhat short par 4 – 342 yards from the Platinum tees – but don’t let that fool you. Although the fairway opens up to the right just past the trees, there’s a pond lurking over there. If you can favor the left side off the tee, you’ll be left with a medium to short iron into a wide green. With the green sloping form back to front, try to keep your approach shot below the pin to have the best shot at birdie.

The two finishing holes on this side really set this nine apart. Number 17 is the #1 handicapped hole and, at only 359 yards from the Platinum tees, requires an extremely accurate tee shot to a very narrow landing area with water on the right. An extra club might be the right call on your approach shot; it plays slightly uphill and is fronted by a beautiful – yet treacherous – bunker.

University Park Country Club

Number 18 (379 yards, Platinum Tees) has always been one of my favorites out here and I have yet to master it. There’s water on the right side off the tee and trust me, it is reachable. Shorter right off the tee and you’re in the fairway bunker. From here you’ll need to carry not only the water but also navigate around or over a couple of trees, all from the sand. Good luck! The left side is no bargain either as a cluster of bunkers await errantly hit shots. Find the fairway off the tee and your chances to score well here increase dramatically. There’s a large trap that guards the right side of the green, which is open in the front left. A word of warning on your approach shot: long and left Is death!

Holes 19-27

Holes 19-27 play slightly longer than the other two nines (3,151 yards from the Platinum Tees, 2,468 for the ladies). Number 21 (384 yards from the Platinum Tees) is yet another hole at University Park that requires accuracy off the tee. Even a good drive is going to leave a long second shot that needs to be struck crisply. When in doubt, aim for the left side of the green; if you come up short, you’ll still have a good chance at up and down to salvage par.

Hole Number 26 is a challenging par 5. Although water doesn’t – or at least shouldn’t -come into play, what it lacks in water, it makes up for in sand. You’ll need to avoid the fairway bunkers on the right off the tee; longball hitters may have an opportunity to go for the green in two. If you find yourself having to layup, there’s a series of three bunkers about 100 yards short of the green in the middle of the fairway. The green is best approached from the left side. For those trying to reach in two, take dead aim straight over the fairway bunkers.

The final hole is the shortest par 4 on the course. Playing a mere 330 yards from the Platinum Tees, a well struck tee shot over the first fairway bunker on the left will leave a short iron or wedge into one of the course’s smallest greens. It’s a great opportunity to end your round on a positive note.

University Park Country Club

Last Word: University Park Country Club offer six sets of tees, so that anyone – regardless of their skill level – can enjoy the course. There’s a large, full-length driving range where players can hit every club in their bag, a great short game area and a large practice green where you can groove your putting stroke before heading out on the course. Inside the clubhouse, University Park’s pro shop is stocked with all of your favorite logoed golf apparel from designers such as Fairway & Green, Tehama, Cutter and Buck and Jamie Sadock, as well as equipment from some of the biggest brands in the game. You’ll find them competitively priced with the big box retailers.

Another thing that sets University Park apart is their culinary staff. Executive Chef Roger Turtch has plenty of experience at high end private country clubs and his highly trained team uses only the freshest ingredients, prime meats, fish and poultry to create dining experiences unlike anything you’ve had before. Club members and visitors to the facility are invited to enjoy lunch at The Park Grille & Café, Monday – Saturday between 11:30 am and 2:30 pm. Their vast menu includes mouthwatering burgers and sandwiches, homemade soups and gourmet salads that are anything but typical. Dinner is reserved for members and their guests.

It’s often been said that membership has its privileges and University Park Country Club is no exception. They offer 30, 60 and 90 Day Trial memberships for those who are interested in giving the country club lifestyle at University Park Country Club a try. These memberships are available for full memberships, Tennis & Fitness and dining. You are limited to one time, kind of a try before you buy.

Another popular membership is the Summer Golf Membership which starts at just $500 for the entire summer. Just pay cart fee and you’re on your way. It’s another great way to introduce yourself to the club and at the same time meet some new friends.

If everything goes as it should, either of these programs will lead to an Annual Membership, which gives unlimited access to all University Park has to offer. Annual memberships are available in seven classes, just call Ann Backus, Membership Director for more information at 941-355-3888 ext.234. You can also visit them online at

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

A Mammoth Stroll with David McLay Kidd

A Mammoth Stroll with David McLay Kidd

David McLay Kidd

Since you’re here, we can safely assume that you have an appreciation for golf course design. If you’re not aware of the name David McLay-Kidd, then you have a lot to catch up on, Google him and his course designs. Next, go book a round on one of his courses. Bandon Dunes, Gamble Sands, or Sand Valley’s Mammoth Dunes, just get it done – you can thank me later.

David McLay Kidd

The son of Scottish golf course superintendent Jimmy Kidd, David grew up on some of the finest terra firma that the British Isles have to offer. Now 50, David McLay-Kidd has become one of the absolute masters of golf course architecture.

His impressive resume of course designs includes the course that may have had the biggest impact on American golfers in our lifetime – the original course at Bandon Dunes. Kidd’s catalog of notable designs is vast and includes such names as Tetherow in Oregon, Queenwood in west London and most recently Gamble Sands that overlooks the Columbia River along the high desert of north central Washington.

David McLay Kidd

Click here to read a feature on Gamble Sands from our friends at Linksnation


David McLay Kidd

14th on DMK’s Tetherow course in Bend, Oregon

We caught up with DMK during our visit to the Badger state earlier this summer and then for a follow up (via phone) just a few days ago (Aug.18th) as he was driving back towards Wisconsin after a day spent at Chicago Golf Club with Mike Keiser, Tom Shapland and Brad Kinsey (President of Chicago Golf Club).

During our visit to Sand Valley, six holes on Kidd’s new Mammoth Dunes course were open for preview play (just this past week it was announced that 9 holes were now open) and Kidd took the role as tour guide and caddie as we discussed his work on what is the second course at Sand Valley, and a bit about many subjects including Bandon, what he learned from Tom Watson and an epiphany that has changed everything for DMK design . . .

Golf Life: Before we really dig into Sand Valley, and since this is our first meeting in person, I’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the phenomenon of Bandon and the inspiration it has been to so many, including myself. On behalf of linksters and course design enthusiasts everywhere – Thank You, most notably for the 16th hole, which is a magnificent design in the ideal setting, truly a spiritual experience. So a big tip of the hat for what you were able to do there.

David McLay Kidd

Bandon Dunes 16th

McLay-Kidd: It’s cool looking back at it 20 years later, I’m 50 this year. Mike hired me when I was 26, the course opened when I was 30.

GL: How did that come about?

DMK: He (Mike Keiser) wanted to build a British links course. So after lots of chatting with lots of American designers he went out and sought a British designer. He wanted someone that was unaffected by the Americanism of golf, he wanted someone who was so steeped in the tradition of the game that they really didn’t have any other knowledge other than that. When Mike looked at my pedigree, I really didn’t have one. My pedigree was only playing golf in the UK.

GL: Did he know your Dad (Jimmy Kidd) ?

