Played: September 22nd and 23rd, 2009
Yardage: 6,279, I think. Don’t have the scorecard anymore.
Architect: Unsure. I believe Robert Bruce Harris had involved, along with Charles Maddox.
I decided to look back at a couple of courses that have had some interesting stories to tell since I last visited them. These stories both have some kind of drama. What’s to be seen is the ending. Can these courses make a comeback? Or, is this their final chapter?
Today’s journey takes us to Isle Dauphine Golf Course in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Back story: my wife and I took a trip back in 2009 to Dauphin Island, Alabama. I had never heard of it before, but the place came highly recommended if you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, so we gave it a shot.
If you’re looking for a laid back beach that’s relatively inexpensive to visit, Dauphin Island is the place for you. There are few restaurants, no high-rises, and really not a whole lot to do but chill on the beach and relax in the beach house. If you’re looking for lots of restaurants, high traffic, and many off-beach activities, Dauphin Island is not the place for you. That’s where you look eastwards towards Gulf Shores.
On most trips we take, I try to bring the sticks and play at least one round. Little did I know that there was a golf course on Dauphin Island. Not just that, it had three holes that truly played along the ocean’s edge. And you could walk 18 holes for about $20?! Seems too good to be true, right?
The first time I drove up, there seemed to be the eerie feeling that I walked on the equivalent of a closed amusement park. It almost seemed the course was stuck in the 70’s with some of the signage.
Getting out to the course, things weren’t much better. The condition of this course was one of the worst I’ve played on. That’s likely due to the fact that the course apparently lost $1.2 million in the 12 years prior to its original closing in 2012.
Did I mention that this course closed after I played it? Probably an important nugget.
Yes, the greens were… how should I say… minimally maintained. Most certainly in line with the budget the course must have been running on. Well, that and all the hurricanes that came through the area in the early/mid aughts. Hurricane Katrina hit Dauphin Island particularly hard, as it did pretty much every place in its path. In fact, when we were there, there were still areas on the island that had not yet recovered from Katrina.
What is cool about this course is you’re thrown right out into the ocean on the first hole. You then play holes 2 and 3 along the ocean, turning back inland at 4.
Looking back at the 3rd. Should also note I only got 3 holes in the first day I played due to a storm that rolled in. Played the next day, and as you can see by the photos, it was much nicer.
I remember a lot of mosquitoes in the stretch from 5 to 7, which is likely due to that part being the low point in the property and not draining particularly well. Despite the sandy soil, at no point did you have fast and firm conditions.
After the par 3 8th, you play a beautiful par 5 in the dunes leading up to the clubhouse. This hole remains one of the coolest holes I’ve ever played. Playing this hole alone was worth the green fee. That’s no hyperbole. Not many places you can play a course with a nice oceanside par 5 for $20.
That should really be the point where the course ends.
At the time, there was a back 9 at Isle Dauphine, but at no point did you get close to the ocean again. Really, I can only vaguely remember one hole on the back 9, which was the interesting short par 4 17th.
The fairway was wide open, but the green approach tightened up significantly; to the point that it was unfair. If you put a ball in the left side of the fairway, you really had no chance to hit the green, unless you could hit a shot that towered over the trees. Of course, if you hit it into the trees, you most assuredly had a lost ball, as the vegetation was quite thick.
My main beef with the back 9 was that it’s not nearly as fun to play as its front 9 equivalent. The holes are narrower, especially 16-18, and you’re playing on other side of the front 9; which is to say, you never touch the ocean again.
Supposedly, this course was very popular when it opened. To the point that it (supposedly) was ranked as a top 100 (public?) course in the United States. That’s according to an article I read. I’m not going to do research to confirm that.
So, why did I write this post again?
Well, I was surprised to find out that the course actually closed in 2012, and didn’t open again until 2015. Some (brave) new owners have opened the course back up. They’re trying to get the word out that the course is open again for business. I suppose this is my way of helping them spread the word.
Would I plan a golf trip around this course? No. If you’re coming to the Alabama coast and looking for a golf trip, Gulf Shores is really where you should go. Kiva Dunes headlines a group of courses that is good, but maybe not great.
If you’re vacationing on Dauphin Island, is it worth a play? Absolutely. The course is just really unique. A low-budget, oceanside golf course in the United States. I struggle to think of another course that meets that criteria.