Prairie Dunes Country Club

Sixth hole, 390 yards, Cedar, (Perry); When Perry Maxwell’s nine holes opened for play in 1937, golfers headed to this tee from the second green and played this as their third hole. Great use of natural landforms abound and the accomplished golfer likes to hit a draw down the right of this fairway to a) get a sling forward off its high right side and b) to open up a view of the putting surface that is otherwise obscured from the left by a large bunker short of the green. Many a golfer upon approaching the green complex is disappointed/perplexed to find his ball in the swale between the short front bunker and the green. The resulting recovery shot can be played with a three wood to a flop wedge to a putter.

The exhilarating view from the elevated sixth tee shows the fairway as it swings left around the bunker on the inside of the dogleg. Rather than flirt with the bunker, the golfer can use the right to left slope of the fairway on the outside of the dogleg to his advantage.

The unfortunate golfer who finds this inside left bunker off the tee faces a 135 yard shot to the green. The large bunker in the distance is a full twenty paces from the green and creates depth perception problems.

Seventh hole, 510 yards, South Wind, (Perry); When the hole lives up to its name South Wind, a good drive can ride the wind and catch the down slope in the fairway, leaving the golfer with a mid-iron into this par five. However, the target is a tight one as the green is sandwiched between two hummocks with sand and tall grass all around. Conversely, when a front is moving through, and the opposite wind is blowing, this can be one of the most demanding holes on the course.

The two bunkers in the foreground were built by Perry Maxwell but at 215 yards from the back tees, they are only in play when a strong wind is dead against. Thus, Coore cut a bunker into a natural landform some seventy yards ahead to help the hole preserve Maxwell's original challenge.

Though a reachable par five, great care needs to be taken with one's approach as golfers going for the green in two have walked away with doubles and worse, such is the penalty that the thick vegetation doles out.

Eighthhole, 430 yards, Dunes, (Perry); The fact that this famous hole needs no fairway bunkers speaks as to its wildly rolling topography. Indeed, when Coore first walked the property in 1984 with then Green Keeper Doug Petersan, he remarked that he had never seen land better suited for golf. Petersan, ironically as it turns out, replied that he knew where there was land of comparable quality and that was in the sand hills of Nebraska. Of course, over a decade later, Coore would be found working there but he is the first to point out that Prairie Dunes set the stage for all future prairie courses. Not content with just the difficult tee to green aspect of the eighth, Perry Maxwell built what is possibly the course’s most severe green with four feet (!) of elevation change from back to front and a ridge through its back middle. Having only taken the game up at the late age of thirty-five, Perry became famous for working on some of finest greens in the country including those at National Golf Links of America and Pine Valley. Of all his work, no single green is any more impressive than the one here.

This view of the eighth green is from the crest of a hill 150 yards from the green. This same hill insures that most approaches are semi-blind or blind and the golfer rarely has a good look at the flag.

Ninth hole, 450 yards, Meadow Lark (Perry); The fairway contours at Prairie Dunes are the near equal to the ‘Maxwell rolls’, a term famously associated with Perry Maxwell’s green contours. And nowhere are these contours better highlighted than in the ninth fairway. According to the yardage book, Maxwell used a team of mules pulling fresno scrapers to move the earth. Though a slow and laborious process, the end result can be seen with this rippling fairway. The invariably uneven stance contributes much to the hole’s natural defenses.

This view from the tee highlights the character of the ninth fairway.

The two to four feet folds in the ninth fairway are perfect for golf and remind some of the crumpled fairways at St. Andrews. Sadly, modern earth moving equipment has a way of snuffing out such character, which is one reason why few (if any) modern designs are as engaging to play on a regular basis as Prairie Dunes.

This tightly mown area was rough in 2005, leaving the golfer reaching for his wedge as his one recovery option. Now, golfers are free to select from one of several type recovery shots.

Tenth hole, 185 yards, Yucca, (Perry); Is there any course whose first three one shotters are as good as the ones at Prairie Dunes? Perhaps Pine Valley given its diversity of length but no other course readily springs to mind unless one was to cheat and pick the Composite course at Royal Melbourne. This is an important fact because if one is coming this far to play one golf course,the golfer needs to be treated to holes of great exception – and Prairie Dunes possesses them like few other courses. When the Mid-Amateur was contested here in 1988, five players teed off on the tenth in a play-off for the last two spots of match play. Two players made double bogey – and they advanced to match play!

Just having the vision to find this green site through the dunes took great skill and is a sure sign of how much time Perry Maxwell spent on the property getting the routing right. The dune on the left obscures a nasty little bunker. Maxwell considered this his best one shotter and indeed he thought it the best in America.

Though not evident even from this close, the tenth putting surface, like several other greens here, falls away at its back which has a depressing way of determining just how well struck a tee ball really was.

Eleventh hole, 450 yards, Honey Locust, (Press); This hole ends one of the toughest four hole stretches in the game and for some, it is their favorite Press hole. In fact, the next six holes are all Press holes and they lead the golfer into a part of the property that has a slightly different look and feel to the front nine with cottonwood trees being more prevalent. The knob in front of the eleventh green is a stroke of design genius and deflects the weakly hit ball to the left or right.

The dogleg left eleventh takes the golfer into a part of the property that has a different look about it.

This bunker guards the inside of the dogleg and hides the eleventh green, which is in the direction of the distant trees.

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