Grande Dunes is a gated resort in central Myrtle Beach. It offers a private members course and a public resort course. Both were designed by Roger Rulewich, long-time protege of Robert Trent Jones, Sr. As a rule (no pun intended), Rulewich courses tend to be brutish in nature, overly challenging from nearly every tee deck and not very snuggly. Grande Dunes resort course can be that type of course, but only if you ignore the angles. Water lurks on many holes and expanses of sand cover a fair portion of the landscape. Despite these pitfalls, the course can be managed by intelligent and aware golfers of all ability levels. Let me explain.
Knowing that golfers of all skill levels, at all stages of their respective golf seasons, would play his resort course at Grande Dunes, Rulewich and his team built safe sides into every hole. The depth of each hazard (or better said, the proximity to the fairway) is not always evident, so it’s best to err on the side of greater caution. Out of the gate, the right edge of the fairway drops off precipitously to certain wetness. Unless the penalty drop is your best move, stay left. This motif repeats itself on many a hole, so get used to planning your shots before you bash away.
Somewhere along about the third hole, Rulewich throws an angle at you. In architecture circles, it may be called a Cape tee shot. Experts debate whether the tee ball of the green location determines the designation. What it is, is an angled hazard that dare you to bite off more than you can manage. Golfers typically drool over the possibilities and succumb to the temptation. Then they hit a provisional ball! Course management again rears its head and reminds you that this is golf, not a practice range.
Possibly on the fourth or fifth green, after your third failed up-and-down or your second three-putt green, you recognize the contouring of the putting surfaces. Yes, they are large. Yes, they are exposed to the wind (and quicker as a result) and yes, they run up or down hill despite a level appearance. These greens remind you that the journey from tee to green is one part of the golfing equation. A full command of direction and pace, coupled with an ability to promptly assess slope and break, win the day.
I’m not completely taken with the design. I don’t like the par five thirteenth hole (pictured above) because it asks average golfers to hit a 200-yard-plus carry shot, from a downhill lie, over the wide water hazard that bisects the fairway between 140 and 100 yards from the green. The options are to hit driver, eight iron, seven iron or risk it all with a long hybrid or fairway metal. The hazard is fine, but terrace the fairway a bit, to minimize the chance of the dowhilll lie. At the same time, two holes later, Rulewich tosses a monster par four at you, with a twist. There is a speed slot across most of the fairway, wherein the tee ball will bound forward and down, adding another 50 yards to your drive. Same architect, proper solution.
See the photo above? Long, downhill par three. Can play up to 240 yards. Here’s the thought process: 1~Right is dead, so aim center or left; 2~Short is dead, so take enough club; 3~Hole is downhill, so don’t take TOO much club; 4~If I hit the green or miss in the fairway left, I should make 4 no matter what. It’s a bogey, but it ain’t no other. Play each of the 18 holes like this and you’ll leave Grande Dunes more than thrilled with the golfing experience. You’ll also be thrilled with your score.