Twisted Dune Golf Club

6,759 yards, 126 slope from the Blues

Course:  In Egg Harbor Township, NJ, Twisted Dune is another “shore” course, which opened in 2001.  It’s ranked as the 3rd best public course to play in New Jersey by Golfweek and is generally regarded by many as one of the better public course options at the Jersey Shore.  The course has an interesting history in my opinion, as Rees Jones was initially retained to design the course.  Having never visited the site and submitting his design plans, there was apparently a significant difference of opinion between his plans and what the owners envisioned, so someone on the the ownership team, Archie Struthers, assumed the task of designing the course.  Of course, Struthers had never designed a course before, but drew on his knowledge and experience of working at Pine Valley, as well as his affinity for the Irish and Scottish links, and began the foray into course architecture.  Working backwards from the greens, Struthers strived to make the course interesting, fun and challenging all at the same time and as a former golf pro, would hit hundreds of shots on each hole until he felt comfortable that the design was what he was after.  Struthers would also ask for input from his friends when he wanted it.  When all was said and done, Struthers was successful in producing a course that’s different from anything else and resembles characteristics of Irish links in places.  Most importantly, to me at least, Twisted Dune is a course that can be played several different ways and while there is challenge, it is not daunting nor does it cloud enjoying the uniqueness of the course.

More generally, the design history of the course reminds me of how Pine Valley was designed by George Crump.  Crump was also a design rookie, but had the motivation and desire to make Pine Valley one of the most acclaimed courses in the world, inspired by his experience playing the links in Scotland.  Crump lived on the property and would obsess over design features of each hole, even consulting with Golden Age architects on a number of occasions to get their input.  Crump’s attention to detail and obsession with his course was arduous, but Pine Valley is now considered the best course in the world.  While Twisted Dune has not yet received these same accolades, the same type of devotion to the design resulted in a very interesting and complex course.  Sometimes, this devotion and personal involvement in course design comes through in the playing experience more than a detached yet well versed and trained design plan could.

The course itself runs between raised dunes on either or both sides of the fairway, with bunkers scattered generously throughout, taking all different shapes and forms.  It is very much a links style layout, with trees not really coming into play, which brings wind into play.  There are several larger wasteland areas, mostly taking over one side of a hole, that reminded me of what you encounter at other courses in South Jersey, such as Running Deer, Scotland Run and Pine Barrens.  One of the more welcoming features is there are not very many blind shots, which is refreshing, as many courses almost rely too heavily on the blind shot when trying to create a links feel.  Water comes into play on a few holes as well.  In general, however, the course lends itself to many different plays, angles of attack and its greens can receive an array of shots.  While challenging, I found Twisted Dune to be much more about course management and deciding how each hole should be played.  Because of that, it was a lot of fun and challenging enough that a good score is well earned.  One other surprise was it was fairly easy to find your ball if it strayed off fairway and into native grass.  This is overlooked by many courses, but being able to find your ball and providing an opportunity to recover from the lie is vital to a good design in my opinion.

Twisted Dune is another course I have wanted to play for years.  I finally saw my way there and amid cloudy conditions with light rain, the wind remained at bay.  The drive in and clubhouse are very understated, which immediately gives you the sense that the course is the focus here.  The cart paths are all dirt instead of paved, which added to the ambience.  The staff were great and after warming up at the range for a while, we were allowed to tee off at our leisure.

The First is a 346 yard par 4 (from the Blues).  The course asserts its theme early on; wider fairways, more demand with the approach shots and well placed bunkers, which range any where to prevalent to scarce-yet-attention-grabbing, depending on the hole.  Here, the hole is straight away, with a larger bunker complex off to the right of the green and the green falling away from the fairway and off to the right.  Yet most of the trouble is sideways, so two well placed straight shots, even of the approach rolls up, will be in good position for par.

