Review of Pine Dunes Golf Club
Located about 30 miles south of Tyler in the east Texas piney woods, Pine Dunes Resort & Golf Club may be a little difficult to get to, but it's well worth the drive. What was originally a nine hole course that had been run into the ground morphed into what is consistently rated as one of the best 18 hole championship courses in Texas. In 1999, well renowned course architect Jay Morris was hired to redesign the course into what it is today and the new 18 hole course opened for play in 2001.
Wow, what a great layout and a blast to play as the wide rolling fairways meander though the stately east Texas pines. Pine Dunes is sometimes compared to Pinehurst and Augusta National and it's not surprising to us that Pine Dunes Golf Club has been the recipient of several awards and accolades, some of which include:
- named one of the "Best Courses You Can Play" and ranked #1 in Texas #26 in the Country by GolfWeek
- rated 4 1/2 stars by GolfDigest and "Top Ten of Americas Best New Upscale Public Courses"
- #13 "Best Course in Texas" by the Dallas Morning News
- honorable mention as one of "The Top Courses You Can Play" by Golf Magazine
Some of the reasons why we included Pine Dunes in Texas Outside's Best Public Courses in Texas list and why we think you should add Pine Dunes to your list of "must play Texas golf courses" includes:
- it's peaceful, quiet, and scenic with no homes, barking dogs, sirens, airplanes, and other distractions – all you'll hear is the wind whistling through the trees, birds singing, and when we played, my golf balls ricocheting off the trees
- it's a fair course with wide forgiving landing zones off the tee and huge greens yet on some holes it requires some good course management and strategic shot making to par
- it's not tricked up and with 4 sets of tee boxes (yardages ranging from 7117 to 5150) you can pick one that will give you an opportunity to turn in a very good score
- the course is well maintained and the conditions from tee box to the cup are very good
- the pace of play is excellent and for such a quality course, the rates are reasonable
- it's kept as natural as possible with native waste areas/bunkers, beds of pine needles and pine cones, concrete cart paths around the green and tee box only, and water and restrooms tucked back under the pines – all of which encourages the wildlife to hang around and watch you play
And Pine Dunes Golf Club is home to some great holes that make for a memorable and fun round, some of our favorites include:
- #5, a 501 yard par 5 that forces you to make a decision at the box – a line of trees splits the fairway and you can take the shorter but risker left side but it requires an accurate tee shot to carry the intimidating natural area to hit the fairway 226 yards out and the green in two or you can take the safer but longer right side that's all fairway but ends with two bunkers and the green set way off to the left – on the right side you might risk trying to fly the tall trees that split the fairway and hit the green in two
- #6 is a pretty 254 yard par 3 with an elevated tee box and a downhill shot to a green guarded by 5 nasty bunkers
- get your sand game ready on #9 which is a fun 551 yard par 5 with a slight dog leg left and a minefield of 12 bunkers to survive for a par
- #11 is outstanding – a 605 yard par 5 with a huge natural waste area/bunker that crosses the fairway 300 yards from the tee box, 3 fairway bunkers that pinch the fairway about where your second shot wants to land, and two huge bunkers guarding the green
- #9 will make you want to come back and play Pine Dunes again – a 512 yard par 5 with a fairway that ends about 270 yards from the tee box and takes a sharp 90 degree turn right around a big bunker and a pond leading to a slightly uphill shot to a green with a huge spine across the middle and 4 monster bunkers guarding it – and most likely there are several people drinking beer on the grill's deck watching you try to par this beauty
When we played in September 2013, Texas was still suffering through a severe drought which had impacted all of the courses in Texas. With that said, the conditions at Pine Dunes Golf Club were very good. The fairways were firm and a tad dry but near perfect, the rough was thick and in great shape, and the greens were excellent.
The fairways are wide and forgiving off most of the tee boxes and you can bring out the big dog and let it rip – but if you miss, you're in a natural area, under dense trees, or in a challenging thick rough. Most of the fairways are gently rolling with some contour and lots of strategically placed bunkers plus some fairways include slope, berms, and mounds of various sizes.
The greens at Pine Dunes Golf Club were excellent, held the ball well, and ran true, but a tad slow when we played – we were told that they normally roll around 10 or so. Some of the greens are raised and all but one are well guarded by one to six bunkers putting a premium on your approach shots. Around the edges of the greens, the slope can be severe and the fringe is puttable ranging from 5 to 15' wide.
Before you head out for your round, you may want to spend some time on the practice facilities working on your sand game – there are over 75 bunkers to contend with, plus several natural waste bunkers! The bunkers range from small pot bunkers to some huge treacherous monsters with steep and deep faces. The sand was ok but a little thin and firm from our perspective, which may have been the result of a recent rain.
Bottom line – a must play course with an excellent layout that's fair and fun, good conditions, and some very memorable holes.
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Service is ok as are the practice facilities. The pro shop is limited to the basics. The grill is cool and has a deck that overlooks the 18th hole - food includes bugers, dogs, sandwiches, and more.
Jodi Lutz is owner, financial mgnt