PRAIRIE DUNES COUNTRY CLUB
Course Architect(s): Perry Maxwell (1937), Press Maxwell (1956),
Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore (1980s, 2004)
Year Opened: 1937
Location: Hutchinson, Kansas
Slope: 142. Rating: 74.2
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 432 Yds 10 - Par 3 185 Yds
2 - Par 3 161 Yds 11 - Par 4 452 Yds
3 - Par 4 355 Yds 12 - Par 4 390 Yds
4 - Par 3 168 Yds 13 - Par 4 445 Yds
5 - Par 4 438 Yds 14 - Par 4 370 Yds
6 - Par 4 387 Yds 15 - Par 3 200 Yds
7 - Par 5 512 Yds 16 - Par 4 415 Yds
8 - Par 4 430 Yds 17 - Par 5 519 Yds
9 - Par 4 452 Yds 18 - Par 4 390 Yds
Par 35 3,335 Yds Par 35 3,366 Yds
Events Held: Trans-Mississippi Men's Amateur (1958, 1973, 1987, 1996, 2005),
U.S. Women's Amateur (1964, 1980, 1991),
Curtis Cup (1986),
U.S. Mid-Amateur (1988),
U.S. Senior Amateur (1995),
Big 12 Conference Men's Golf Championship (1999),
A.J.G.A. Canon Cup Matches (2000),
U.S. Women's Open (2002),
Missouri Valley Conference Men's Golf Championship (2006),
U.S. Senior Open (2006).
Awards Won: Ranked #1 by Golf Digest - Best in State (Kansas) (2005),
#13 by Golfweek - America's Best Classic Golf Courses (2004),
#15 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in U.S. (2005),
#24 by Golf Digest - America's Top 100 Courses (2005),
#25 by Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses in World (2005),
#44 by Golf Connoisseur - 100 Most Prestigious Private Clubs in
Holes #8 and #10 rated by Golf Magazine - Best 100 holes in U.S.,
Hole #8 rated by Sports Illustrated as one of their Best 18 Holes.
HISTORY: When discussing the history of a club, all you have to do is scan
over the list of champions and members of the course. An honor roll of past
winners of events at Prairie Dunes includes: Jack Nicklaus, Juli Inkster, Gary
Koch and David Eger, while honorary members of the course include: Nicklaus,
Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Judy Bell and Johnny Miller. That alone
should tell you what's in store.
The founder of the Carey Salt Company, Emerson Carey was an avid golfer in the
early 1900s, travelling the world to play some of the top courses. The Carey
family grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas and helped develop several layouts in the
area. In 1935, Carey tapped Perry Maxwell to create what would become his
legacy, Prairie Dunes Country Club. Maxwell studied under the one and only,
Dr. Alister Mackenzie. The Careys spent much time in Scotland and Ireland,
while Maxwell, who worked with Mackenzie in his construction of Augusta
National, made the visit to Scotland, studying the old courses back in the
Maxwell, who designed such gems as Southern Hills and Colonial Country Club,
was given the task of creating 18 holes out of 480 acres. During his initial
visit, Maxwell was believed to have said, "there are 118 golf holes here, and
all I have to do is eliminate 100." Stories abound that Maxwell traversed the
site for weeks on an artificial leg, toting a bag of apples and a jug of
With mules, plows and scoops in tow, Maxwell crafted nine holes in just two
years. Quite a difficult process, however, it was just what the Doctor ordered
and what would become, "Maxwell Rolls" on the greens and fairways. What's even
more amazing is that roots of native grass and weeds were removed by hand!
Another astonishing fact is that the course is in the heartland of Kansas,
usually a flat piece of country, but not Prairie Dunes with towering sand
dunes with elevation changes, upwards of 60 feet, splendid prairie grass,
yucca plants and rich plum thickets. When completed, Prairie Dunes resembled
more of a seaside course, then what is accustomed to the area. Honorary Club
Member Tom Watson commented, "A touch of Scotland in the Land of Oz,
Sunflowers instead of Heather. Oceans of Grain instead of the seas. But, like
Scotland, be prepared, the wind always blows."
It wasn't until 20 years later that Perry Maxwell's son, Press was brought in
to complete the venue, adding the additional nine holes. His father's work,
which still remains virtually intact, are holes: 1, 2, 6-10, 17 and 18. Press
finished the course, however, it is said that his father routed the entire
piece of property, although the routing plan may not exist.
