Awarii Dunes: Where Ire­land Meets the Heart­land

Where Ire­land Meets the Heart­land

Golf Vacations - - News - by David R. Hol­land

Awarii Dunes is where Jim Engh meets Ne­braska. Ire­land meets the heart­land. It’s where a Texan reaches the 17th fair­way and says, “where the hell is the green?”

AXTELL, Neb. – Awarii Dunes is where Jim Engh meets Ne­braska. Ire­land meets the heart­land.

It’s where a Texan reaches the 17th fair­way and says, “where the hell is the green?”

Then it dawns on me. This is Jim Engh -- the guy that loves Ir­ish golf. That huge dune up ahead is hid­ing a punch­bowl green. I re­treat to my play­ing part­ners, who have puz­zled looks, and have also never played the course be­fore, and lay it out for them.

Engh has al­ways said this is a per­fect ex­am­ple of a hole that looks in­tim­i­dat­ing, but plays pretty easy. All of our ap­proach shots gath­ered right by the pin on a hole that mea­sures 435 yards from the tips.

Awarii Dunes might just be one of the funkier Engh cour­ses I’ve played and I’ve teed it up at all his Colorado cour­ses plus Michi­gan, Ge­or­gia, Ari­zona and now Ne­braska.

“The rolling char­ac­ter of the land re­minds me in many ways of some of the softer Ir­ish links cour­ses; it is the gen­tle and quirky rolls and falls of the na­tive land­forms that most in­spired me with this project,” Engh said. “Very lit­tle, if any, ex­ca­va­tion oc­curred over the en­tire project. In fact, there was no dis­tur­bance to the ex­ist­ing grasses and veg­e­ta­tion.”

“Most first-time golfers tell me they re­ally like the con­di­tion­ing,” said Jeff Perdew, PGA Gen­eral Man­ager. “We have bent grass fair­ways, tees and greens and the su­per­in­ten­dent and I are the tough­est crit­ics.

“The most chal­leng­ing fea­tures are the un­du­lat­ing greens, but I think it is very playable es­pe­cially the more you tee it up here. Your first round will be the tough­est. It is def­i­nitely an ap­proach shot golf course. If you know where to leave your ap­proach you have a chance to score.”

Yep, but, I re­mem­ber the fourth green. The pin was on the left side, but it was on a high point and the en­tire right side was a down­hill slope. Good luck with that one.

Where to stay

The Best West­ern Plus Mid Ne­braska Inn & Suites in Kear­ney was per­fect. It is right on the road to Awarii Dunes (five miles away) and next door to Skeeter Barnes BBQ. This place is quiet and my suite, which had a full kitchen, also had the abil­ity to com­pletely close off the bed­room and bath­room to the liv­ing room. En­joy the con­ti­nen­tal break­fast, man­ager’s re­cep­tion and good night’s sleep here be­fore or af­ter golf. Next time I’ll be left. And there are some blind shots.

Awarii means “wind­blown” in Pawnee – and there was just a light breeze for my morn­ing round. The sur­round­ings were pure Ne­braska – wheat, corn, and some cot­ton­woods along the north­ern bound­ary. Avoid the rough, but land in the “bunkers” and you can ground your club with­out a penalty.

“The haz­ards aren’t re­ally blow-outs,” Perdew said. “But over time (and wind) they could be­come that.” Ac­tu­ally only about 30,000 cu­bic yards of dirt were moved on this 7,001-yard, par 72 that cost a mere $1.5 million to build. The dirt paths for the golf carts cut down on price big-time. And the club­house is mod­est but fine. If your com­ing just to play golf who needs a Trump club­house?

The orig­i­nal nine-hole course on this spot opened in 2004 and did busi­ness as Links at Craneview. It closed in 2006 af­ter its in­vest­ment group lost it in fore­clo­sure.

So Awarii Dunes re­ally filled a wel­come spot in Ne­braska’s I-80 cor­ri­dor golf pos­si­bil­i­ties.

I’ve played the Grand Slam of Ne­braska golf: Sand Hills, Dis­mal River, Prairie Club, Wild Horse – and Awarii Dunes is a fun one you should put on the sched­ule – just like my road trip to the 2018 Col­lege World Se­ries in Omaha.

(Pho­to­graph by Paul Hund­ley)

Awarii Dunes near Kear­ney.

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