The First

Approach shot territory

The Second is a 402 yard par 4.  The hole only bends slightly to the right while the fairway crests a little, running gently downhill to the green, with more bunkers than the First surrounding the green.  The green is tricky and with a run off area to the right, bunkers on the left side comes into play if chip shots are not played delicately enough.  There are trees coming into play off the left side and with trees on either side of the fairway, act to shuttle wind directly through the fairway when it’s blowing.  Hence the name of the hole, Wind Row.

The Second

The Third is a 209 yard par 3.  A longer par 3 gets a larger green, which  had a ridge running through the middle, making it run from back to front on the first half and front to back on the back half.  And bunkers essentially line both sides of the hole.  While a longer par 3 with bunkers chastising most mis hits, the green is large enough to tolerate most center-ish shots in a large range of distance.

The Third

The Fourth is a 552 yard par 5.  The hole dog legs right, then proceeds uphill to the green, with bunkers along both sides, but more so along the right, including a couple that encroach the fairway and require some consideration as to whether they should be carried or laid up to on the second shot.  The green is perched above the fairway, again with a number of bunkers of all shapes and sizes around and just short of the green.  I enjoyed the hole a lot and with its shape, bunkers and sloping, is a lot of fun and plays several different ways.

The Fourth

Moving up the fairway

Approach shot territory

A closer look at the green

The Fifth is a 340 yard par 4.  A shorter par 4, but the fairway narrows a little before widening out again as it turns to the left a little.  Two cross bunkers front the green and the green itself runs from front to back.  Like the First, it’s one of these holes where the straight shot keeps you away from any trouble.

The Fifth

Approach shot territory

The Sixth is a 388 yard par 4.  While the hole advances in the opposite direction of the Fifth, they seemed a little similar to me in that both holes widen up after an initial turn, then have a wide berth open to the green.  There is more bunkering around the green of the Sixth, especially on the far side.

The Sixth

Approach shot territory

The Seventh is a 414 yard par 4.  The tee shot is a forced carry over a long grass area to a wide fairway that leads straight and a tad uphill to the green.  All of the trouble is on either side of the fairway, which are of course bunkers.  Again, the wide transition area from fairway to green allows an array of shot to the green to avoid the severe yet scenic bunkers that surround the green.  Definitely a more challenging hole.

The Seventh

Moving down the fairway

The Eighth is a 145 yard par 3.  A nice shorter par 3 with a generous landing area, the bunker carved into the hillside on the left side below the green is definitely the main hazard to avoid.  A good looking par 3 where most of the challenge is with the putting.

The Eighth

The Ninth is a 523 yard par 5.  Water comes into play on the left side, with the tee shot straight out before bending left and sweeping left (towards the water) to the green.  The water actually comes into play more than it should, as many will steer their tee and second shots away from the water to the right, only to create a more sever angle to the green, which brings the water more into play.  The green also runs from right to left (towards the water).  Certainly a memorable hole to close out the front nine.

The Ninth

Moving down the fairway

Approach shot territory from the left side of the hole

Generally, the front nine is set on relatively flat land, but remains interesting through contouring and bunkering.  I enjoyed the par 5’s the most while there was enough diversity with the other holes that it maintained my interest throughout.  Ranking them, I’d go 9, 4, 3, 7, 5, 2, 6, 1, 8.

The back nine starts with the 497 yard par 5 Tenth.  The tee shot sets the tone for a different nine holes with a blind tee shot.  Don’t worry because there is plenty of room behind the dunes to a wider fairway that cants from right to left.  The fairway sweeps left while the hole is uphill and off to the right, surrounded by sunken bunkers.  It’s also one of the tougher greens on the course.  So yeah, contrasted with the easier first two holes on the front nine, the Tenth is more like a punch in the mouth, which you should be ready for with nine holes already under your belt.

The Tenth

Second shot territory

The Eleventh is a 432 yard par 4.  The tee shot is a generous one, which bends a little to the right and slightly downhill with bunkers towards the back of the green.  After the beast of the Tenth, the Eleventh is a nice change.

