Mississippi Dunes Golf Links – Minnesota’s Pinehurst #2

By R.J. Smiley

Watching back-to-back U.S. Opens at Pinehurst #2, an American links style course to this writers experienced eye, Mississippi Dunes resembles Pinehurst #2 more than any golf course that I have ever played. If you would love to play Pinehurst #2, then you must experience Mississippi Dunes.

There is only one place in the world to experience “true links golf” – along the wind-swept coast of Scotland, where golf began.

With that said, many golf course developers have hired golf architects experienced in reproducing the look and feel of true links golf. We American golfers do get glimpses of the look and feel of links golf a few holes at a time, but not usually on the entire course. True Links Golf is played on flat, sandy, wind-swept wasteland that lies between the sea and the more fertile sheep grazing pasture inland.

When, owner, designer and builder of Mississippi Dunes, William “Doc” Doebler, located the spectacular property overlooking the Mississippi River, he visualized a golf course that would contain many of the same elements that challenged Scottish sheep herders as they gave birth to the game of golf.

The sandy soils, that for centuries have been deposited along the Big Muddy, are identical to soils found along the Scottish coast. Those soils produce the firm and tight fairways that are the trademark of links golf. Doc duplicated the exact types of grasses used on today’s links courses. The combination of fescue, the natural wiry coastal grass (a weed really), and bent grass, the grass of choice for putting greens on the majority of American courses, were used to create fairways that are kept firm and tight so many approach shots can be played on the ground. On most summer days, the predominately southern wind blows unimpeded across the wide-open water highway that brought paddle-wheel riverboats all the way from New Orleans.

With the combination of wind and tight fairways, lets take a look at a few holes at Mississippi Dunes that are “almost” mirror images of Scottish golf. After you check in at the pro shop, it does not take long to get the feel of Mississippi Dunes and the Scottish style. The opening hole was created to give the golfer a wide, links style, open look at a fairway pock-marked with a menacing mine field of railroad-tie-lined bunkers. The green is slightly elevated, meaning that any mis-hit approach will roll off the closely clipped fringe leaving several options to save par. Very similar to Pinehurst.

The par-5 fourth is another very links-looking hole (just block out the tree lined out-of-bounds left). Playing into the prevailing wind the first thing that jumps out at you is the pile of railroad ties that frame a large bunker in the right center of the fairway. Once a golfer avoids the railroad-tie grave off the tee he is challenged with a series of cross bunkers approximately 100 yards short of the green. But the feature that will remind you most of Pinehurst is the elevated green that sits on an angle to the fairway, with a ridge that dissects the green where everything past center on the right side will roll off the back side.

With six par-5s at Mississippi Dunes, the eleventh hole, playing down wind but up hill away from the river, has a huge, very old, oak tree dead center in the middle of the fairway. But the tree is not the problem on this hole. The green is the real problem; with a valley, some 20 feet below the putting surface, sucking any ball not struck purely back to the bottom. The eleventh has a links feel, but a Pinehurst playing pattern. Take most of your clubs and all your brains for the shot from the bottom on the valley to the putting surface above.

The final hole at Mississippi Dunes is another with a links feel, extra wide, fairway. This par-4, playing directly into the southerly wind that comes directly off the river, which creates an unforgettable backdrop, leaves each golfer with a favorable memory of this wonderful test of golf.

Many first time players leave Mississippi Dunes with a feeling that the course is too hard. In truth, who said golf was meant to be easy. If you had the chance to play Pinehurst #2 you would want to do it. The same should be said for Mississippi Dunes. Golfers who have played Mississippi Dunes a few times find that they really love the strategy involved.

What a value! Doc has come up with a “Day at the Dunes,” includes your green fee, cart with GPS, a sleeve of golf balls, $10 food voucher, and beverage of your choice for an incredibly low price. For the price of a plane ticket to Pinehurst you could play Mississippi Dunes 15 times.

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