DMK: Yeah he did, he and my Dad are the same age (within two days of each other). It handily influenced him, my Dad is a superintendent. My Dad and Mike would speak plainly and between the two of them Mike saw me as the younger more bullish version of my father. Somewhere in there he saw potential that nobody else including I could have seen. And so he hired me and I did what I only knew. I didn’t know anything else, I didn’t know how to create Tom Fazio bunkers, I didn’t know how to put Pete Dye artifices in. All I knew was I spent my whole life playing these old courses in the British isles and so I did what I knew. When everybody in the U.S Ooo-ed and Ahh-ed about Bandon, to me it was like every other course I had played like Machrihanish, Carnoustie or bits of North Berwick or Gullane or any course I played as a kid. Why so much hoopla? If you took Bandon Dunes and parked it on the west coast of Ireland it would be another great course on the west coast of Ireland. It wouldn’t be the only one. On the west coast of the United States, it was the only one. Nothing else like it, and still nothing even close . . .

GL: Poa has krept into the greens at Bandon now, with an exception of Old Mac. Is that just the way it’s going to be, and what are the green surfaces here – Bent?

DMK: It’s the way it’s gonna be, that climate is so temperate, so damp, there’s no way of avoiding it. It’s about a 10 year window, they were all mint fescue at one point.

We had long conversations about the greens here (at Sand Valley), I certainly debated it with Mike, I’m not sure that Mike ever really debated it himself. He just said early on that it was going to bent grass.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Linksters enjoy the setting and the food at Sand Valley’s Mammoth Terrace

GL: Tell me about this particular parcel of the property that you’ve created Mammoth Dunes on. You’re right up front here at the clubhouse as opposed to Coore Crenshaw’s layout that is a bit more remote here at the resort, how did that come to be?

DMK: When I did the original master plan for this (Mammoth Dunes), I wanted this spot, as a golf aficianado yourself, I would suggest – and these are my words alone – that Tom Doak and Coore Crenshaw probably want that remoteness, as where I gravitated towards the mothership. I wanted to get to open the doors to all the visitors the way that I did at Bandon. I wanted to do the same thing for Mike (Keiser) here.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

GL: We are standing here on the first tee at Mammoth Dunes, where did the name come from?

DMK: It was just announced about a month ago (May), it came from Mike. Certainly the scale of what we’re building and the size of the dunes – that dune on your right is 80 feet tall. So the title Mammoth Dunes came from the scale of the sand dunes. (He points over to another massive dune in the distance that is so big that the large piece of land moving equipment looks like a matchbox car on a mountain side).

GL: What I see out there, was this all existing here before?

DMK: This golf course we moved almost nothing. That abyss through the middle here, we took that down a few feet and used the material to build the clubhouse pad, that’s the only dirt on the whole golf course that we moved. Every other piece that you’re gonna see on these six holes hasn’t been moved other then being pushed with a dozier a few yards here and there, but nothing moved.

From this point on it’s no longer a typical Q & A, it’s David and I walking his six hole preview of Mammoth Dunes. He is describing his thoughts during the design process and how he thinks they should best be played . . .

The first at Sand Valley’s Mammoth Dunes

DMK: Ok, here we are on the first tee. I love to be contrarian. So for every golfer that stares down the first hole of a golf course, they always want to hit it down the middle right? Well the one place I don’t want you to hit it here is down the middle, pick a side I don’t care which one, but pick a side. As long as you don’t hit it down the middle you’re good here. It might be the only opening hole in golf where down the middle is the bad place to go. (I of course picked the right side, and pulled it slightly onto the left part of the fairway, and in typical Kidd fashion he says – that’ll work, don’t even explain it)

Earlier today we were back there (he points in the distance) working on the fairway on fourteen, and on the other side of that is the tenth green. About 200 yards on the other side is what were working on right now. I’m trying to build a hole that I’ve never tried to build before – It’s a dogleg left, but on a straight line it’s a 280 yard par 4, so if you saw that on a scorecard you would assume that it’s drivable right? I’m going to set it up so it’s pretty much impossible to drive it.

GL: You said 16 at Bandon was never designed to be driveable, and yet I’ve attempted to drive it everytime I’ve played it.

DMK: It never was, the green is totally not set up for that shot.

GL: Very True, but the solution to that is to hit it just left of the green pin high and pitch or chip it on – unless the pin is tucked over that perfectly placed pot bunker you put there. . .

So when is the target date for the grand opening here on Mammoth Dunes?

DMK: Probably July 1 as a formal opening, with preview play starting in mid- May but with restricted numbers. Even now I think they’re only going to allow 50 people a day out here.

GL: How long have these six holes been finished?

DMK: These were all done last year, they were grassed in last September. This first hole is 375 yards, if you would have gone the other route and stayed high you would actually have got a little run on the ball and you’d have a completely open view of the green. You have 153 into the wind, will play like 165 yards.

GL: I want to talk a bit about your work on Gamble Sands, I was there the summer of ’15 drove up there the day after working on Josh Lewis’ agronomy staff at Chambers Bay. It played really firm and fast, and my impression was that it’s the most playable course I’ve ever experienced, and what I mean by that is – absolutely any type of player from tour pro to a 30 handicapper can come go out there and play it and have a great time.

David McLay Kidd

Mammoth 5th & 6th holes

DMK: The take away for me is, Casey (Kidd’s design partner at DMK Design) and I built that in 2012 and we had been experimenting with design ideas for a few years before that and Gamble was sort of the latest iteration of those design ideas. Mike Keiser went there and loved it so much that he immediately hired us to this.

Mike asked me to speak to one of his groups at Bandon, and I said I’ll happily come speak to your group, but only if you play Gamble Sands. So he played it with Mike Davis (from the USGA) and Tim Boyle (owner of Columbia Sportswear). He called as soon as he came off 18, and told me, “I’d put Gamble Sands in the World Top 50”.

GL: I thought the same thing, it was most fun golf course that I ever played. (I then two putted for par at the first on Mammoth Dunes)

DMK: The second here is 395 yards. If you can carry the bunker or keep it right of it, that’s ideal. Keep it to the right here. (After another pulled tee shot) Ok, you’re down the left again, that’s gonna make it interesting.

I think the premise of golf course architecture is fundamentally wrong. The teachings of the great architects from 100 years ago were wrong then and they’re wrong today.

GL: You’re gonna have to give me an example.

DMK: If a shot is not executed, (it has always been thought that) if the ask of the golf course architect is not met, that shot should be punished. I think that is a fundamental fallacy, here’s why – the shot in and of itself is the punishment. Most often if I think up a defense against your best attack, anything less than your best attack is punishment in itself. Let’s take your tee shot here, you’re now out of position, will you enjoy this hole more or less if I give you an opportunity for redemption or if I put you in jail?

GL: Certainly more if you give me a chance, of course. No doubt about that.

DMK: But, that opportunity for redemption requires an even better shot than if you had executed well the first time. On this hole you’re now coming into a shallow green with a front pin downwind, so for you to get this close for a birdie putt would require one of the best shots of the day. When you stood on the tee and pulled it left, you had a feeling of dred, like I pulled it into this waste bunker and I’m not going to enjoy this hole now. You come up and over the hill and see that you’re not in the waste bunker, you’re staring right at the flag.

You’ll be looking at your 3 buddies thinking “my money is not in their pocket yet”. 122 yards left, aim half a stick right of that pin (I hit gap wedge just below the flag about 15 feet away). Let’s walk over here to the right and let me show you where you would’ve been had you bloody well done what you were told. (laughter ensues).

GL: I agree, that tee shot was total rubbish.