The Eleventh

Approach shot territory

The Twelfth is a 524 yard par 5.  The fairway is a mild double dog leg that rises then dips then rises a little, with some bunkers shorter of the green that can complicate approach shots.  It’s the modest of the par 5’s, but is a good scoring opportunity for the holes to come.

The Twelfth

Moving down the fairway

The Thirteenth is a 178 yard par 3.  I feel this is the toughest par 3 on the course, as there really is no place to miss.  A large bunker complex is on the left, water is on the right and anything short is in native grass.  It’s also one of the more scenic holes on the course.  The scenery and challenge reward good shots and make those who score well walk off the green with a nice sense of fulfillment.

The Thirteenth

 The Fourteenth is a 374 yard par 4.  The tee shot is a forced carry over the same water you encounter on the Thirteenth, but the fairway is wide.  The fairway narrows as you advance towards the green, with a cavernous bunker on the right, which then drops off if hit too far to the right while dunes linger on the left.  The green is more severe and is one of the tougher putting-wise.

The Fourteenth

The Fifteenth is a 390 yard par 4.  The tee shot is to a fairway that is downhill all the way to the green, which is akin to a saucer tilted on its side.  The fairway is sunken and between the dunes.  The green welcomes all sorts of approach and short game shots.  It’s a fun hole.

Lots of tweaking going on here

The Fifteenth

The green

The Sixteenth is a 191 yard par 3.  A forced carry shot to a deceptively challenging green that slopes back to front.  While there is a little bail out room to the right, it’s not much.  The length of the hole increases the challenge and with the Thirteenth, the par of par 3’s on the back make you work pretty hard for par.

The Sixteenth

The Seventeenth is a 382 yard par 4.  The tee shot is slightly elevated from the fairway, which is raised and falls off on the sides.  The fairway then ends and drops off, with the green elevated on the other side of a ravine.  There are bunkers in the hillside of the green, so those who go for the green on the second shot should weigh the risks of coming up short.

Approach shot territory, off the left side of the hole

The Eighteenth is a 472 yard par 4.  The fairway climbs to the green before descending a little just before getting there.  The fairway varies in width as you advance to the green, with most of the trouble on the second shot.  It’s a longer par 4, but allows for scoring so long as your shots are not shockingly off line.

The Eighteenth

Moving up the fairway

The back nine is definitely more challenging than the front.  The par 3’s really stuck out to me as memorable, especially the Thirteenth, while the Tenth was a stiff challenge and other holes like the Fifteenth and Twelfth balanced the challenge out with some fun.  I’d rank them 13, 10, 15, 17, 16, 14, 12, 11, 18.

In general, Twisted Dune provides an enjoyable array of holes that transition nicely between challenge and fun.  The terrain provides a scenic atmosphere and its severity was restrained quite well, as it would have been easy to use such terrain as overly penal.  But the design is accessible to all skill levels and most penal territory is reserved for the more absurdly poor shots.  I felt the routing was pretty good and there was good separation between the holes to remain engaged with the landscape.  I’d like to come back and experience the course when the wind is up, as the links characteristics work well here and I think the course would play quite different, but would still be enjoyable in the wind.  It’s a solid unique layout with a consistent theme and is certainly one of those courses I could play over and over on end with a smile on my face.

Gripes:  Nothing really.  I suppose if you’re looking for a higher end dining option you will have to go elsewhere, but I enjoyed the focus on the golf.  The cart girl came around a lot (even on a dreary weather day) and the staff were all nice and helpful.  I enjoyed my time here from the time I got out of my car until I left.

Bar/Grill:  They have an inside and outside area, with standard bar fare.  The burger was great and the t.v.’s had golf on.  Sign me up.

Clubhouse/Pro shop:  Adequately stocked.

Practice area:  A range with both mats and a grass area.  A putting green as well that you can chip on as well.

Nearby:  The shore and AC.  Enough said.