Wild Dunes' magic in ocean, wind and Fazio


The 12th is the best and most dramatic of the Links Course's par 3s. 


by Tim Gavrich 


    The Links Course at Wild Dunes is a resort/daily fee facility located on the Isle of Palms, 15 miles north of Charleston, SC.  Open for play since 1980, it is one of Tom Fazio's earlier designs, and one of his best-regarded.  The golf course is solid overall and comes to a dramatic close with the final two holes playing along the ocean.  I rate courses on a number of criteria, with my ratings ranging from 1 (Repulsive) to 10 (Exceptional).  I invite your own opinions; simply use the Comments function at the bottom of this article.

Golf Course Setting: 8 ~~ The Links Course winds through the Wild Dunes resort area.  Although houses line many of the holes, the scenery is quite pleasant and varied.  The transitions between a typical, wetland-heavy Low Country setting and dunes (of varying proximity to the ocean) are fairly smooth.  True to their billing, the 17th and 18th holes are spectacular.  One problem: beach erosion has caused the 18th hole to begin to fall into the ocean (see yesterday's posting, immediately below this review).  Dozens of huge sand bags line the left side of the final hole, seriously impeding the landscape, leaving players with a bad taste in their mouths at the end of the round.  This is the only quibble with the setting of the course.

Golf Course Condition: 8 ~~ The Links Course was in extremely good condition.  The Bermuda fairways were lush and cut fairly tightly; well-struck shots were not met with any resistance, and divots were large.  The rough was thick and penal; a missed fairway made reaching the green in regulation a chore indeed.  The Champion Bermuda greens, though very smooth, were rather slow.   The oppressive summer heat and lack of rain have most coastal courses exercising caution when it comes to mowing the putting surfaces.  The golf course would have been even more enjoyable had the greens been faster.

Quality of Green Complexes: 8 ~~ The Links' strongest suit was its set of greens.  The greens themselves are smaller than average (appropriate for a golf course of such modest length), but possess quite a lot of undulation.  Nearly every greenside bunker was small, deep, and circular -- it is evident that designer Fazio wished to bring the concept of pot bunkers of the British Isles to coastal South Carolina.  The highlight among all the green complexes comes at the par 5 5th hole.  The elevated green is tucked between dunes, and a large mound with a tiny bunker scooped into it prevents the player from seeing the bottom of the flagstick.  The green combines both strategy and quirkiness - I would enjoy hitting hours of shots to the green from a variety of distances.

Quality of Par 3s: 7 ~~ The par 3s at the Links Course do not vary much in terms of distance, but the fact that they play in three different directions means that the winds that blow over the Links Course site necessitate a variety of tee shots.  The greens complexes are also sufficiently different to present four different looks on the par 3s.  The strongest among them is the 12th hole, which plays to a green set among dunes.  The view towards the green is breathtaking, and the constant breezes make the hole all the more intimidating.

Quality of Par 4s: 7 ~~ The par 4s at the Links course vary nicely in length, direction, and difficulty.  Although there is no drivable par 4 on the course, there is plenty of fun to be had on the two-shotters.  From the drive-and-wedge 10th (331 yards from the back tees) to the brutish 427-yard 13th, the player's long game receives a thorough examination at Wild Dunes.  The strongest par 4 on the course is the penultimate hole, which whisks the player to the ocean and sweeps along the beach to a green tucked amid the dunes.

Quality of Par 5s: 5 ~~ The three-shot holes at the Links Course are its weakest point.  The 1st and 14th play alongside one another and in the same direction, and due to the beach erosion eating away at the left side of the 18th, what was already an extremely narrow hole is getting narrower by the day (see yesterday's article below).  It is becoming something of an eyesore instead of the inspiration it was designed to be.  The huge sand-filled plastic bags pollute the scene, leaving players with a bad taste in their mouth at the end of the round.  The highlight among the par 5s is the 5th, whose green is discussed earlier in this review.

Routing of Golf Course/A Good Walk?: 6 ~~ As is true with most courses routed among condos and houses, the Links Course is rather spread out (although nothing like the resort's Harbor Course, which runs straight out for eight holes and straight back for 10 and is the least favored of the two Fazio designs).  Lengthy green-to-tee walks abound at the Links Course, so walking is all but out of the question.  The 14th tee is beside the 1st and 10th tees, so members could potentially walk four or five holes late in the afternoon but 18 are out of the question for all but the hardiest souls.

Overall Rating: 7.5 ~~ At 27 years, The Links Course at Wild Dunes is one of the older resort courses that bump up against the Atlantic, and it has weathered (pardon the pun) the devastation of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, after which its ocean holes had to be rebuilt.  The finishing hole once again appears to be in for some restoration as the ocean currents wear away at the dunes that hold the 18th in place.  Although homes line most of the fairways on the course, our foursome threatened the out of bounds stakes just two or three times.   Overall, the Links layout provides an intriguing test of a player's skills throughout the round and enough of a seaside feel to keep members and daily fee players alike coming back for more.


Wild Dunes Links Course, Isle of Palms, SC.  Phone:  (800) 845-8880.  Web site: www.wilddunes.com 


Black: 6709/73.2/131
White: 6193/70.4/128
Gold: 5536/67.3/118
Red (W): 4907/70.4/120

    You must own property in Wild Dunes to be a member of the club, which provides access to both the Links and Harbor courses.  Full family golf membership for residents is $25,000, with monthly dues of $342.  Non-resident initiation is $15,000 with dues of $206.  Access to the club's fitness center requires an extra fee.  Daily greens fees for non-members range from $135 to $165, depending on season.
    We will discuss the community of Wild Dunes in an upcoming issue of HomeOnTheCourse.  To subscribe today and receive the just released August issue, with an exhaustive review of the Williamsburg, VA, golfing communities, click here.  It is easy and secure, and at just $39 for six issues annually, quite possibly the best real estate investment you will ever make.



The most intriguing green complex at the Links is at the par 5 5th.