Wild Dunes Resort: Links Course (Isle of Palms, SC on 12/25/15)

I spent Christmas weekend exploring Charleston with my family! I’ve never been to this part of South Carolina and I really enjoyed it. We did a few touristy things including a plantation tour and a boat ride out to Fort Sumpter. There is lot to do in Charleston and I’d highly suggest a visit to the city if you are considering one! Because most of the attractions were going to be closed on Christmas, I thought that would be the perfect time to play a round of golf! My dad decided to tag along to ride in the cart and we headed over to Isle of Palms. From where we were staying on Folly Beach it wasn’t the most convenient course to get to. We had go through downtown, but the Links Course looked like it was worth the 30+ minute drive. And on Christmas morning, there wasn’t any traffic. I’ll give a shout-out to the staff as they let my dad ride for free!

If you look at almost any publication listing the top public courses in South Carolina you’ll find the Links Course mentioned. That’s pretty impressive in a state with such diverse topography and a plethora of courses to pick from in the Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head areas! Wild Dunes also has another course, the Harbor Course but it was closed on Christmas. From what I gathered, the Links Course is the one to play at Wild Dunes.

The best thing about Wild Dunes is its location! To get to the island from Charleston you drive across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge towards Mt. Pleasant and then get on the island. If you have time to check out that bridge I’d suggest you do so, it is an impressive piece of engineering! Once on the island you drive through streets of beach homes towards the end of the island. Wild Dunes is part of an upscale community located at the very end of the island. It appeared they had plenty of places to rent, but I cannot comment on the accommodations.

The Links Course is at the tip of the island bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and a marsh on another side of the island. Because it is a prime piece of real estate, the course doesn’t run around the entire edge of the property but the designer did manage to secure enough of the best land so that you shouldn’t feel cheated after paying the premium green fee! The best comparison that I can come up with for the setting are the courses at Half Moon Bay in California. The Links Course is somewhere in the middle of the two courses there. The Ocean Course at HMB has awesome view after awesome view while much of the Old Course plays through condos before a couple great holes at the end. The Links Course here has some marsh holes early and late before the last two holes play along the Atlantic. I always love hitting a golf shot while the waves crash and you’ll get plenty of that, even on the interior holes with residences nearby. I didn’t think that the homes were much of a bother or in play, but with all the fog I couldn’t see very far!

The first thing that I’ll highlight are the conditions. I didn’t realize this until a few weeks later, after my trip to Myrtle Beach, but the conditions on the Links Course were incredible. Absolutely amazing! In recent weeks the South Carolina coast got hammered with rain, apparently they were measuring the rain in feet! As you’ll read in my reviews of the Myrtle courses, if I ever can get to them, those courses were so soggy. That wasn’t the case here though. I didn’t see standing water anywhere which boggles my mind.

Yes, the course was wet and played long so there wasn’t much roll, but the overseeded fairways were lush and I had great lies. I had some thin lies in the rough, but that is common when playing from dormant bermuda. Because of the overseed, the course looked great with the green fairways contrasted against the yellow bermuda this time of year. The course went through an extensive renovation which I’ll explain more in a moment. I mention it here because the greens were recently re-done. That meant it was difficult to leave a ball mark and get an iron pin high as they were firm! Like usual, if you give it some time they should be more receptive. They rolled great, just a touch on the slow side but I think that’s because of all the moisture in the air on the day that I played.

The Links Course was designed by Tom Fazio and it is his first solo design, opening back in 1979. I’ve played maybe a half dozen other Fazio designs and there seems to be a theme with his courses. They generally are one of the highest priced places in town! If you want to impressive a golfer friend, then playing a Fazio course would be a good start! Typically, you can see the premium price in the design and conditioning. Speaking of the price, you’ll probably see the green fee listed between $100 and $200 depending on the time of year that you are playing. I managed to snag a time through Teeoff.com with a coupon and it was ~$75. Unless you have endless cash, playing here will generally be a “splurge”!

Earlier in my review, I mentioned that the course was recently renovated. For six months in 2015 the Links Course was closed for some updates. It opened back up about the time of those heavy rains! I won’t bore you with a copy and paste job from the course’s website, but the greens were re-done and par on the 18th hole was changed. The change to the 18th is significant because it was a par 5, but now is a par 3. The 17th and 18th holes are located in the sand dunes steps from the Atlantic, so the 18th was plagued by erosion. Instead of spending extra time and money to maybe create a less than stellar par 5 again, it was converted to a par 3. Based on the remains of the par 5 that I saw driving back to the clubhouse, I’d say that was a good idea. There wasn’t much room out there left for a long fairway! I like ending on a par 3 myself, although I know some don’t.

The Links Course isn’t long, even after the addition of some yardage it maxes out at 6,383 yards from the black tees where I played. It’s rating is 71.7 and the slope is 128 so it isn’t the most difficult looking course, at least on the scorecard. That is until you find out it is a par 70! It still isn’t going to be the longest par 70 course that you’ll see, but the thing that stood out to me about the difficulty are all the long par 4’s. There are four par 4’s that are over 425 yards! In fact, the #1 through #6 handicap holes are all par 4’s. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen that before! Those par 4’s are filled with angles, forced carries, and some hidden hazards that pinch more than it seems so be extra careful on them.

If you can avoid big numbers on the long par 4’s then you might be able to put together a good score. The par 5’s are short and I found much of the course to be playable, even with some crooked shots. Out of bounds and marshes are in play, but there is more room to miss than it appears in the pictures. Scrambling is the strength of my game and the course allowed me to do that! If you want a decent score, a good short game is something that you’ll have to display. That and some patience! You can get a few bad bounces around the greens into bunkers and sunken chipping areas. The greens tend to have gentle slopes and I made a few putts from 15 to 20 feet.

I know I’ve rambled in this post, but I enjoyed reading the press releases from the course and other articles on the renovation and the historic flooding. The short of it is the Links Course is worth checking out if you are in town. It is expensive, but the design is challenging while not being too much and the last three holes are amazing! Obviously, the courses on Kiawah Island get the most attention in these parts but that wasn’t in the cards for me this week.

#1 (502 yard par 5):

1-1 1-2

#2 (355 yard par 4):

2-1 2-2

#3 (430 yard par 4):

3-1 3-2

#4 (177 yard par 3):

4-1

#5 (508 yard par 5):

5-1 5-2

#6 (418 yard par 4):

6-1

#7 (359 yard par 4):

7-1 7-2

#8 (203 yard par 3):

8-1 8-2

#9 (428 yard par 4):

9-1

#10 (331 yard par 4):

10-1 10-3

#11 (376 yard par 4):

11-1 11-2

#12 (192 yard par 3):

12-1

#13 (427 yard par 4):

13-1 13-2

#14 (489 yard par 5):

14-1

#15 (426 yard par 4):

15-1 15-2

#16 (175 yard par 3):

16-1 16-3

#17 (412 yard par 4):

17-1

#18 (175 yard par 3):

18-1 18-2

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