DMK: If you had hit a good shot over here I’m gonna give you some run out and a better position to the green.

GL: As we walk towards the green, I pick up where we left off: So you finish Gamble Sands back in 2012/2013, did you immediately know that you hit a home run when you finished?

DMK: Casey and I were down in Nicaragua back in 2010, and we built a course called Guacalito De La Isla, and everyone that came and played that – love it. We had this whole epiphany about golf course design. Instead of just pissing people off, what happens if we just try and help them and get them to enjoy the game more. So we did a bunch of stuff down there and it worked great, so we went to Gamble and then to London and were doing the same stuff. So did we know? We thought so, but didn’t know for sure until people played it.

*(Questions from our Aug.18th follow up have an asterik)

*GL: So, You have nine holes Open now on (Mammoth Dunes)?

DMK: Nine holes are open and holes six, seven, eight, nine, ten and fourteen are all grassed, so there’s only another three holes left and they’ll actually grass one of those tomorrow morning, so we’re really close. By the end of the month we should have the whole golf course grassed, then we have another six weeks or so of final adjustments of little tweaks and nips and tucks and then we’ll batter down for winter and we hope this winter is kind. Next Spring we’ll add a few more holes to the preview round and the formal opening will likely be July 1 of next year.

*GL: So, eleven, twelve and thirteen are the last three (holes) that you’re working on?

DMK: Yep, that’s it. A short par 5, a medium length par 4 and a par 3. The par 3 thirteenth might be the most visually stunning of all of the holes out there. Which I know you know is hard to believe, but I really think it might be.

*GL: More than sixteen?

DMK: More than sixteen. I think that believe it or not I don’t think that sixteen wouldn’t even make the top 2 of the par 3’s. I think eight and thirteen out do it considerably.

*GL: When we walked the course, you spoke about designing a short par 4 that would be “un-drivable”, is that the tenth, and were you able to create what you set out to design there?

DMK: Yes. It’s about 300 yards from the tips, it’s a hard dog-leg left. It may be possible to drive it, but there are some big trees and the green is not designed to accept a drive – just too much risk. It’s really a lay up, but you have to decide what to lay up with, are you going to lay up with a 7 iron and hit your approach with a 9 iron, or are you going to hit 3 wood and have a half wedge? The green is the only one on the golf course with a serious false front, so there’s a little bit of a knee knocker wedge onto the green.

*GL: That leads me to our discussion about your time collaborating with Tom Watson at Beaverbrook Golf Club (outside of London), and what you learned about course management and how to apply it to your design work. I found it fascinating, please explain . . .

DMK:: It was all about his course management, he explained it in terms of threat and opportunity. He would counter the threat versus the opportunity, if the threat was even marginally high, he would almost always discount the opportunity. So for a golf course designer, we often design holes where there is risk and reward but we don’t view it in the eyes of someone like Tom Watson. The risk might be where maybe he’s going to make double bogey and the minute he sees that risk he just won’t take it, he just sees it as too big a risk – and that was the lesson I learned.

The threat versus opportunity, the threat has to be relatively low. It just can’t be double bogey, because he just won’t go for it. The threat has to be a stroke at the very most, he’s not going to take on a bunker that costs him an entire stroke with no chance for reprieve. I realized that I had to be measured about how much threat I put out there versus the opportunity, and that’s what Gamble Sands does. There is lots and lots of opportunity and the threats are relatively low. The punishment will match the crime, if you don’t pull it off I’m going to give you a slightly more difficult lie or a little less view of the pin, or a little bit harder angle but I’m not going to put you in a 8 ft deep bunker, knee high grass or make you hunt for the ball. I’m gonna give you a play, you’re never out of it – there’s always a chance for redemption.

*GL: Did Tom disclose where his course management philosophy came from, was it something that he learned through trials and tribulations along the way?

DMK: I can’t speak for Tom, but the way that I heard it over the 5 years that I spent working with Tom on Beaverbrook – I asked him many times about his career and the path that he took – and he’s probably the most accomplished links player in modern times, even surpassing Nicklaus as far as performance on British Isles links courses. It seems to me that what I heard was that early on when he started playing these links courses and he was very aggressive – they kicked his ass. He had to learn to be patient and to hit away from the pin sometimes because the threat out weighed the opportunity. He learned that with the threat level reduced he could then maximize the opportunity and those were the kinds of conversations that we would have. I would draw out of it the simplistic view of how he views his course management.

*GL: Going back to the un-driveable tenth on Mammoth, were you influenced doing that design to see if you could employ some of Tom’s course management into that hole. Perhaps to require players to chose the prudent play?

DMK: Time will have to tell, but I did do everything in my power to try and persuade you to not pull driver there. The threat is very high. My hope is that even the most emboldened of players will see that the threat level is very high and they need to consider their options. For the golfers that go there that don’t have course management in their quiver, hopefully they look at it and know I can’t hit driver even though it’s within my yardage – ok, I’ll hit 3 wood. The level of threat with a 3 wood is still pretty high, well maybe I’ll hit rescue, and even that requires hitting into a very narrow target. Maybe through course design I can lead their thinking into – Well it’s only 275 yards from my tee, I can easily just hit 6 iron/9 iron, and I’d be in the same spot with no risk. Why not do that.

So maybe I can manipulate the golfing masses to consider their options a little more than just grabbing driver on every par 4 or par 5. If you’re going at that hole (the tenth) with a driver, it’s one of the few holes on the course where you can lose a ball.

DMK: So why are the great masters not necessarily the best teachers of golf course architecture today? My business thinks that they all are the best teachers. They look at Seth Raynor and say if I could build golf courses as he did almost 100 years ago I would be an out of the ballpark success and I’m not sure that would be true. I think a lot of those greens and holes would be so difficult for the average player that the participation rates would fall even faster than they have in last decade. They’re just too hard. Golf courses of the past like Oakmont and Pine Valley have led to the creation of courses like Erin Hlls and Whistling Straits, are those really the best golf courses for modern times. How many people play those and get their ass kicked and decide they don’t want to go back? It’s an interesting debate all in itself.

And yet hundreds of thousands of people have gone to Bandon Dunes, maybe millions at this point – because the courses are great for players like you and I, but they’re also great for the average guy because they won’t lose golf balls and they’ll have a chance for recovery and redemption. The average player sees Bandon and all they see is acres and acres of grass and it’s appealing to them. They can spray it all over the place and make bogey or double bogey, but all with the same golf ball and they like that.

GL: Mike (Keiser), he’s been out here periodically right?

DMK: Yeah, he loves it. He’ll be here this weekend. It’s been great, I never pushed Mike to hire me again after Bandon, I went off and did my own thing. I kind of waited on him and waited on the right timing and I knew once I finished Gamble the time was right to go back to Mike and say hey come have a look at this. I talk a lot about the influence of developers and real estate and the Tiger effect that led me and many golf course designers down a path away from fun and playability. Golf became frustrating and somewhat humiliating to the average player.

GL: That’s great perspective. What are your thoughts on the “Augusta effect” and how it has influenced so many golf clubs and American golfers that think that’s what their club should aspire to be? Most American golfers don’t realize that what Augusta National has created isn’t realistic in terms of their unlimited resources and its pristine presentation. It may be the best tournament in the world, but it’s also been created and maintained by resources of the wealthiest people on earth.