Prairie Dunes was a huge success right from the start, receiving high acclaim
world-wide. It is currently ranked in the top-30 in the world by several
The United States Golf Association first ventured to Prairie Dunes in 1964 for
the U.S. Women's Amateur. Six-time Curtis Cup member Barbara McIntire captured
her second U.S. Amateur at Prairie Dunes, as she defeated JoAnne Gunderson
(Carner), 3 & 2. McIntire, who won her first U.S. Women's Amateur in 1959, won
all five of her matches without ever playing the final hole. It should be
noted that McIntire captured the 1960 British Ladies Amateur Golf
Championship, becoming one of just 11 women to simultaneously hold the
American and British titles and earning her the cover of Sports Illustrated
The USGA once again returned for the 1980 U.S. Women's Amateur, where Juli
Inkster etched her name in the history books. Inkster cruised in the opening
rounds, winning matches 7 & 6, 4 & 2 and 6 & 5. In her semifinal match,
Inkster edged 1973 winner Carol Semple Thompson, 2 & 1 and then knocked off
former LPGA player Patti Rizzo, 2-up in the championship. The win was the
first of three consecutive U.S. Women's Amateur titles, the first person in 46
years to accomplish the feat and the last to do so.
The 24th staging of the Curtis Cup was held at Prairie Dunes in 1986, as Great
Britain and Ireland defeated the United States, 13-5. The U.S. squad included
former LPGA standouts; Dottie Pepper, Cindy Schreyer and Danielle Ammaccapane
and was captained by Judy Bell. The loss by the Americans was their first
setback in this storied event since 1956 and their first loss on American
The U.S. Men's Mid-Amateur came to Prairie Dunes in 1988, as current Champions
Tour player David Eger captured the event. Eger, a two-time winner on the
elder circuit and a three-time member of the Walker Cup, defeated Scott Mayne
in the championship match, 2 & 1. With the match all square after 14 holes,
Eger birdied the next three for the win. Jay Sigel and John Harris, two other
players on the Champions Tour, along with Randy Sonnier were medalists with a
score of even-par 140.
The United States Women's Amateur made its third visit to Kansas in 1991. Even
par was the low score for qualifying, as Amy Fruhwirth was medalist. Three
former champions of this event advanced to match play, Catarina Quintarelli,
Carol Semple Thompson and Vicki Goetze, however all three would fail to
advance to the second round. Fruhwirth reached the championship match with
ease, dispatching of Martha Leach, 7 & 6 while Heidi Voorhees defeated Martha
Lang 3 and 2 to advance. During the 36-hole final match, Fruhwirth dominated,
as she opened up a 5-up lead after 10 holes. Voorhees trimmed the advantage to
just 2-up after 25 holes, however Fruhwirth went on a birdie binge with four
straight birdies to take a 6-up lead, en route to a 5 & 4 win.
The 1995 Senior Amateur was the next major event to be held at Prairie Dunes.
With over 2,000 entries, James Stahl, Jr. defeated Rennie Law, 2 & 1 for the
title. Prior to the final day, in which both the semifinals and final were to
be played, Stahl discovered that an old fried, former Mid-Amateur Champion
Danny Yates had arrived and was to caddie for Stahl. During the semis, Stahl
did not lose a hole against Curt McClure and won the match, 4 & 3. The final
match was different, as Stahl bogeyed four of the first seven holes, but still
he held a 1-up lead. Law's play improved and by the 12th hole, Law was 2-up.
After winning the 13th, Stahl birdied the 14th to square the match. On the
16th, Law missed his par putt to fall 1-down and Stahl birdied the 17th from
10 feet to seal the win. It should be noted that Stahl was runner-up in 1995
at the Senior British Amateur.
For the seventh time, the USGA returned for the 2002 U.S. Women's Open. Juli
Inkster, 22 years removed from her U.S. Women's Amateur title at Prairie
Dunes, turned in a performance of a lifetime, as she took down the best player
in the world, Annika Sorenstam with a stunning Sunday 66. Trailing Sorenstam
by two shots heading into the final round, Inkster gained one with a birdie on
the par-three second. The two-time U.S. Open champion then drew even with a
birdie on sixth. Sorenstam, playing in the group behind Inkster, stumbled with
a bogey on eight and the lead was Inkster's. With a birdie on 11 from eight
feet, Inkster reached four-under-par and held a two-shot advantage. Sorenstam
birdied the 14th to climb within one, as Inkster was struggling on 15. Her
chip on the par three slipped 11 feet past the hole, but she knocked in the
par putt to keep the lead. Sorenstam missed the green on the 15th, but chipped
to within three feet. However, she failed to convert and the lead was again
two. Inkster then clinched the title with a four-time, fist pumping birdie
from 21 feet on the 16th. Sorenstam continued to press and her birdie on 17
got her within two, however that was as close as she came. For the week,
Inkster did not three-putt a single green, posting an amazing 39 one-putt
greens in 72 holes. With the win, Inkster became the second-oldest Women's
Open champion, behind only Mildred "Babe" Didrickson Zaharias (1954). In
defeat, Sorenstam was the only player in the field to shoot all four rounds at
par or better. For the week, Prairie Dunes played quite difficult, as only two
players broke par and the cut line was at plus-nine. First-round co-leader
Shani Waugh finished alone in third, seven shots back.
