A few days into our Saskatchewan trip this summer (July 2005) we headed up the road towards Saskatoon to play the new golf course called Dakota Dunes. This course is located on the Whitecap Dakota First Nation lands in the impressive sand dunes beside the South Sasktchewan River.
The overall facility shows its newness. There is evidence of work still being done around the clubhouse, and a very significant construction project is underway on the property. Next year a new casino will be opened as part of the complex.
But as far as the golf course itself is concerned, don’t let the construction mislead you. This is a very nice course featuring a beautiful layout. And in spite of only being two years old both the fairways and greens are hard and mature.
In fact this course is as nice a “links” style layout as I have played anywhere. Set in among the dunes I kept thinking I had played this course before. In particular it reminded me of Enniscrone in Ireland.
Dakota Dunes has all the regular characteristics of a “modern” links course: hard, fast fairways, long fescue rough, very few water hazards and no trees to get in the way of shot making. There are also very few hazards in front of the greens making it possible (and fun) to run the ball up with your woods or long irons.
There are a couple of other things I like about this layout. The first one is the way the fairways “suit the eye”. Just about every hole is set up so you can read the contour of the fairway, and try to make your shot according to the way you see the ball running. On a links course you don’t just hit your drives as far as you can. It is important to try to hit to a specific area and let the shape and slope of the fairway kick your ball in the right direction.
The second feature I like is the way the “rough” around the greens is set up. On a typical park land course when you aren’t on the green you normally have only one play: chip it on as close as possible to the hole. But a links course will usually have a fairly large area around the green that is cut almost as short as the green. As a result you can often putt from 20 or 30 yards off the green — as they say in Scotland “Use your putter laddy” (add suitable rolling of the “r”s) when you’re near the green.
Dakota Dunes is not exactly like a traditional links course in this respect. Most greens here feature a “run up” area in front you can putt from, and a closely cropped collar with grass about 1″ long. More often than not this is where your ball ends up. Chipping off this collar is my idea of the way chipping should be — much closer to the links “experience” than many other courses I’ve played. You can also bounce a chip off the collar to kill its speed if you have one of those inevitable downhill chips.
In short, I was very impressed with Dakota Dunes and regret I was only able to play it once on this trip.
And I didn’t even mention the price — for a round of 18 holes — less than half a round on a course of this quality would cost in Ontario, PEI, BC or Alberta.