Ballybunion Golf Club (Old)

Ballybunion, Co. Kerry

The Dunes Club (New Buffalo, Michigan)

The Dunes Club logo Golf Course Review by: Billy Satterfield

The Takeaway:  Mike Keiser's first course is often lauded among the best nine hole courses in the country, and for good reason. With exceptional green complexes and strategic hole designs, the course features good variety on a sandy location, though some of the tree overgrowth infringes on the layout.  Grade B+

Quick Facts

Designer:  Dick Nugent 1992

Cost:  Private

Phone Number:  269-469-5539

Course Website:  Official Website - Visit The Dunes Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.

Directions:  Get here! - 10600 Marquette Dr, New Buffalo, Michigan  49117 – UNITED STATES

Photos:  See additional photos of The Dunes Club

What to Expect:  Located on 60 acres at the southeast tip of Lake Michigan, The Dunes Club has largely remained on the short list of the best nine hole golf courses in the country. The club was founded by Mike Keiser, seven years prior to opening up Bandon Dunes, with the property being obtained in an effort to thwart a residential development from expanding into the area. Dick Nugent was hired to design The Dunes; the only course Keiser ever engaged the Chicago based architect to work on. If The Dunes Club doesn't feel like any other Nugent course you've played, it is probably because of Keiser's influence in the design. Often referred to as the "Pine Valley of the Midwest", the sandy features at The Dunes Club are prevalent at the site with a gentle amount of movement; enough to give it some interest but tame enough for players to easily enjoy it as a walking-only facility. In fact, having it be a walking only course on a sandy site that only gets 6,000 rounds a year are major contributors to why the course is maintained in such excellent shape. More prevalent than the sandy features though is the amount of trees on the property that line every fairway and at times infringe into the playing corridors and can effectively take driver out of your hand. While all of the holes are enjoyable, it is the par fives that standout as the best offerings to look forward to with excellent greensites that create risk/reward scenarios to weigh on the approach shots. Speaking of greens, the collection of putting surfaces and the bunkers around them represent the best feature at The Dunes Club; although I'm also in love with the incredibly laid back and understated atmosphere of the club. In the end, there is no doubt that the course is solid. At the same time, it is difficult to rank a nine hole course at the same level as 18 hole courses. Even Tom Doak won't give a nine hole course more than a 9 on the Doak Scale because it simply is that much easier to design nine good holes compared to 18. As such, being found in the Top 50 on Golfweek's Best Modern Courses list seems to be partly due to the Keiser connection and what he has done with courses elsewhere more so than the course solely gaining that ranking on its own merits.

By the Numbers

Tees Par Yardage Rating Slope
Back 36 3524 37.9 146
Member 36 3294 36.8 141
Front 36 3165 35.4 134
Forward 36 2472 34.2 128

Individual Hole Analysis

Signature Hole:  8th Hole – 513 Yard Par 5 – The Dunes Club's second par five is a hole that shotmakers will appreciate on the way in. The tee shot is plenty generous, but if you want a chance to get home in two the best strategy is to hit your tee shot up the right half of the fairway short of the waste area that terminates the short grass. From there a draw is the shot asked for as it carves up the right side away from the two defensive trees on the left and bends into the course's wildest greensite. The raised complex looks like a Mike Strantz design with dramatic movement and bunkering into a slightly bowled putting surface. Hitting this green in two is perhaps the most rewarding feat that can be accomplished during a loop at Dunes Club.

8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)
8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)

8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)
8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)

8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)
8th Hole at The Dunes Club (513 Yard Par 5)

Best Par 3:  6th Hole – 185 Yards – A nice one-shotter over a sandy waste area, the 6th plays level from the tee to the green and rewards a ball that is slightly fading off the bunkering on the left towards the center of the green. Balls that cut too far will still yield a good opportunity to save par given the forgiveness found on that side. The green is deeper than it is wide, so if you are between clubs, hit the straighter one and live with any distance discrepancies.

6th Hole at The Dunes Club (185 Yard Par 3)
6th Hole at The Dunes Club (185 Yard Par 3)

Best Par 4:  7th Hole – 364/397 Yards – The 7th doesn't necessarily require driver off the tee as positioning is more important than length. The hole doglegs left late in the design and features a bunker complex on the interior of the corner to discourage players from cutting off the yardage. The uphill approach shot will require a bit more club depending on your positioning with more forgiveness afforded on the left side than on the heavily bunkered right side. This hole is a shotmakers delight.

7th Hole at The Dunes Club (364/397 Yard Par 4)
7th Hole at The Dunes Club (364/397 Yard Par 4)

7th Hole at The Dunes Club (364/397 Yard Par 4)
7th Hole at The Dunes Club (364/397 Yard Par 4)

Best Par 5:  3rd Hole – 534 Yards – The 3rd is carved through the trees and bends right initially off the tee before straightening out and even working back to the left a bit as it works its way to the green. Midway through the hole Nugent placed a series of moguls that will need to be carried before facing another forced carry into the green; this time over sand. The distinct tier in the green creates two shelves in the putting surface to consider, but when in the front, the transition hump can be used to generate spin off of.

3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)
3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)

3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)
3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)

3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)
3rd Hole at The Dunes Club (534 Yard Par 5)

Birdie Time:  2nd Hole – 150/200 Yard Par 3 – Located at the southwest end of the property, the 2nd hole from the 150 yard tee yields an opportunity to card a birdie. Sand sits between the tee and the green to carry but the depth of the green provides plenty of forgiveness to land on so with a great opportunity to collect a green in regulation, birdie putts await. When the flag is in the front right, you'll want to take dead aim at it.

2nd Hole at The Dunes Club (150/200 Yard Par 3)
2nd Hole at The Dunes Club (150/200 Yard Par 3)

Bogey Beware:  5th Hole – 420 Yard Par 4 – The 5th hole is flanked by trees on the right and junk on the left, so stripping one down the middle is paramount for any chance of avoiding bogey. The approach shot plays over a water hazard that runs nearly to the front edge of the green while trying to bail out long will yield a sand shot from one of the rear bunkers. The green boasts a plethora of subtleties that can cause players to three putt their way home as one more insult to injury. Par here is a fantastic score.

5th Hole at The Dunes Club (420 Yard Par 4)
5th Hole at The Dunes Club (420 Yard Par 4)

5th Hole at The Dunes Club (420 Yard Par 4)
5th Hole at The Dunes Club (420 Yard Par 4)

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