DMK: My thoughts going all the way back to Bandon, was that even though my design philosophy started one way and changed to something else and then back to what I started with, my philosophies in terms of naturalism and minimalism will never change. I’ve always been trying to build courses that took inspiration from the landscape around them. I think that over the last generation golfers have become so sophisticated – especially in the U.S that perfection has been so easily achieved by the people in Agronomy, where perfect surfaces are taken as the norm. That anything less than perfection is seen as failure, and so there is a certain yearning by the American golfer to embrace imperfection and take nature and love it for it’s imperfections.

So something like Bandon Dunes when it happened was pushing an open door. People’s consciousness was there, they were starting to think about electric cars and recycling – and they went to Bandon Dunes and said “Wow, this is nature, This is raw nature! And that has inspired a generation for golf courses like Streamsong, Sand Valley and even to some extent something like Whistling Straits that is fake, but there is something to be said for doing fake really well.

DMK: (shifting back into caddie/player mode) Ok, par 5 15th – 495 yards. You’re downwind today so the speed slot is on the high right side of that bunker. If you can stay left of that tall tree in the distance and I’m gonna give you 50 extra yards.

GL: So you get to a hole or a spot on the property like this, how many trees were in the path of this particular tract of land here?

DMK: See the Oak trees on the right, they hug the high ridges and because these ridges were steep, the paper company that owned this land before didn’t tear those out and plant red pines (the Norwegian pulp trees) – but everything else they did. Mike Keiser’s mandate to everyone in this project especially his own sons was: This is a golf project and a restoration project, they’re simpatico.

I’m not going to give one more than the other. When I came out here, Mike made it abundantly clear to Casey and I on threat of getting fired. If it is native like these Oak Savanna you’re not chopping it down, you will respect it. We took out everything that was the red pines and he embraced us doing so. Once we took out these rows of pines we had giant oaks from here all the way up to the oaks on the ridge. Once we had the space it was just Oh baby, what can we dream up! Zero dirt is moved on any of these holes, it’s just basic shaping. The fun thing for us was dreaming up strategies.

LN: You must have just been gushing when you first saw this place?

DMK: Yeah, I thought for awhile I was going to get to do the first course, but one of the things that I’ve always said about Bandon (when people ask what would you do different) is I’ve always said I would have gone second. So Mike gave me my wish here.

GL: Why second?

DMK: There are massive advantages to going second, it’s not even fair. Whoever goes second, unless they’re stupid – before you’ve even started you’re as good as the guy who went first.

GL: Please elaborate.

DMK: By the time that I got here they had a whole wealth of knowledge about how they did it. I can go around and ask Bill (Coore) how to do this and that, how did that work? Which parts didn’t work? All the staff that built it went from that course to this course.

GL: I hear they may possibly be interested in doing up to four or five courses here, is that true?

DMK: Oh yeah. He owns 9000 acres here, measure that in square miles. He bought two then he bought another seven (it measures out at just over 14 square miles).

GL: That sounds Mosaic like and the size of their property size at Streamsong, do you think they’re done with three after Gil’s (Black) course? Any interest in doing one there? It’s my opinion that it would be a great spot for you . . .

DMK: They’re not done over there either, but we’ll see what Rich Mack says after he sees this, and as my granny used to say, “What’s for you, won’t go by you”.

GL: Love that, may have to steal that.

(After a really good tee shot, I miss hit a few shots including the blind approach and the putt for par on the 15th. Halfway through the preview holes I was +1, but more importantly this was the moment when we walked up to the 16th tee and I simply said Wow!)

*GL: Did Tom disclose where his course management philosophy came from, was it something that he learned through trials and tribulations along the way?

David McLay Kidd

This photo I captured of the 16th illustrates the dramatic setting, so I opted for black and white. The green lies behind the giant dune you see on the right. (I included the resort’s color version at the beginning of this Q & A feature).

GL: So was that dune on the right already existing?

DMK: Yes, originally I had the green on top of it, We started clearing on one of the first visits and I said to Mike, I just don’t like that location, I want to put it there (on the backside). He says, On the backside of the hill? I say, Mike, I can build a way better hole on the backside of that hill. He says, I don’t think you can. He really really did not want me to build it this way, but eventually he relinquished and we built it.

GL: What was your thought there, too exposed to wind ?

DMK: It was just too obvious, like a kiddies coloring book. I hate golf courses that are like that. I want to have to figure it out, I want there to be a a riddle, a conundrum – something interesting . . . You have 145 yds to the pin.


David McLay Kidd

photo courtesy of Casey Krahenbuhl

Tom Watson with David & his wife Tara who plays golf on the Symetra Tour


David McLay Kidd

17th on Mammoth Dunes

(After a solid up and down on the 427 yard seventeenth, it was off to the final hole) – A 511 yard par 5 that plays uphill on the approach to a super wide putting surface that is probably close 50 yards across, but isn’t very deep.

DMK: Great tee shot, only 215 yards of carry left and the pin is 235. Aim at the right half of the white marquis (temporary tent), this is a big chance for me to recoup my reputation as a caddie.

GL: (Thwack) Not sure if that’s gonna make it over, went for the cut – didn’t pull it off.

DMK: You’re good, just a chip and putt left.

GL: (we walk up to my ball that has finished up about 20 yards left of the green) That’s gonna be an interesting shot.

DMK: That’s actually a great spot, I’m hoping that the turf firms up so that your ball would have rolled out a bit more.

(He points over to the left) That’s actually the 17th on the short course over there.

GL: Oh right, that’s probably why Bill (Coore) was here last week. (When I think of Bill Coore and short courses my mind always drifts to Bandon Preserve). Any thoughts about whether Mike Keiser is done at Bandon or is that other coastal property out there still in play?

DMK: I’ve heard rumbling that it’s still in play, and perhaps Gil (Hanse) gets that one, but Mike has a lot of irons in the fire and he’s 72 now.

(Back to the golf – we’re pin high, but facing about a 40 yard shot with 25 yards being fairway cut and Kidd decides it’s a good time for a shortgame challenge.) Good chance for your Texas wedge here. What are you thinking of using 5 iron, 7 iron?

GL: Probably my gap wedge.

DMK: I’m gonna go 7 iron. This is my version of a Texas wedge. Of course in Scotland we don’t call it that. (the shot actually played firm and true, as both David’s 7 iron bump and run and my wedge both rolled out well beyond the hole. After I two putted for par finishing the 6 hole loop at +1)

GL: I saw a video recently of you and the crew rolling a basketball along the ridges and contours to get a true sense of what a golf ball will do on turf once grown in. What a brilliant idea, have you always used that?

DMK: Not always, maybe the last three (courses). You can’t trust your eye, but you only use a basketball on sand.

*GL: Last one for you, you’re almost done with the golf course, and I wanted to get your overall thoughts and emotions on your work on Mammoth Dunes and the nearly finished product. Where are you at right now with all of that?

DMK: I’m fortunate enough to have a number of courses that sit in various rankings in the U.S and the world, and I think that Mammoth Dunes is the best golf course I’ve ever done in my career. I haven’t been happier with a project than I am with this. I think it’s every bit as much fun as Gamble Sands, it has all of the playability of Bandon Dunes and it has a maturity that has taken me 30 years to develop. I knew when to press on the gas and I knew when to be somewhat restrained.

