By: Blake Stouffer
For ancient Romans the Ides of March signified the coming of the season’s first full moon. With it came a new year’s festival for which people would gather outside of Rome by the banks of the Tiber River to celebrate. And while March 15th may not have been such a great day for Julius Caesar, it was a very good day for Wild Dunes Resort. For it was on March 15, 1986 that a party on the banks of the Intracoastal began with the opening of Tom Fazio’s second design on property, the Harbor Course.
Director of Golf at the time of opening, Terry Florence, billed the course in a very positive light. He suggested that first time visitors will feel like kids on Christmas… anxious to see and rip into whatever comes next. Coincidence? We think not, for March 15th also marks the birthday of none other than St. Nicholas.
Don’t let the yardage of 6,359 from the tips fool you though, there are no easy gifts on the Harbor Course. Mr. Fazio, known for visual deception in his layouts, managed to work water, lagoons and marshland into active play on 14 of the 18 holes. In a 2009 interview with Golf Digest, Fazio referenced some advice that he has heeded through the years. This advice was given to him by his uncle, playing professional and course designer, George Fazio. “He always felt that most players miss the ball right. And that’s where you have to be watching from a design standpoint. What are you doing with the right side of the golf hole?”, Fazio noted. Players will find this methodology in practice on the Harbor Course with the vast majority of the trouble set up down the left sides.
The par-5 first, one of three par-5s on the front, sets the aquatic stage for the day with water running the full length of the hole “left” on this double-bending 535 yard opening hole. Long and right might seem safe here, but be cautious with your approach as this small green jets out into the water, both front and back.
The par-3 third is the first of six three-shot holes on the Harbor, attributing to the total of par-70 for the course. The number of par-3s also helps explain the course’s popularity with junior players and families. Furthering the family theme, guests will find tees built specifically for juniors and beginners of all ages. These Junior Fazio Tees throughout the Harbor Course range from a 45 yard par-3 to a 300 yard par-5.
On the Harbor Course players will “make the turn” after the eighth as the course makes an about-face and works back in the opposite direction. The par-5 ninth, par-4 tenth and par-3 eleventh all play in direct and unobstructed view of the Intracoastal Waterway down their respective left sides. A favorable tailwind will render these holes more birdieable.
Mr. Fazio and his team did a commendable job defining each holes using the workable and well-draining sandy soil and indigenous foliage to form hole-framing and undulations on a relatively small footprint. They, as we’ve noted here, also had a fair amount of water to work with and around. Players will find this to be unavoidably true as rounds reach the par-3 sixteenth and par-4 seventeenth where both require forced tee shots over water. The score card twice warns though, that should you drop the ball in the drink, please do not approach alligators as they enjoy their natural habitat. Further, never reach into ponds to retrieve golf balls.
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