REVIEW: It is said that Sam Snead after his first glance of the narrow
fairways at Prairie Dunes, turned to the gallery and commented, "OK folks,
we'll have to walk single file today."
Standing on the first tee, you're able to visualize what's in store, as
several holes are in full view. The opening hole starts off with a sharp
dogleg to the left, stretching a modest 432 yards from the back tees. The
fairway bunkers down the right side are a perfect target to shoot out, as you
draw the ball from the tee. A medium- or short-iron will remain to a slightly
elevated green, that's 28 yards in depth and slopes from the center to the
front and away left and right in the back.
The first of four sensational par three's, the second is the shortest at just
161 yards. When the wind is up, this hole could be one tough hombre, as four
deep bunkers are well below the two-tiered putting surface. Any shot long
could result in an unplayable lie. The green is one of three on the front nine
that's only 26 yards in depth.
From the highest point on the course, the third hole presents a visual
sensation that's not to be believed. The beauty of Prairie Dunes stands out in
all its glory. The carry from the back tee over the deep thicket and brush is
210 yards, so just a three-metal to a fairly wide fairway, will set up a short
wedge. The putting green is long and narrow and falls off severely in the
front. Three deep traps guard the entrance to the surface, making a front flag
"Hill Top", the apply named par three is next and is quite similar to the
second hole. The hole plays longer than the yardage indicates due to the
uphill lay of the land, not to mention the long, left-to-right green that's
fronted by a pair of deep traps below the surface. The undulating green is
quite tricky, featuring a ridge on the left. Missing this green long and right
is jail, so play below the hole if possible.
From an elevated tee, the fifth is a straight-forward par four, featuring a
wide fairway that slopes from left to right. Even with a successful drive, a
mid-iron awaits, depending upon the wind, to an uphill green that slopes from
back to front and is quite narrow and long (34 yards deep). Let's not forget
the two deep traps that guard the front of the surface on either side. By
the way, long of this green is quite a mistake.
Another spectacular setting, the sixth features an elevated tee on a slightly
dogleg left par four. A big drive down the right side, avoiding the bunker on
the left, will set up a short-iron to a short, narrow green. During the 2002
U.S. Women's Open, Juli Inkster sank a 65-foot chip from right of the green to
tie Annika Sorenstam for the lead en route to victory.
The first par five on the course, the seventh can be had, but...Usually
playing downwind, hitting this fairway off the tee is of utmost importance, as
thick native grasses flank both sides to the green. The putting surface is
long and narrow and guarded by sand on both sides. The smart play would be to
layup 90 to 100 yards short of the green and pitch up to the hole, thus giving
yourself the best shot at birdie.
Probably the most famous hole on the course, the eighth is a dynamite par
four, displaying Maxwell Rolls more than any other hole. From the tee, the
hole plays uphill to a ribbon-rolling fairway that doglegs right to the green.
From the fairway, take an extra club to reach the surface, as four traps lay
below the sloping green. There is no bailout to the left, as deep thicket and
a trap await. There is no doubt that this is the hardest hole on the course.
It comes as no surprise that Sports Illustrated picked this hole for one of
their "Best 18 Holes in America."
Playing back towards the clubhouse, the ninth features another elevated tee
box, looking down, yet another rolling fairway. The landing area is fairly
generous, however any shot off line will end up in waist-high grasses. A
medium-iron will remain to a fairly long green, that slopes hard from right to
left. During his last exhibition at Prairie Dunes, Jack Nicklaus made an eight
on the ninth.
Just behind the clubhouse is the 10th tee. Following his design of the hole,
Perry Maxwell called this par three the best in America. It surely ranks up
there with the 12th at Augusta, 16th at Cypress Point and the 17th at the TPC
of Sawgrass. Playing straight uphill, this devilish one-shotter is quite
difficult, as the whole putting surface is not visible from the tee. Bunkers,
short-right and left guard the small green that slopes from back to front.
Making par here is quite a feet.
The only hole with water, although it does not come into play, is the rugged,
dogleg-left par-four 11th. At 452 yards, it is tied with the ninth as the
longest par four on the course. A big drive down the fairway will be required
to have any chance of making par, as a difficult, horseshoe bunker guards the
left corner of the dogleg. A long-iron approach is next, which needs to
negotiate the slightly elevated surface of the green. Two very deep traps,
right and left protect the multi-tiered green, that is just 26 yards deep.