*GL: (ok, so I lied – one more) You’re 50 now, as am I, do you find that what you lose in youth, you seem to gain in knowledge and perspective?

DMK: Well, when I was in my 20’s I thought I was really really confident. I was very, very confident. You look back at it and you say to yourself, that cocky little shit didn’t have much to be confident about. Why was he so confident. Then at 50 you say, ok now I can be quietly confident because I’ve made so many mistakes that hopefully I learned from, that now I actually have something to be confident about. When you’re in your 20’s the confidence is all bravado, with little knowledge or experience behind it.

GL: David, Thank You for doing this, appreciate you spending the time to show me around, this place is really going to be something special.

DMK: It was my pleasure, how much fun is this – showing off your baby. It was 2013 when I was first here and now it’s 2017, so four years I’ve been coming to this site. I will be here quite a bit through mid-September, then from there on out it will be sporadic.

See you for the opening in July.

David McLay Kidd

For more info on David McLay-Kidd:

Sand Valley:


Jason  Bruno &
Sand Valley Golf Resort Course Feature

Sand Valley Golf Resort Course Feature

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Heath: shrubland habitat found mainly on free-draining infertile, acidic soils and is characterised by open, low-growing woody vegetation.

Perhaps the most anticipated new entry in American golf destinations is Sand Valley Golf Resort. Mike Keiser’s latest golf utopia is located in the “Badger State” in the Central Wisconsin town of Nekoosa. Earlier this summer we made our way to Sand Valley to experience the latest golf treasure in a state that is quickly becoming known for being one of the finest golf meccas in the world.

The over 1700 acres of rippling heathland naturesc ape that features sand dunes usually only found on the coastlines of Scotland and Ireland is an idyllic setting for golf. Already open for play is the course that bears the resort’s name – Sand Valley. Crafted by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (that officially opened on May 2nd of this year), the course has trace elements of many of their other fine works, most notably Bandon Trails and Sand Hills. (although Trails does open and finish along the gusty shores of Oregon’s Pacific coast. About the only thing missing at Sand Valley is the coastline.

David McLay Kidd’s – Mammoth Dunes, which is now open for 9 holes of preview play is something to behold, a brawny eclectic mix of designs that’s inspired by a renewed and re-energized original and his evolved thought process regarding golf course architecture. MD is slated to officially open in the summer of 2018.

The property at Sand Valley is the type of site that course designers dream their whole lives about, and having Keiser as the principal only amplifies the pedigree. Earlier this summer we made our way to Sand Valley to experience the most recent addition to what is becoming known as one of the finest golf meccas in the world – Wisconsin.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

In true Mike Keiser style, the resort at Sand Valley is a natural and modest setting that’s ultra functional in all forms. Not unlike Bandon, the hardcore linkster will truly appreciate  the minimalist vibe here. The Clubhouse that includes pro shop, restaurant and lodging had just opened the week before we arrived, and although there were still a few details to be finished up, the rooms, service and cuisine were spot on.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

If an image tells a thousand words, than this one had me at hello. The accommodations at the lodge are spacious and the views are grand. After trekking 8 miles up and down the dunes of Sand Valley, it’s important to shift beyond the grind and experience comfort of the body and mind. No detail was left unanswered, the beds are just right, the proper shower (which is a key component of links recovery) includes a sitting bench in the shower. The in-room Keurig coffee machine is really convenient, and made for a happy morning. If that wasn’t enough, the views of Mammoth Dunes at sunset are priceless. Also, just in case you were wondering (and it’s likely you weren’t), the carpet in the room rolls the perfect putting speed of about a 10 on the stimp meter. Sometimes it’s just the little things, through multiple weather delays the flatstick was put to work.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The view from the back porch outside my clubhouse lodge accommodations is of the first hole on the newest design at Sand Valley – David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Another angle of the view from the back porch.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The Lake Leopold cottages are located between the clubhouse/lodge and the first tee on the Coore/Crenshaw course.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

(photo courtesy of Sand Valley Resort)

Craig’s Porch overlooks the 1st and 10th tees and acts as a pre-round and halfway house eatery. The 18th green also is situated just below, so a there’s another chance after the round to grab another brisket slider. You can’t have just one – delicious.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The hangout just below Craig’s Porch is an ideal spot to soak in the setting or just relax before or after the round. You can watch golfers play the first, tenth, seventeenth and eighteenth holes from here.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

New construction continues to emerge at Sand Valley. More lodging, a Coore/Crenshaw short course and there are rumors of additional courses in the future as well.

I’d really like to see Keiser branch out a bit and include a designer that he hasn’t worked with before like Jay Blasi (Chambers Bay), Michael Hurdzan (Erin Hills) or even ASGCA President John Sanford (Ferry Point) – all very talented and highly creative minds worthy of a site of this quality.

To say the central Wisconsin weather was uncooperative for golf and photography would be a serious understatement. Numerous persistent thunderstorms pummeled the area on day 1 of our visit, we only got in a total of 4 holes. Day 2 was an exercise in patience and determination, after bolting first off the tee at 6:15 a.m, we barely completed the front 9 before lightning and thunderstorms once again blitzed the area, halting us for an additional 3 hours. Then finally, six hours after teeing off, the 5 footer on the 18th dropped for birdie. After a quick bite, I met Michael Keiser Jr, Glen Murray (the General Manager at SV), David McLay Kidd and his globe trotting course design accomplice Casey Krahenbuhl. Kidd then took me to get a preview of their work on Mammoth Dunes. A huge thrill since I’ve been an admirer of David’s work for quite some time. He was kind enough to give me the grand tour and all the while looping the bag while we discussed course philosophy and some of his prior work. It was an experience any course design enthusiast would greatly appreciate (especially for a 30 year landscaper and turf head), this was as good as it gets.

From the orange tees (6500 yards), the short par 4 – 1st hole plays just 325 yards. A slight right to left shaped shot with a fairway club is the play here as the fairway falls off to the native area on the right. Nothing more than a wedge for your approach. This is a welcoming starting hole and a chance to post a red number on the card right out of the gate.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Image courtesy of Sand Valley Resort

At 395 yards, the dogleg right 2nd requires discipline. No more than a 230 yard tee shot leaves you just short of the cross bunkers. An uphill semi-blind approach shot to a severely sloped (back to front) green here on the 2nd hole will be the first true test of the day. The miss here is short, anything missed pin high left or right leaves a tough chance to get up and down.


