Monday, March 22, 2010

Southern Dunes #11 & #16

Southern Dunes Golf and CC is a Steve Smyers design located in Haines City, Florida. Opened in 1993, the dominant feature are the 189 bunkers. Having previously played Wolf Run, I was not surprised by the wonderful work that Smyers does on bunker design. Granted the majority of the bunkers are just eye candy and would normally not come into play for the average golfer, they surely do add to the aesthetics of the course. The day before I played Southern Dunes they had a real downpour of rain and for the most part the course drained very well with the exception of a few bunkers. The problem I saw with so many bunkers was the man hours of labor it was going to take to get them all back in shape after the storm. My guess was it would take the rest of the week. The course is surrounded by a real estate development but because several of the holes are well below the home level it gives you a feeling of isolation from them when playing the course. The homes didn't come close to coming into play.

Hole #11 is a par 3 that played 190 yards to a back pin into a 10-15 mph wind. The first thing you notice are all the bunkers (11) that are visible. None of them should come into play except for a really poor shot. The deception on the tee of this hole is the severe penalty you will pay if you are long left or right. My philosophy on par 3's is the same as with birdie putts, make sure you get it to the hole. So, I went with the longer hybrid and hit a nice shot which landed just a few feet past the pin and trickled off the back. As I got closer to the hole I realized that I should have gone with the shorter club due to the severe drop off of the back half of the green. There was some thick rough long that held my ball up from rolling all the way down the back slope. I was able to chip up with a 60 deg wedge and stop it within tap in range for a par. Ideally, you should not challenge anything long on this hole and play up to the middle of the green. From the tee, without local knowledge, there is no way to tell how severe a shot you may leave yourself with by missing long. Southern Dunes has a very nice variety in the distance and direction of one shot holes.

The sixteenth hole is a short par 5 featuring a classic Biarritz green. A Biarritz is a green with a large swale in the middle, the swale is usually at least 4 feet deep and guarded on both ends by a bunker. They are most commonly seen on the long par 3's designed by C.B. Macdonald and his proteges. This green is rather small in depth at only 22 yards so it makes it very difficult to find a front or back pin. Today, the pin was at the base of the swale which made for an easy approach shot but a difficult read on your putt.

Off the tee you have a generous landing area for your drive with the only danger being two large bunkers on the left. Smyers bunkers at Southern Dunes are generally very large with capes or small spines to access them. At 507 yards from the blues you can take a run at the green or lay up on your approach. There is a large mound protecting the right front of the green. If the pin isn't placed in the front portion of the green you can go at straight on, if a front pin the best way you can get the ball on the green is to lay up left of the hole and pitch on. Bottom line is if you have a front or back pin position it is going to be difficult to get it close due to the deep swale. I hit a 3 wood on my approach and ended up left of the green in a perfect position for a front pin. I pitched with my 60 degree to a few feet right of the middle pin and was left with what looked like an easy straight putt which I missed. If I had played here before I might have known this putt had some break in it and had a better chance for making birdie. Par is excellently defended at #16 around the green as are at two other par 5 holes, #4 and #9. I choose #16 because of the superb use of the classic Biarritz design.

Other notable holes: #4, #5, #9, #13, #14, and #15.