Our journey this month took us to the Nature Coast, about an hour north of Tampa to challenge the Dunes Golf Club located on Highway 19 in the town of Weeki Wachee. There were no mermaids; just their lovely cart girl, Jen, who was featured in our April issue. When you turn east into the Dunes, it is about a mile until you reach the clubhouse. Once there, the player assistants meet you with cart, get your bags loaded quickly, and direct you to the pro shop. The clubhouse sits on a knoll overlooking the expansive driving range with target greens, 2 short game practice areas and a large putting surface before the first tee. Director of Golf, Jim Cocchi, has an excellent staff of instructors to help you improve your game. The pro shop and 19th hole snack bar share the same room, with tables for enjoying your favorite snack and beverage, plus a huge screened-in porch.
The Dunes is truly a work of Art. The natural rolling terrain and sandhills afforded renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills a remarkable piece of property to work his magic. In 1988 he originally gave the Dunes a one of a kind design, and 20 years later they invited him back to make it even better. And he did just that. One of the best improvements and most visible is the Pike Creek Tifdwarf greens which played superbly. The irrigation system was redone to insure great fairways year round, plus new cart paths throughout. It is Bigger, Badder & Better!
When you get to the first tee, it would be wise to speak with the starter about your handicap and the correct tee to enjoy your Dunes day. The course has five sets of tees, but reaches to 7139 yards from the back, and plays to every inch of it. We had a group of players in front of us who seemed to hit the ball fairly long, but wrong. They had no idea where their drives were going. I am sure Glenn Makin would have been ‘tellin them fellas to commence playin from the girly tees’. The intimidating first hole is all uphill with waste areas on either side of the fairway. If you keep it in the short grass, and right on the second shot, you just might have an opportunity to save par, and say bye to this 533 yard par 5. The second hole is a beautiful par 4 with a bunker left from tee to green, and if you can place your drive just right of the only tree in the fairway, where the dogleg bends left, you will have the opportunity to land your approach on the green, and a chance at birdie. The next hole is a 408-yard dogleg right, par 4 with a fairway sloping right and a bunker from tee to just short of the green. The Duffer, who usually plays from left to right, took full advantage of this one and rolled his drive around that bunker to about 80 yards of the pin and was putting for bird. The longest par 4 is #4, at 478 yards with another waste area running the entire length on the left, but does play downhill and doglegs gently left. This is one you want to favor the right side for an opportunity to reach a green that has no bunkers, and be thrilled with par.
It’s been over 20 years since I had the pleasure to play Pine Valley, but if you want a taste of Americana Golf, The Dunes is the closest thing to it, and an experience you will cherish. You already got the idea where the course got its name, but the beautiful indigenous forests that surround the layout, that has no parallel fairways, provide a feeling of being one with Nature. Every time I stood on the tee box, I was awestruck by the view. The par 5 fifth has 5 peek-a-boo bunkers hidden behind mounds and come into play on the second shot. Army golf works best; right drive, left 2nd and right pitch to the green with a good opportunity for birdie. Hole 6 is the first of four distinctly different par 3’s and the shortest. I hit a perfect shot, I thought, which landed on front of the green. As I was walking to the golf car, the Gang said the ball was moving. I watched in horror as it rolled all the way off and down an embankment. Ouch! We played the # 1 handicap, par 4, 7th and the par 3, 8th with ease. Hole # 9 is a short par 4 where I finally got some strokes back. Luckily, while waiting on the practice green for our tee time, I watched players coming in and having trouble with the three tiered green. Knowing the location and the narrowness of the green helped me get a bird while the Gang was using two hands to count their score.
The back nine starts with a short par 4 with a split fairway. Birdie time! Eleven is 452 yards from the tips and the only hole where water replaces sand. I hugged the right and managed to keep it out of the lake that runs from tee to green for another low score. I was in the zone and ready to enjoy some free libations when I parred the 416 yard 12th & the prettiest par 3, the downhill 192 yard, 13th. The day ends with two par 5’s, 17 & 18. I gave some back on these. The closing hole at 520 yards has two pot bunkers in the sloping right to left fairway and a huge bunker left. Add another deep bunker that protects the elevated green, where a hogback is situated that returns what you might think is a great pitch to the top of the green and you got trouble. After dealing with all the above, I was happy to leave with a bogey. I scored better on the backside, but I must say both nines were equal in pleasurable play. To check it out go to www.DunesGolfClub.com or call 1-800-232-1363. You won’t be disappointed.