New life pumped into Dunes Golf & Beach Club

11/03/2013 12:18 AM

11/03/2013 12:20 AM

One of the gems among Palmetto State courses, the Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, has become better with recently completed upgrades that include new Champion Bermuda greens, added length and other strategic changes.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” Dennis Nicholl, the Dunes head professional, said of the long-planned changes.

The 2013 bent-grass greens had begun to show their age, and the club faced two choices: redo the greens now or hope to get two more years out of the old ones. With the PGA Professional National Championship coming to the Dunes and Grande Dunes next summer, doing the work in 2014 was not an option.

“There’s the misconception that we did the renovation for the national tournament, but that’s not true,” Nicholl said. “We had started testing both Champion and MiniVerde Bermuda on our alternate hole two and a half years ago, and the timing was right to close this summer. While we changed out the greens, we looked at the 2005 master plan to see what else we might want to do at the same time.”

Famed architect Robert T. Jones did the original design for the course that opened in 1948. His son, Rees, oversaw the changes that included a 50-percent expansion of the driving range, creation or extension of back tee boxes on eight holes and new or rebuilt bunkers on Nos. 1, 7 and 11.

“We added about 185 yards, so we can stretch out to almost 7,400 yards from the back tees,” Nicholl said. “The course has obviously stood the test of time, but these changes make sure we keep up with the modern game.”

The 312 golfers in the PGA’s club pro championship will play 18 holes at the Dunes and 18 at Grande Dunes with those surviving the cut advancing to the Dunes for the final 36 holes. The low 20 earn places in the PGA Championship in August.

“Bob Mauragas (president of National Golf Management) had worked with the PGA of America for the tournament at Reynolds Plantation,” Nicholl said. “The PGA people came in on a Tuesday and we had them a proposal on Friday.”

The national tournament will add to the Dunes’ long list of high-caliber events. In addition to being a regular host to amateur events in the Carolinas, the club has staged the U.S. Women’s Open, the final stage of PGA Tour qualifying school and the Senior PGA Tour Championship on six occasions.

Is the club pro tourney a precursor to bigger events at the Dunes?

“Anything like that will depend on what the membership wants to pursue,” Nicholl said. “We want to run this tournament as well as possible and show what Myrtle Beach golf has to offer.”

The PGA Professional championship runs June 22-25, which is Sunday-Wednesday and beginning on the Sunday that the U.S. Women’s Open concludes in Pinehurst.

Information on volunteer opportunities will be announced around the first of the year.

Long, but not long enough

Columbia’s Patrick Hopper placed sixth in the national finals of the ReMax/Long Drive competition Wednesday in Las Vegas.

In his third trip to the finals, Hopper had a long drive of 389 yards among his seven attempts and missed advancing to the semifinals by four yards. The top four among the final eight advanced to the semis for head-to-head matches, and the two survivors squared off for the $250,000, winner-take-all purse.

Tim Burke captured the title with a blast of 427 yards.

Chip shots

USC freshman Ben Dietrich earned honorable mention Rolex Junior All-American honors from the American Junior Golf Association. A native of Bluffton, he reached the semifinals on the Polo Golf Junior Classic and tied for sixth in the Brian Harman championship this year. Dietrich has played in two tourneys for the Gamecocks this fall, sharing 33rd in the Rees Jones Invitational and 44th in the Badger Invitational.

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