Sometimes you can’t judge a meal from the appetizer. Such was my first impression when playing the highly acclaimed Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach. This is an wonderful upscale golf facility complete with spacious practice facilities, a most attractive clubhouse, and a well-conditioned golf course staffed by very nice and accommodating folks. So just how good was the Grande Dunes golf course?
Candidly, the course started out slow for me, disappointing me the first five holes. This is a demanding layout by any measure stretching all the way to more than 7,600 yards with a whopping slope rating of 142/77.3 – whew! It also features wide enough fairways to handle most of my wayward shots, which is another way of saying they’re pretty darn wide. If there is a “bomber’s course” in which big hitters have a nice advantage, Grande Dunes is it. That doesn’t make the course bad, but in the case of Grande Dunes those first holes lack definition, creative shaping or movement, and not much strategy. The land is pretty flat and there was not much more to do other than hit it long and straight. My buddy and I both wondered aloud where all the fuss in favor of the course came from.
From the 6th hole on, the course got better and better. With bunkering and later enjoying more interesting terrain, designer Roger Rulewich crafted a captivating finish to the outgoing nine and the incoming nine was even better. Enjoying the ups and downs of the terrain in that section of the property and a few boldly positioned bunkers, the challenge suddenly got far more interesting and the views much more attractive. With the 14th and 15th holes you can enjoy some very breathtaking views of the Intercoastal Waterway. Given the flat terrain in most of the area, this is an engaging change of pace. Furthermore, a few of the fairways on the incoming nine are a bit more restricted with penalties in the offing for errant shots.
You will want to linger longer and reach for your camera with the 220-yard 14th hole adjacent, but high above the water to the right. You can enjoy the water to the right again on the entire length of the 468-yard 15th that also tumbles up and down. They are not the only stellar holes with the 560-yard 13th another eye-catcher. In fact, there’s not a single weak hole among the last ten or eleven.
The other thing to keep in mind in playing Grande Dunes is to stay out of the thick Bermuda rough. Though the fairways are wide, a few inches into the rough are the equivalent of about a 3/4 penalty shot. If management wanted to really make this course tough, all it would have to narrow those fairways, but this is a public course in a resort area so hit hardly makes any sense. And a word of caution, most players should play at least three or four tees up as the course is really long otherwise.
Playing Grande Dunes reminded me not to be too quick to judge a golf course. Grande Dunes is one of the better courses in the golf-rich Myrtle Beach Grand Strand region though you will have to play the back nine to really appreciate why. When you add the service and amenities, it is easy to see why it continues to be a very popular golf destination.
Below is the 560-yard 13th where the second shot over the water is anything, but routine for most.