The climb to the 12th tee from the previous hole is up a shoot of steps to an
elevated tee box that overlooks the short, but tight par four. Although the
fairway is wide, don't be fooled as your approach from the left or right side
of the fairway will be blocked by tall cottonwood trees. Thus, the play is
fairway-metal or long-iron off the tee, setting up a short-iron to the tiniest
of greens. At just 25 yards in depth, this severely sloped putting surface can
be quite difficult.
A tough driving hole, the 13th is anything but lucky. First off, three traps
and deep rough guard the right landing area. Next, more deep rough and another
bunker protect the left. Let's not forget the narrow landing zone to shoot
out. With a successful tee ball, a slightly uphill second remains to another
small green that cants severely from back to front with a couple of distinct
ridges. Any ball on the front edge, will roll down back off the green.
Despite playing as the shortest par four on the back nine, the 14th requires
pinpoint accuracy off the tee. The problem is that it's a blind shot over the
hill to the fairway. The play is a draw on this dogleg left, avoiding the deep
rough and sand down the left side. Although the rough is thick on the right,
at least par is still in the mix if you block your tee ball. The putting
surface is one of the longest on the course and is slightly elevated from the
bottom of the fairway. The green is surrounded by tall trees and a pair of
deep traps. A large ridge in the first quarter of the green makes reading this
putting surface a challenge.
Nicknamed aptly, "The Chute", the final par three on the course plays from a
towering stand of trees on either side of the tee box. Uphill and into the
wind, it's hard to believe that this is the highest handicapped hole on the
course. A long-iron or fairway-metal is needed just to reach this miniscule
putting surface. To err on 15, go left, as two difficult traps stand ready on
the right. The good news, the green might be one of the easiest on the course.
The final of the seven par fours over 400 yards, the 16th is a dogleg right,
playing back into the wind. The unusually wide fairway does boast a bunker on
either side with tall native grasses down the entire length of the hole. A
large ridge in the center of the fairway stands 260 yards out from the tee.
Your approach will likely be with a mid-iron to a long, narrow green with sand
both left and right. The putting surface slopes from left to right. A tough
hole with the tournament on the line.
Once again, the "Maxwell Rolls" are quite evident on the 17th, the final par
five on the course. One of the more deceiving tee shots on the course, as upon
first look, there seems to be more landing area than there is. The hole bends
slightly left from the back tees and plays uphill after your opening shot. The
elevated green can be reached in two, however it's just 29 yards in depth and
is quire narrow. Sand and scrub are left and right of the green falls sharply
downward, making for a difficult up and down. Birdie certainly, but don't be
disappointed with par.
A classic finishing hole, the 18th is a gem with the setting sun to the left.
The elevated tee shows the entire hole and what's ahead of you. The rolling
fairway is quite wide, but that's where it ends. Devoid of bunkers, the
fairway sports deep rough left and tall native grasses right, making for an
anxious tee shot. The hole bends to the right off the tee and slopes uphill to
the green from the fairway. Three difficult bunkers guard the right portion of
the putting surface, while one deep, diabolical bunker lays left. The putting
surface is narrow and just 29 paces deep, as it slopes from right to left.
According to local lore, the 18th was once aced by former assistant pro, Tom
FINAL WORD: I'll be the first to admit that I had heard of Prairie Dunes since
we cover all aspects of golf at The Sports Network. But, I will also admit
that I failed to know much about the course, other than it was in Kansas.
Prairie Dunes is a fantastic seaside course. One problem, there is no water.
Although I have never played in Scotland, I am told that this is as close to a
Scottish-type course that it can be. This is a perfect example of links
design, something Perry Maxwell was interested in bringing to the United
Not long by today's standards, Prairie Dunes can play as difficult or harder
than most courses in the country. How hard is Prairie Dunes? The first nine
times Jack Nicklaus played the course, he never shot par! Peter Jacobsen, the
2004 U.S. Senior Open champion, upon a recent visit to Prairie Dunes said,
"This is truly one the most interesting and challenging courses in the United
States and certainly fits in the "links" genre along with Pacific Dunes,
Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and Whistling Straits."
From the elegant, but not overstated clubhouse, to the accommodating staff and
of course, the incredible golf course, Prairie Dunes is marvel and a testament
to golf. Major champion, golf architect and historian Ben Crenshaw commented,
"Anybody who has ever visited Prairie Dunes will be treated to real golf; the
kind that tests your brains and body. Yes, this is golf of the first order."
There is no course in this country quite like Prairie Dunes and for it to be
in the Kansas of all places, well, you get the picture. This is a masterpiece,
a Rembrandt, an architectural marvel. Every hole is magnificent. Rolling
pieces of carpet fairways, stunning native grasses and Yucca plants, plum
thickets, groves of towering cottonwoods and sizzling greens. Prairie Dunes is
one of my all-time favorite courses. Please invite me back!