Located on Hilton Head Island, Atlantic Dunes is part of the Sea Pines Resort and was recently restored by Davis Love III and his team.
Previously named the Ocean Course, Davis Love took the property and along with his team executed a very thorough transformation. While the course routing remains unchanged, the layout and feels are almost completely different. The update eliminated some trees and opened up sightlines throughout the course. Waste areas and target bunkers changed the feel of the course and added a different degree of difficulty.
Rarely are you able to find examples of course remodels that feel so transformative. It feels like this track finally received the attention it deserved. While the previous design was not flawed, it certainly was time for Sea Pines to bring this course up a level.
The front nine makes good use of a lagoon system that comes in play on seven of the first nine holes. Tee shots can find the water on the first three immediately testing players as they being their round. After players navigate the opening three holes, the fourth is dog leg left that will present an opportunity for a birdie. A lagoon guards the left side of the fairway for the lay up shot, but there is plenty of room to the right to stay dry.
The fifth hole is a fun gentle dog leg right that feels almost completely different than its previous rendition. Players can hit a driver, but it is not necessary. The more aggressive the tee shot, the longer the carry over a sandy waste area. The second shot is a forced carry over a small pond just short of the green. This is a great example that length is not always the best route to a challenging par four.
The ninth hole was my favorite par five on the course. A straight tee shot is required should players want the opportunity to attack the green in two shots. A pond just to the right of the green will present difficulty for players on their approach. The entire hole is played straight at the newly renovated clubhouse and back into an open area where wind can swirl. It is a hole that can yield a bogey just as easily as a birdie and will require players to pay attention to every shot.
The tenth and eleventh holes have switched pars from the previous McCumber design. The tenth holes is now a scenic par three that utilizes the pond just to the left of the green. While the water may be intimidating, there is plenty of room to the right. The design is tricky and uses the water to distract players.
The eleventh hole is now a short par four that does not have any water in play. A driver could get longer hitters near the green, but the contouring of the fairway and the angles of the approach will make for a difficult second. The prudent play may be to lay back off the tee, but the Love team really tempts players with a very open approach and short number. A truly fun short par four.
The course features one of the few holes on Hilton Head Island that actually plays along the ocean. The fifteenth is a striking par three whose green is located within the Sand Dunes and features one of the best views on the entire island.
The finish to Atlantic Dunes is a formidable challenge, especially if the wind picks up. The sixteenth is a short par four that requires precision off the tee to open up the approach and then has a green that is divided by a strategically placed bunker. Two good shots will result in a birdie look, but being out of the position will make par difficult.
The seventeenth has been converted from a par 4 to a lengthy par 5 with a water in play on all three shots. The tee shot is guarded by water on the right and OB on the left. The lay up is not much easier with a lagoon sitting on the left side of the fairway. Finally the green sits on the same hazard and will penalize any shot short or left.
The eighteenth hole requires a strong tee shot with water right and OB left once again. Should you find the fairway off the tee, the approach is manageable.
While the course may not receive the notoriety of Harbour Town just down the road, it certainly holds its own and is worthy addition of any golf trip to Hilton Head. It does not play overly long and throughout the middle of the round, there are certainly holes that can be scored upon. The finish is the most difficult stretch of golf on the course, but will certainly leave players with a lasting impression of Atlantic Dunes.
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