Dunes Club came about when Mike Keiser bought vacant land to prevent development near his holiday home on the edge of Lake Michigan
Keiser employed Dick Nugent to build a minimalist nine hole course on the sand based, heavily treed site, and you can bet Keiser had significant input on the final result.
It was the first of many world class developments by Keiser and perhaps Dunes gave him the confidence to move on to Bandon Dunes..
Dunes Club has a Pine Valley feel with sandy wastes and bunkers punctuating the fairway corridors
The site is heavily treed. The tracks between greens and tees have their own personality- tunnels through the foliage.
It's just a beautiful place to be
The green complexes are not overdone, and are perhaps a little simpler in concept than the modern courses by Doak, Coore Crenshaw etc
Nevertheless they have enough going on to keep your interest- and the playing surfaces are superb.
For me the key factors which elevate the Dunes Club experience among the best nine hole courses in the world are:
- the use of the sandy wastelands and bunkers throughout the course
- the use of alternate tees for the front and back nine, giving the holes different lengths, angles and feel
- the connection paths throughout the course, which are set up for walkers to just enjoy the ambience of the site
- the overall minimalist approach from front gate to clubhouse to the course itself.
And there are some world class holes at Dunes Club. The par 5's and par 3's are particularly engaging
Notable holes include:
- the par 3 second (& eleventh hole)- a wonderful hole with green protected by acres of sandy wasteland. Two different tees come from different directions and lengths through distinct 'corridors in the trees'. They feel like different holes!
- the par 5 third hole (12) is very 'Pine Valley ish' with a tee shot over sand framed by trees, and the final approach needing to carry more sand to a lovely green complex (see pic top of page)
- the short par 4 fifth hole (13). The approach needs to carry a lake
- the par 3 sixth hole (15) has a small elevated green protected by yawning bunkers
- the par 5 eighth hole (17) is unique and perhaps the strongest hole at Dunes Club. After a water carry off the tee, carry over a sandy waste for the second, the approach needs to be precise to find a green tucked in a dell over a rise. The line home is compromised by a large tree, so the 2nd shot needs to be played for position..
We were very fortunate to be given the run of Dunes Club for the day. It is quite a surreal experience, and one we will never forget
The course is superb
I had the pleasure of caddying for my son Tim on the Canadian tour- it was something I will never forget.
Heather and I then drove down to Michigan to catch up with Tom Doak at Crystal Downs
How lucky were we? We played Crystal Downs with Tom, who acted as playing companion, caddy and course historian.
We then headed south to New Buffalo to find Dunes Club at Mike Keiser's invitation.
Our instructions were specific- find a long fence with no houses and then find the gap in the fence. There are no signs
It is a leap of faith, driving up a dirt track in the trees 'heart in mouth', but then we came across the most beautiful scale model of a clubhouse..
It is tiny!
The pro shop is basically a closet..
But it works just fine
We loved our day at Dunes Club, and then headed off to find 'the shack'.
Mike & Lindy Keiser had kindly offered the use of their shack for our night's stay.
Needless to say the accommodation they provided on the banks of Lake Michaigan was definitely not a shack!
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