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The Links at Wild Dunes still one of Charleston area's finest

By Spencer Hux,
Contributor
Wild Dunes' Links Course
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Wild Dunes' Links Course features unusual elevation changes for a Lowcountry layout. (GolfPublisher.com)

ISLE OF PALMS, S.C. - One of Tom Fazio's earliest designs, Wild Dunes Links Course differs markedly not only from the architect's more recent work but from its Charleston-area neighbors.

Though it plays just over 6,700 yards, the Links has ample defense. The undulating greens are roughly half the size of those on other notable Fazio courses, making an up-and-down nearly impossible from certain areas. Difficult rough penalizes drives that miss the fairway, and well-placed pot bunkers swallow shots. The elevation change, unusual for the Lowcountry, and the ever-present wind make distance-control a major factor.

It would be difficult to find a set of closing holes to match beautifully designed, stunningly set final trio here, with its panoramic views of Dewees Inlet and the Atlantic. The 175-yard, par-3 16th yields a few square feet of green refuge amid an acre of water, marsh, bunkers and dunes. Bordering the ocean, Nos. 17 and 18 bring to mind centuries-old links classics.

The view from the tee of the dogleg-right 18th encompasses the entire landscape; the water seems to close you might fear over-shooting the fairway into the open sea (in actuality there's more than 260 yards of landing area even if you miss the ideal line).

Although the course is mostly known for its seaside finish, there is a wealth of great holes throughout.

"In Fazio's original plan, today's 10th through 13th were the closing stretch of holes," Head Professional Joe Stevens said. But ownership wanted the course to finish by the sea and used these four closing-worthy holes to start the back nine instead.

The 10th is an uphill par 4 with a green perched upon what seems to be the course's highest point. The 192-yard 12th might be the best of the par 3s (which Stevens calls "one of the strengths of the course"), with rolling dunes to the semi-blind tee that give the hole an Irish feel; escaping with par is an accomplishment.

Ditto the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth, which play longer than their respective 501 and 418 yards. No. 5 is temptation to the long hitter, but well-guarded green makes laying up the wiser choice. Even then, finding a spot on the fairway that offers a favorable angle to the pin is a real challenge.

The Verdict

The Links Course underwent renovations after Hurricane Hugo devastated the Charleston area in 1989 (Mike Strantz worked on the crew that redesigned certain holes), but unlike many recently built or redesigned tracks, it never gives the impression that design savvy was sacrificed for real-estate development. Every hole looks natural; the homes, while frequently visible, are never obtrusive.

Considering the course quality and seaside location, the Links is reasonably priced: $130 for Wild Dunes resort guests, $160 otherwise. There's a healthy drop in the off-season, an enticing deal given the mild local climate, and several packages offer even greater savings for guests. Whether you're staying at the resort or not, this is a worthy play on a Charleston visit.

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Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
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