Sand Valley Golf Resort

The par 3 – 3rd is another example of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s affinity for the designs of C.B MacDonald and Seth Raynor. This modern day “Redan” is 192 yards but plays shorter because it’s slightly downhill and the crest of the slope will feed the ball towards any hole location.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The par 5 – 4th is the longest hole on the course at 593 yards from the tips (557 from the orange tees). It plays directly uphill so three accurate well struck shots are required here. This particular hole design felt reminiscent of one of Coore/Crenshaw’s lesser known designs – the now deceased Sugarloaf Mountain.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The 164 yard par 3 – 5th is a bit of a sleeper. The extreme elevation of the tee makes it play far less than the actual yardage, but don’t underestimate the challenge here. Notice the far left pin position, it appears fairly innocent from this view, but there is only a small area to land your ball or it will be repelled off the green, requiring the touch of a brain surgeon to save par. A worthy short par 3.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The 455 yard par 4 -sixth was not only the toughest hole on the course, but it was also one that impressed from a design perspective, but it likely won’t be a favorite of the masses. Why you ask? It doesn’t have any real elevation to speak of, or anything really unique visually, but it’s a good old fashioned strap it on golf hole that requires your absolute two best strikes to have a chance at par.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

I’m a big advocate of playing different tees during a given round, either to accommodate your skill set or to create more buzz amongst your group on a given hole. Many never even consider moving a box up (or back) to make a given hole play more interesting. The sixth is a prime example, the big hitter will welcome the exam, while the senior or high handicap player can easily struggle here. The best players will take the bold line challenging the left fairway bunker, while the recreational player will have to play around the sand.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Notice the freshly cut green complex here on the sixth, we were making good time trying to beat the weather. This 90 foot shortgame challenge proved too much for my early morning bump and run skills. No par save here. That’s a championship golf hole.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The 536 yard par 5 – seventh tee sports an elongated bunker that runs the entire length of the tee shot and then some.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

As you get closer to the green, this linear fairway bunker guards the left side and acts as a clever misdirection to the right as the fairway veers back to the left. Easily one of the best designed sand complexes on the front nine.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

A closer look at the bunkering here on the 7th shows the minimalist style that designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw are known for.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The green complex at the seventh and the predicament of a short game grinder.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

After the demanding sixth, the finishing three of the outward nine are just a blast and offer legit opportunities to get healthy on the scorecard. The short uphill eighth is no exception, it played 118 yards, requiring nothing but a smooth and precise gap wedge.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

This is the site as you walk over the rise after putting out at the eighth, the driveable downhill ninth might provide the biggest adrenaline rush on the course. It played 281 yards to the front pin. After a decent drive I was pin high left in the swale between the trees and bunkers and it took a pretty creative pitch to get it on and walk out of there with a par.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Another view of the ninth, this one from the very top of the hill. You didn’t come all the way to the heartland to lay up, did you? The tees range from 150 yards to 305 yards, so there’s a sensible risk/reward opportunity for everyone – so find the tee box that gives you a chance and let it rip.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The green complex at the ninth. Sand Valley Golf Resort

The view of the 541 yard par 5 tenth from Craig’s Porch. The line for big hitters is directly over the center bunker.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The approach at the tenth shows the overall right to left tilt of the green complex. The best angle to this green is from the left side allowing for the ground game to be a factor.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

It only plays 387 yards, but the eleventh demands respect and favors a slight draw between the bunkers.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The green complex at the eleventh plays slightly uphill, anything short will be repelled back down towards the fairway. Beyond the green, you can see the mound and thick rough, leaving a slim chance to save par.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The photo from the back right side of the eleventh green shows the severe tilt from back to front.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The sky was becoming threatening once again as I teed off at the short par 5 – 12th. The aggressive line is over the trees in line with the white tee markers, otherwise favor the right side.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

With hundreds of acres of native sand visible at SV, this fairway cross bunker at the twelfth is probably my favorite gnarled creation – it looks demonic and spectacular all at the same time. Just magnificent stuff by the Cooore/Crenshaw design squad. I’m thrilled to say that I didn’t have to play out of it though.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

And of course they follow it with yet another just a few yards closer to the green.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The 175 yard par 3 fourteenth felt like we were dropped off at Pine Valley, a rugged beauty that is easily to be enamored with. Overall, the one shotters at SV are top shelf and offer magnificent variety of design and length – one short (8th), two medium (3 & 14) and one long (17). Here at the fourteenth, the two levels require proper distance control to have a decent chance at birdie.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

You can tell by the ominous sky that we were lucky to get this round in. Stay out of this nasty bunker that guards the center of the fairway at the sixteenth, it’s a mandatory pitch out. Par on this hole is quite an achievement.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The “Punch Bowl” par 3 seventeenth is a beast. It played all of 226 yards to the back flag location. Once again choose the appropriate box and torch your Sunday best over the right mound and let the contours will do the rest. Needing two birds to get back to level, this was going to require something special.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

If you’re a fan of course design, you’re likely to appreciate the green complex here on the seventeenth, the slopes will assist in funneling even slightly errant shots onto the elongated putting surface. From there the task has just begun. Bent grass was a a good choice for the greens at SV, can’t ever complain about making a 3 here on this the toughest of the par 3’s at Sand Valley.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The par 5 eighteenth is a fantastic finisher. Playing straight uphill at 507 yards from the orange tees. Avoid the fescue on the left, and the numerous bunkers along the right side. Perhaps your two best swings will give you a chance to walk off on a high note.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

The bunkering around the eighteenth is vast, and luckily I managed to avoid it, just clearing the sand with a 3 wood. I couldn’t resist capturing this image from about 50 yards out. A successful up and down for birdie 4 from just in front of the green made lunch taste just bit sweeter.

Sand Valley Golf Resort

image courtesy of Sand Valley Resort

Sand Valley Golf Resort

image courtesy of Sand Valley Resort

Breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between, the Mammoth Terrace (above) and Mammoth Bar & Grill is the perfect setting to relax and enjoy the Heathland views, and delicious food and spirits.

An Ode to Keiser

As I headed east towards Erin Hills to cover the spectacle that is the U.S Open, it dawned on me – It’s a great time to be golfer, especially in North America, and a lion’s share of that is due in large part to one man – Mike Keiser. It’s not just the golf landscapes like Bandon, Cabot and Sand Valley that he has founded through his vision and resources, but it’s also his incredible conservation efforts like the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance and the native foliage and plant life he preserves and strictly demands the same of his course designers on each and every parcel of the properties that have become links sanctuaries to us all. What he does with his influence and passion is create and preserve the things that are most sacred – experiences with nature. Consistently, Keiser makes things better than he found them and surrounds himself with talented people who share the vision that bonds passionate golfers that prefer golf in it’s most pure and raw state. When he was onced asked “What would you like your legacy in golf to be?” Keiser answered: “He built golf courses that withstood the test of time.”

I think we can safely check that box. For that, I say Thank You Mr.Keiser . . .

Sand Valley Golf Resort

Fee structure for golf at Sand Valley is extremely reasonable:

Ranging from Mon-Wed     $85 (low season) – $150 (high season) resort guest

Thurs-Sun  $105 (low season) – $195 (high season) resort guest

Mon-Wed    $95 (low season) – $175 (high season) day guest

Thurs-Sun $125 (low season) – $215 (high season) day guest

*Replay rates are 50% off posted rates.

9 hole Preview Play now available on Mammoth Dunes

Sand Valley Golf Resort

(image courtesy of Sand Valley Resort)

Mammoth Dunes par 3 -16th

Sand Valley Golf Resort

*Just announced (8/15) – New Coore & Crenshaw Short Course will begin a complimentary 6-hole loop that will be available for lodging guests staying Sept. & Oct. 2017.

Also the Heathland Cup will take place Sept. 2nd-4th, 2017 – 54 holes Best Ball Tournament

For more information: http://www.

Jason  Bruno &


The Country Club of Whispering Pines

The Country Club of Whispering Pines

The Country Club of Whispering Pines

The Country Club of Whispering Pines is a 36-hole facility owned and managed by Brown Golf Management who also owns nearby Foxfire Golf Club. This gives local Brown Golf members access to 72 holes of championship golf in the Pinehurst Area of North Carolina! More on that in a minute.

