Sometimes in golf, less is more. The Dunes Club defines that. In an era where golf courses and clubs are becoming so extravagant and built to rival the technology of current times, the Dunes Club seemingly seeks the simplicity of the ardent golfer in simpler times. No 500-yard par 4s, tee markers, carts, driving range, or fancy locker rooms. Just you, your caddie, and the golf course.
Hidden just across the street from Lake Michigan, you will surely miss the entrance to the Dunes Club on your first try. With no signage or a fancy entrance gate to stick out, the secluded location sits back alone down a drive with only a small pro-shop, caddyshack, and a standing net used for a makeshift driving range. You get out of your car and walk into the pro shop only to find a small walk-in closet that’s used for merchandise, and another closet across the hallway as a locker room for members. There’s even a small kitchen where you may go in and serve yourself.
Mike Keiser has been behind some of America’s best new golf courses in the likes of Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, The Dunes Club, and Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia. Only 9 holes, but with world class architecture, The Dunes Club holds its own with any place. Even from the putting green you can tell the course is going to be special. After rolling a few putts on the massive putting green, you’ll walk towards the first tee only to see that there are no tee markers. It’s simple idea though, just walk up and tee it wherever you please. Make it a fun round and play it risk-reward or tee is back for the extra challenge. Either way, you’ll be sure to enjoy.
The crisp-golden bunkers, filled with beach sand, line each hole. Lush fairways, big undulating greens, and tree protected heather make this course tough, but easy on the eyes. Only being a 9-hole track, the usual sequence is to play the front nine, eat lunch at the turn, then the crew changes the pins for your back nine excursions. Lunch is great. A burger, hot dog, brat, or chicken sandwich? Doesn’t matter, as they’ll go back to their kitchen and throw it right on the grill for you, then and there. It’s no fancy experience, but a simple way to enjoy the simplicity and atmosphere of the club.
There is no redundancy in the 9-holes of The Dunes Club. Each hole different from the last, and a new view from the tee. Hole 2, a par 3, has two tee boxes that are separated by 100 yards. Giving 2 totally different views to the deep bunker guarded green. Want to have some fun? Go over to Hole 6, another par 3, and play from 1 of the 11 tee box combinations. Yes, 11 different tee box combinations to play from. Pick your favorite distance, or make it a long or short shot. Just make sure you’re on the right side of the pin there.
Thinking back to the round, my favorite hole is hole 7. I’ve always been a fan of the short risk-reward type par 4s. I love sitting on a tee box and strategizing what type of tee shot will give me the best chance to make a birdie. Depending on which side of the tee you decided to rip it from, you may be blocked out from with a dogleg, or could be straight on. With bunkers guarding the entire left side of the fairway, you can take a chance and blast driver over for a flip wedge, or play back for a mid iron approach. The approach into the green is one I love. You will be hitting uphill to a very undulated green, but friendly, as you can utilize a huge backstop to your advantage. There’s a certain amount of swagger you gain from throwing one off the backstop and bringing it back to the pin. It is a simple, yet effectively designed hole that can either result in a high number with the wrong swing, or an easy birdie.
The experience at The Dunes Club is one I will always remember. The presentation is nothing fancy, but a world class golfing experience. Most the time when I was on property I felt like I was in some guy’s backyard on his own personal private track. I’ve had multiple opportunities to play The Dunes Club in the past, and after having finally played it, I am kicking myself for never taking advantage of the opportunities. If you have the chance, don’t be like me. Get out there and enjoy the experience of golf in a simpler way.