Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | The three-hole swing of Alligator Alley at Dunes Golf & Beach Club has been wowing players for years.
While the course in its entirety is as decorated as any around South Carolina’s Grand Strand golfing mecca, the collective impressions that Nos. 11, 12 and 13 make as a mini-conglomerate is undeniable.
“A lot of guys will say ‘Hey, I played 11, 12 and 13 one over today.’ If you can come out of those under par or even par, you’ve done something,” Dunes head golf professional Dennis Nicholl said. “Nationally, I don’t know if there’s another combination like that [outside of] the famous tour courses.”
Individually, each of the three bring something special to the table. Not coincidentally, in early 2017 all three holes were selected for the Perfect Round series, a joint effort between the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel and Myrtle Beach Golf Trips to identify the best 18 holes along the Grand Strand. And some of those reviewers’ notes read as a blue print to how to get through the trifecta without too many teeth marks.
Most players will have less than 400 yards on the par 4 No. 11, as the bend around Lake Singleton begins. Multiple members of the ratings panel used the word “tough” here, with one expanding his take.
“Requires a perfectly placed tee shot to a tricky green,” he wrote, “surrounded by trouble waiting for an errant shot.”
Then its on to No. 12, the 175-yard par 3.
“This is the forgotten hole in the club's Alligator Alley and can be stretched to 245 yards,” one reviewer wrote. “Thankfully, that tee is seldom, if ever, used. No matter what the distance, the shot over the marsh to one of Robert Trent Jones monster greens must be precise or three putts await.”
A knowledge of what else to come - because of the reputation Dunes has crafted over the years - is also there, too. No. 13, better known to many as “Waterloo,” has put itself into a category of holes so few can touch. Stretching to more than 600 yards from the back tees, this monster hole could be transported to a U.S. Open course and still give the best of the best fits.
“It's the biggest, baddest hole at the most iconic Myrtle Beach golf course,” another reviewer included in his assessment. “My one birdie on this hole is a special memory I'll never forget. I remember walking off the green, wondering to myself, ‘How'd I do that?’”
The sentiment is magnified by those who start thinking of Alligator Alley as a whole.
“It becomes almost like a chess match,” Nicholl said. “You make one bad shot, you’re making a double on 11. You hit wide on 12, you make a double there. Even if you have a perfect layup on that edge on 13, you’ve still got 280, 290 to get to the green. Most people aren’t going to go over the water. You can’t fan it out there at all. You get over the water and you think your trouble is over. It’s really just beginning. You’ve got 150 in. The teeth are there.”
That’s exactly how Robert Trent Jones’ design was meant to be, especially after he and then Rees Jones started tinkering with certain portions of Alligator Alley in the 1990s and 2000s.
Just as much of it, though, goes back to Robert Trent Jones’ original vision, one that opened in 1948 and is still making headlines nearly three-quarters of a century later.
“A lot of it has to do with the age of the course and the open checkbook has a lot to do with it as well,” Nicholl said. “You have the Robert Trent Jones, post WWII era, where he just exploded. His design philosophy was risk-reward, and making an impact on these communities.”