The original 18 holes at the Country Club of Whispering Pines opened for play in 1962. An additional 9 holes were added in 1965, and the club operated as a 27-hole facility for about 4 years until 1969 when the final 9 holes were added. Since then, changes have been made and some hole rerouting has taken place and the Country Club of Whispering Pines is now a 36-hole facility. The courses have been renamed the River (formerly the West) Course, and the Pines (formerly the East) Course. Both courses were designed by Donald Ross protégé Ellis Maples way back in 1959 and 1965 respectively and share one thing in common – variety. One example of this is the types of grass used on the greens – The Pines features Champion Bermuda and The River, Bent grass.

The Country Club of Whispering Pines

Before your round, head over to the practice area, where you’ll find a full-length driving range, a practice pitching green complete with sand bunkers, and two putting greens to get you ready for your round.

The Pines Course
The Pines course has been referred to by some as an “inland links” style course, because of the absence of water. Donald Ross’ influence is evident in the way this Maples design hugs the natural contour of the land, as well as in the use of open, hardpan areas in the rough that are sparsely covered with pine straw and native grasses. You’ll also see his touch in the shaping of the greens and positioning of the sand traps. A great golf course from a golf design icon.

From the back tees, The Pines plays 7,094 yards to a par of 72, with a course rating of 74.5 and a slope of 134. Most golfers will find that the White Tees (6,409/71.1/131) offer an adequate test. Although the Pine Course offers generous fairways, you’ll still end up hitting every club in your bag because of the variety of holes. Ladies will have a great time from the Red Tees (5,324/71.4/121).

Memorable Holes
The par 5, 5th hole is not only the toughest ranked hole on the course, it’s also one of the more scenic holes out here. From the White Tees, the hole plays 544 yards, so for most of us, it’s a 3 shot hole. There’s a large pine tree on the right side off the tee that needs to be avoided; your best line is to bisect the left bunker and the pine tree. The landing area for your layup shot is wide open and the right center of the fairway will leave the best angle in to the green. Your approach shot is about half a club downhill over water to a large green protected front right and back left by sand. It’s easy to see why this is the toughest hole; it takes 3 good shots to get on and an accurate pitch if you want to score better than average.

Another hole that will test your mettle is the par 4, 10th. It plays 401 yards from the Whites Tees, predominantly uphill. It’s a narrow hole that requires two long, straight shots into another oversized green which is fronted by bunkers on either side.

With all of the elevation changes out here, you’re in for an interesting round. You’ll be hitting from uphill, downhill and side hill lies, but that’s a lot of what you find in the area. Trust me, it beats flat! Let me leave you this this piece of advice: if you tend to slice your tee shots, use a white ball. It will make it that much easier to find on the range!

The River Course
The River Course features towering oak trees that line the fairways and overhang several greens. The River course is not as demanding as the Pines Course (a slope of 130 on the River versus 134 on the Pines); however, you’re still going to have to play the role of shotmaker if you want to score well out here. Especially on the back none, where water is present on every hole. The greens are smaller and the rough is thicker, so it’s best to be hitting out of the short grass on a regular basis. There’s more emphasis on accuracy than on distance.

The River Course plays to a par of 71, and from the back tees, plays 6,521 yards with a course rating of 70.8 and a slope of 130. Most golfers will choose the White Tees, which play 6.044 yards (69.0/126) and be challenged the entire round. Ladies typically play from 5,140 yards.

Memorable Holes
The 4th hole plays 396 yards from the White Tees and requires you to thread your tee shot through a narrow opening between pine and oak trees. If you can hit a draw, now’s the time. A good drive will leave a negotiable-length approach shot to an elevated green that slopes severely from left to right. It’s handicapped number 5, but plays much tougher.

Number 10 is where the water really starts to come into play, and in a big way. It’s a big, sweeping dogleg right par 5 that plays 533 yards from the White Tees. If you try and cut the corner or hit it too far right, there is a pond waiting to greet your golf ball. Although it brings the sand traps up near the green into play more, this hole is best played down the left side.

Your round on the River Course concludes with the toughest hole on the back nine. Number 18 plays 394 yards from the White Tees. It’s another hole where left is best and takes the pond on the right out of play. Avoid the bunker that guards the left side of the green and the one short right and you’re well on your way to a successful completion.

The Country Club of Whispering Pines

The two courses at The Country Club of Whispering Pines offer peace and relaxation. Out here, you far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, all that’s left to do is put that little white ball in the hole. Eighteen times!

I spoke with several members while I was there who all raved about the dining room and how well Brown Golf Management was doing in restoring the club to its former splendor. The Grill features all of your clubhouse favorites and what’s most impressive – they all taste good. From the Grilled Reuben to the Ellis Maple Burger, you’ll enjoy every bite. They also feature several beers on tap and have a full bar.

The Country Club of Whispering Pines

According to the members, one of the best thing about joining the club is that you have access to unlimited golf at two 36-hole facilities in the Pinehurst area, as well as unlimited range balls.

The Country Club of Whispering Pines also has 32 hotel-style rooms as well as 9 condo/suites for those looking for a stay and play vacation. The rooms are a short walk to the clubhouse and first tee include free wireless Internet access, unlimited use of the outdoor pool and tennis courts (as well as the 24-hour fitness center.

For more information on The Country Club of Whispering Pines or to become a member, visit their website

Blackmoor Golf Club Feature

Blackmoor Golf Club Feature

Blackmoor Golf Club – Gary Player Meets the Grand Strand

Blackmoor Golf Club

Gary Player has played and designed golf courses all around the world, but there’s only one Gary Player Signature Course on the Grand Strand – Blackmoor Golf Club. Designed to be challenging, yet fair, Blackmoor features well-groomed fairways and greens and modest elevation changes, primarily through moving earth. The course was built on the historic Longwood Plantation, which runs parallel to the Waccamaw River.

Blackmoor Golf Club plays 6,614 yards from the back tees, with a course rating of 71.1 and a slope of 126. Blackmoor is also a favorite of female visitors to the Myrtle Beach area and plays 4,807 yards. Play from the yardage that best suits your game and you’re sure to have a good time.

Blackmoor Golf Club

This Gary Player signature course takes advantage of the natural terrain as well as beautiful vistas, producing a combination of shot varieties, which adds to your enjoyment no matter how good or bad you’re playing. Marshes, wetlands and/or water come into play on about half the holes and the green complexes are well protected with either sand or grass bunkers and swales. With all of the thought Player put into this course, he has made it challenging for low handicappers and enjoyable for high handicappers.

Easily the most memorable hole on the golf course is Number 8, a par 4 that plays 347 yards from the White tees – much shorter with Option B. “A Tale of Two Fairways” would be an appropriate name for this hole. The conventional, aka wider fairway is to the left, making this a dogleg right. You can leave driver in the bag with this route and hit a 3-wood or hybrid off the tee. That should leave a moderate chip shot into the green.

Option B is for the gambler in you. Number 8 gives you an option to go directly at the green, up a narrow alleyway which plays about 270 yards. Be warned, hit it straight or pay the price. Either way, you end up at a gently undulating green protected with bunkers left – or behind the green – depending on your route. Executed correctly, Option B could help you pick up a shot on the field.

