It is fairly obvious that there was one overarching mission when Sand Valley ownership and David McLay Kidd teamed up to bring the world Mammoth Dunes – let’s take this beautiful, native sand dune terrain and create the most fun golf course anyone will ever play.
Mammoth Dunes is one hell of a good time.
Known best for his work at Bandon Dunes, Kidd designed a course that is not only fun, playable, and pleasing to the eye, but also unique in that you are playing this sort of American links style golf with the ocean nowhere in sight.
Fully open for play as of this May, Mammoth Dunes is one of those courses that you just can’t get enough of. You will want to play it again, again, and again.
Ask ten golfers what their most memorable hole was after their rounds and you will get ten different answers. It’s truly an unforgettable, one of a kind masterpiece. So memorable that you will be able to replay your round over and over again in your mind for an eternity.
In terms of overall play, there are so many ways you can attack Mammoth Dunes. Similar to the true links style courses across the pond, it is built on sand, and you will typically have the option to play the ball either high in the air, low, or even on the ground, especially around the greens.
Tips for playing Mammoth Dunes
- Practice your lag putting. The greens are as mammoth as the fairways. Also, be sure to practice your putting from off of the green.
- Again, spend extra time on the putting green. I am not exactly sure why, but nobody I played with putted very well on either Mammoth Dunes or the Sand Valley course.
- Work on your ‘100-and-in’ shots from tight lies. You will face some of the tightest lies of your life here. Don’t be afraid to pull out a putter or Texas wedge around the greens. Putting from off the green is often the best play. If you can’t find a tight lie at your practice facility, practice hitting shots out of a divot.
- Go big or go home. There are two driveable par 4s, and at least three out of the five par 5’s are gettable in two (for most). All five are gettable for long hitters. This is a fun course that calls for aggressive play.
- Practice hitting mid irons from the sand. As you can tell from the photos, waste bunkers and sand traps are abundant here. You will most likely find yourself in a tough lie in a waste bunker at least once. These are trouble!
Tale of the Tape
Mammoth Dunes is a par 73 measuring 6935 yards from the back (black) tees. What is really cool about Mammoth Dunes is that there are six different tee boxes, and three additional ‘combo tees’ that are rated and sloped for handicap. With so many tee options, Mammoth Dunes is very playable for golfers of all skill levels.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 3
The first par 5 on Mammoth Dunes provides you with a green-in-two opportunity with a good tee shot. Your best chance at having a short iron in your hands for your second shot is to hug the sand to your left on your drive. This line is your best chance to catch a slope. For your second shot, you will get a nice kick off of the (blind) hill to the right of the green. Your caddie will probably advise you to barely carry the waste bunker on the right of the hole, especially if the pin is located in the back right corner. Missing left is not ideal.
The green is large and is tricky to read. The green breaks in different directions depending on whether the pin is on the left or right side. I thought that all of my putts would break more than they did on this hole.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 5
The par 4 5th hole features stunning views from an elevated tee. The right side of the fairway is the play off the tee to get the most distance out of your drive. You can see the slope you want to catch while you are on the tee box. Miss left or right and you will likely be hitting your second shot from a waste bunker.
The pin was tucked behind the bunker protecting the green for both of my rounds. This is a tricky pin location as it sits in a crater.
If you find yourself on the back of the green putting towards this tricky pin location, then your putt will be downhill and break from right to left.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 6
This par 4 is driveable and showcases a boomerang shaped green. No sense in laying up here. Let the big dog eat. The far left side of the green is your entry point for your drive, regardless of pin location. Hitting your drive towards the middle or right of the green will either land you in the bunker or provide you with a difficult shot over the hill that sits in the middle of the boomerang.
If the pin is in the middle or left side of the green, then you will likely have a makeable eagle putt. If it’s on the right, making eagle may be difficult, but a two putt birdie is absolutely in play. You’ll love this hole.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 8
This picturesque par 3’s green is an island surrounded by sand.
The green slopes back to front for a middle / back pin location. The challenge here is mentally blocking out all of sand during your tee shot.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 9
This is a unique par 4 for Mammoth Dunes in that it runs along a string of oak trees to the left of the hole. The tee box points you down the right side of the fairway, but the aiming point is just to the right of the bunker that sits in the middle of the fairway.
There is more room to the left than it seems standing on the tee. A good drive will leave you 120-130 yards from the front of the green. An acceptable miss on your second shot is into the hill just to the right of the green.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 10
The par 4 10th was a thorn in my side, but it’s such a great hole. It is a slight dogleg left to an uphill green. My advice would be to lay back with an iron off of the tee to the right of the bunker that sits in the fairway. This will leave you with a level lie roughly 150 yards away from the front of the uphill green.
Again, driver is unnecessary, and what would seem like a perfectly shaped 3 wood will leave you with a pitch shot off of an uphill, tight lie. That’s not a good combination. It wasn’t for me, at least. I want another stab at this hole very badly.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 13
At this point, you think you’ve seen it all, but really, it’s just getting started. The short par 3 13th hole is iconic. Words can’t do it justice, so I’ll leave you with this beauty.
As with most short par 3’s, the slope of the green provides the defense, and making putts outside of ten feet is a challenge. There is a nicely sloped ridge that runs through the center of the green. Such a great hole.
Hole Spotlight – Hole 14
After the 13th hole, you may feel like you don’t need much more to satisfy your golf appetite. Along comes the mouthwatering, driveable par 4 14th hole, which is arguably the most fun hole on the course. The design is a result of the 2016 Golf Digest Armchair Architect contest, whereby Sand Valley and Kidd opened up the design to the public.
The result is the par 4 14th hole that is meant to be driven. Aim between the bunker in the middle of the fairway and the long waste bunker on the stretches along the right. A straight shot or baby draw will catch a slope and roll down onto the green. Enjoy!
Hole Spotlight – Hole 15
The par 5 15th hole is very unique in that it features a double fairway. From the tee, it looks like the fairway to the right of the long bunker that splits the two fairways belongs to another hole. Finding the “right” fairway is actually your best bet to hit this green in two. I was on the left fairway for both rounds and regret it. That said, aim to the right of the splitting bunker and bombs away.
This hole’s defense is the valley to the left of the green. Miss down there and you’re likely waving goodbye to a birdie. There is a nice landing area to the right of the green for lay ups or misses.
Hole Spotlights – Hole 18
A Mammoth finish to Mammoth Dunes (see cover photo). I played this hole two different ways, and I have a clear preference. Assuming you’ve found the green stuff off the tee, take on the Mammoth bunker on the left and let it fly. There is more room to the left of the green than the Mammoth bunker wants you to believe, so it’s fine to tug it a little. It goes without saying, but there is obvious risk/reward in taking this route. Who lays up on a golf trip?
The other option is to play the direction of the hole, lay up to the right, and leave yourself with a 100 yard wedge into the green. Outstanding finishing hole.
It was fun to re-live my experience on the Mammoth Dunes course. I can’t wait to play it again someday, and it will only get better with age.
In summary, Mammoth Dunes will leave you smiling. There are so many fun, rewarding holes. Even if you don’t have your best going that day, you will undoubtedly leave with plenty of memories and a story to tell.
Cover photo features the 18th hole and is courtesy of Jeff Bertch, @linkslandphoto
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