U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
The Dunes Club Renews Longtime USGA Friendship
May 28, 2017 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C.
By Tom Cunneff
It has been 40 years since the last USGA championship at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club – the 1977 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship won boy Dorothy Porter, but the Myrtle Beach gem shares a rich history with the Association.
Carolyn Cudone, a longtime member at The Dunes Club, was a really good amateur golfer who won numerous state titles in New Jersey as well as the 1958 North & South Women’s Amateur, so it was hardly a surprise when she captured the 1968 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship title at Monterey Peninsula Country Club in Pebble Beach, Calif.
But what she did next, not even the great Bob Jones or Tiger Woods could boast: Cudone went on to win the next four Senior Women’s Amateurs to become the first and only person to win the same USGA championship five straight times – Woods won three U.S. Junior Amateurs and then three U.S. Amateurs consecutively.
The club proudly displays Cudone’s USGA medals, along with her red, 1970 Curtis Cup captain’s jacket and other memorabilia, inside the clubhouse in the “Dunes Through the Decades” Archival Hallway.
Other mementos include the 5-wood five-time USGA champion Jay Sigel used to make a double eagle from 238 yards on the par-5 15th in the final round of the 1994 Senior Tour Championship – the first of six straight Senior Tour Championships at the club. The club also hosted the 1962 U.S. Women’s Open, won by Murle Lindstrom.
But perhaps the tournament that gave the club the most notoriety was the Golf Writers Association of America annual championship each year before the Masters, which it hosted for 50 straight years from 1955–2005. The event was very influential in getting golf writers to tell the rest of America about this golf mecca and what a fantastic test of golf The Dunes was.
“It’s a big, big golf course,” said Jack Bonner, general chairman of the U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball and past president of The Dunes who’s been a member for 35 years.
“The elevation changes here are striking for the Lowcountry. The other key is the seaside wind. This is really a beast when the wind picks up.”
Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed the course, with the first nine (now the back) opening in 1949. The second nine opened for play the following year. Since he was working on redoing Augusta National’s 16th hole at the time, Jones patterned the course on Augusta with giant, flash-faced bunkers in front of the elevated, heavily contoured greens.
“It was just a dream-come-true site for my father,” said Rees Jones, who used to drive down from New Jersey with his dad in the late 1940s. “It was rolling land in a coastal setting, which was unusual.”
Jones Sr. became very good friends with the club’s first pro, Jimmy D’Angelo, and would often return to visit, make improvements and add details.
“If you really want a model of Robert Trent Jones' design philosophy, I'd say you'd have to look at The Dunes,” said Rees. “The green contours are like small greens within a big green. The elevated greens meant he was forcing you to play the aerial game and the runway tees, which he was devising at the time at Peachtree [Golf Club in Atlanta] and here, added a lot of flexibility.”
Rees has continued his father’s legacy by adding a number of improvements over the years to the greens and bunkers, most recently in 2013 when he converted all the greens from bentgrass to Ultradwarf Champion.
With gorgeous oak trees defining the fairways, there are so many strong holes on the property that it’s hard to single any one hole out, but the most famous is the sharp dogleg-right 13th, “Waterloo,” which boomerangs around Lake Singleton and is a true three-shot par 5. It should prove to be a big factor this week in many of the matches.
“I’m very excited about the Four-Ball,” said Bonner. “Great places are meant to be shared. … This is rarefied air here. When you pull into the gate here, you know you're at a great place.”
Tom Cunneff is a South Carolina-based freelance writer.