MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- It's hard to stand above the crowd in a packed market loaded with more than 85 golf courses.
Only a handful of courses along the Grand Strand are good enough to do it. The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in the heart of Myrtle Beach proper has always been one of them.
This place has the "it" quality that's hard to define but easy to feel. Maybe it's the gate near the parking lot or the understated clubhouse filled with memorabilia of past major tournaments. Maybe it's just the vibe the place gives off, an air of exclusivity that most public courses in Myrtle Beach can't replicate.
The second oldest golf course in Myrtle Beach, this club is one of the founding fathers of the Grand Strand. And Granddaddy has aged with dignity and class thanks to a few tweaks along the way. Golf Digest currently ranks it second on its list of the 60 best courses along the Strand.
Robert Trent Jones Sr. and his son, Rees Jones, have both tinkered with this classic layout since 1948, but one thing has remained constant: world-class conditioning. Fast bentgrass greens are a staple and one of the course's primary defenses. Its subtle breaks have tested some great players while hosting the 1962 U.S. Women's Open and the Senior PGA Championship from 1994-99.
The front nine plays fairly straight-forward through the pines lining the fairways. It's solid with RTJ's signature elevated greens and slight doglegs. The spectacular comes after the eight-hole warm-up. The par-3 ninth winks at the Atlantic Ocean. The par-4 10th plays tough over a pond to a green perched above the water.
But it's "Alligator Alley" -- a three-hole stretch beginning at No. 11 -- that wins the day for its breathtaking scenery near marshy shores and Lake Singleton. The fairway of the par-4 11th sweeps right, revealing a green tucked into the marsh. The 200-yard 12th flies all-carry over water and two front bunkers to a narrow green with several bunkers in back.
Sports Illustrated at one time ranked the par-5 13th one of the top holes in the world. A 3-wood up the left side avoids the lake, setting up a nerve-wracking second shot over the corner of this dogleg right to the other side of the hazard. The approach must be well executed to a severe, elevated green. A new par-3 bye hole was added during a $6 million renovation in 2001 just to calm the nerves of those tortured by the 13th, appropriately nicknamed "Waterloo."
Bunkers ring the 17th green and a pond catches errant shots short of the 18th green. These two final tests finish off a full examination of any player's game.