The par 3, Number 4 is by no means the longest par 3 on the course -it’s a mere 130 yards – but at the same time this scenic hole is definitely no pushover. With a little bit of intimidation from the pond in front and the long, narrow bunker left of the green, this hole will get you thinking. It also has one of the deepest greens on the course, so proper club selection is essential.

Number 10, the only dogleg left at Blackmoor, is also handicapped as the hardest hole on the course. Favor the left side of the fairway on this 365-yard hole par 4; a well-placed shot of about 230 yards will leave an approach of less than 140 to a kidney shaped green that is well protected by bunkers. This is one of those holes where brains are better than brawn. A back left pin position is best attacked from the front right as the green is very shallow back there. A challenging hole that can be tamed with two well thought shots.

Even without the old slave cemetery that runs down the left side of this hole and dates back to the 1800’s, Number 13 (478 yards from the White Tees) would still be a good hole. Add in the cemetery and good becomes great! Calling this a dogleg right doesn’t do it justice; it’s more like a 45° right turn. A long fade off the tee goes a long way in lessening the burden on your second shot, where, depending on your length off the tee, you’ll have a decision to make. Anyone with a clear shot at the green needs to go for it; there’s not a lot of trouble around the green other than a bunker on the right side and trees on the left if you’re way off. The green slopes from back right to front left, so do your best to keep the ball below the hole.

Blackmoor also has an excellent practice area with a full length driving range where you can hit every club in the bag to your heart’s content, and a putting green. The clubhouse features a well-stocked pro shop with all of your favorite logoed Blackmoor gear and a grill and bar that serves all of your favorite libations and clubhouse food. The burgers are unbelievable.

Blackmoor Golf Club

There’s nothing not to like at Blackmoor Golf Club. From the moment you pull up to the bag drop to the last drink you order at the Grill, Blackmoor’s staff is friendly and courteous. General Manager Bob Zuercher has been at Blackmoor for 30 years and has ridden the roller coaster of Myrtle Beach golf. He is to be commended for having a great staff and for making an enjoyable golf experience that much more enjoyable. It’s no wonder the Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association has seen fit to name Blackmoor “Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year”.

Half of the holes at Blackmoor are doglegs and will require not only proper club selection but also good placement if you want to score well. Many greens are elevated and require you to fly it on the green as opposed to running it on. All of the greens roll fast and true.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable round with some great people, you need to consider playing Blackmoor Golf Club on your next visit to Myrtle Beach. For more information on Blackmoor Golf Club or to book your next round, Click Here.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Dunes West Golf & River Club Feature

Dunes West Golf & River Club Feature

Dunes West – An Arthur Hills Lowcountry Masterpiece

Dunes West

Although Dunes West Golf and River Club opened in 1991, the history of the land can be traced back to 1696, although the land wasn’t developed for another sixteen years or so. Shortly after being developed it was purchased by Captain John Vanderhorst, Joseph Vanderhorst and Thomas Lynch, the same family that owned most of Kiawah Island – in 1712. They kept it in the family for over 100 years. Fast forward to 1937 and Henrietta Hartford, one of the wealthiest women in America, buys the land and marries Prince Guido Pignatelli of Italy. The land would become known as Pignatelli Plantation and Henrietta – aka Princess Pignatelli – has a nine-hole golf course built.

Dunes West Golf and River Club is ideally situated along Wagner Creek and the Wando River, offering up some spectacular views of the surrounding aquatic life. The course itself was designed by renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills and is a “must play” for any golfer traveling in or around Charleston, SC. Dunes West has been proclaimed by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as a “Top 10 Resort Course”.

Dunes West

The course plays 6,859 yards from the back tees, with a course rating of 73.0 and a slope of 134. Most golfers will find that the Blue Tees (6,100/69.0/122) will give them all they can handle and still maintain a little dignity.

Hills took full advantage of both the Wando River and Wagner Creek when he built this masterpiece. As you make your way around the course, you’ll see saltwater marshes and coastal tidelands; all commonplace for those who live in the South Carolina’s low-country, but visually stunning for those who don’t.

Dunes West

Although the current version of Dunes West does not resemble the 9-hole original course in any way, shape or form, the clubhouse does sit on the very spot of the princesses’ 32-room mansion. The oak trees that frame the drive up to the clubhouse, as well as the right side of the 18th fairway serve as a reminder of the properties history; they were planted by Princess Pignatelli herself.

Like most Arthur Hills, there’s a lot of mounding in the peripheries of the fairways and around the green complexes. Grass bunkers and swales are every bit as challenging as the light, fluffy sand you’ll find in any of the traps. Greens come in all shapes and sizes, most have subtle undulation and all roll true.

There were several challenging holes on the front nine at Dunes West, but none more memorable than the four finishing holes. Number 15 is a Par 5 that plays 481 yards from the Blue Tees has two sets of four fairway bunkers that challenge players off the tee and in the landing zones. The first set are on the edge of the fairway and shouldn’t cause much trouble; the second set bisect the fairway and catch a good deal of layup attempts. A shot from the left side of the fairway bunkers leaves an easier approach and somewhat takes out of play the greenside traps on the right side of a slightly elevated green. A long drive up the left side sets up a good opportunity to get home in two and go for broke.

Number 16 is the toughest hole on the inward nine and plays 369 yards from the Blue Tees. Water come into play over the trio of fairway bunkers on the right off the tee, but is more in play on your approach shot. An ideal tee shot is between the 150-marker and the trees on the left; that will leave a manageable yet challenging approach shot over sand to a small green with water waiting if you hit it right. The green is small with subtle undulations.

Number 17 is a par 3 that plays 169 yards and is by far the most challenging par 3 at Dunes West. With water on the right side and sand left and long, there is no room for error off the tee. Miss the left fairway bunker long and you’re facing a tough lie in a grass swale. The green is small and slopes left to right. Best of luck!

Number 18 is a great finishing hole. This dogleg right par 4 will give any golfer all they can handle from the back tees; from the Blue tees, it’s a manageable 383 yards. There’s not the usual plethora of sand you find on many holes; in fact, there is none. Your biggest challenge on this hole is to control your drive off the tee. Keep it in the short grass and leave yourself a clear shot into the green and you’ll finish strong; just be sure to avoid the marsh area short left.

Before your round, be sure to visit Dunes West’s practice facility. There’s a full length driving range with multiple targets that will let you hit every club in your bag. The short game area has a sand trap for extra practice and there is a large practice putting green as well. If you’re having troubles with your swing, set up a quick lesson with one of the club’s trained PGA professionals.

In addition to a superb golf course, Dunes West also has a 6000-square foot clubhouse with full service dining. The Grille is open every day from 8am to 3pm; breakfast is served Wednesday – Sunday from 8am – 11am and lunch is served daily from 11am – 3pm. Brunch is available on Sundays from 8am – 12pm. One of the specialties at The Grille are the tacos, which come in several varieties, and the burgers are outstanding. On Thursdays, The Grille is open for dinner with delectable entrees of beef, chicken and fish.  There’s also a full array of country club amenities including swim and tennis.

Dunes West

Because of its location, Dunes West is a picturesque and memorable location for weddings. Their experienced event and culinary staff can help you put together your special occasion. It’s also a great venue to host your next tournament or golf outing.

For more information on becoming a member, you can call Dunes West at (843) 856-9000 or visit them online at

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

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