Dunes West – An Arthur Hills Lowcountry Masterpiece
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”.
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.
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.
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 www.duneswestgolfclub.com.
Golf Life Contributor