GULF SHORES, Ala. - Former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate made his designer colleagues, green with envy when he was handed a stretch of land located between the Gulf of Mexico and Bon Secour Bay in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
What Pate did with the rolling sand dunes and lakes was produce the Kiva Dunes Golf Course, a links-style layout that was tabbed the second-best new public course in the nation by Golf Digest not long after it opened in April 1995.
This seaside layout is situated in a residential community which offers homesites bordering the golf course or the Gulf of Mexico. However, developers were careful not to disturb the natural wildlife areas.
While negotiating your way through the 18-hole par-72 course it is not unusual to have a brief confrontation with alligators, rabbits, salamanders, foxes and several species of birds.
Before tackling Kiva Dunes, you may want to hone your play out of bunkers. The opportunities will be numerous as well as varied. On the par-five No. 2, a bad tee shot could leave you with a sand shot of more than 275 yards, with a narrow landing area guarded by water on the right and, you guessed it, bunkers on the left.
The beautiful 13th hole, a 137-yard par-three, is surrounded by six bunkers, one with a depth of nine feet. A pine tree stands about 15 yards in front of the green to protect any left side pin placements, and if that's not enough trouble, the tee shot is a complete carry over wasteland.
After No. 13 there are two consecutive par-fives allowing you the possibility of regaining any strokes you may have lost on the previous hole.
Perhaps the most picturesque hole at Kiva Dunes is the par-four ninth. With a large canal running diagonally between the fairway and the green, you must calculate precisely how far to hit your tee shot or the next will be your third. Although the hole only plays 375 yards from the white tees, the wind coming off the Gulf of Mexico could have you hitting five or six iron across the water.
There are four tee boxes provided on each hole to challenge all skill levels. Yardage plaques are buried on the back of every tee and sprinkler heads are labeled throughout the fairway. From the red tees it plays 5,006 yards, the whites are 5,849, the blues are 6,464, and the gold are 7,092.
A full scale driving range and practice green are conveniently located near the clubhouse. The range has several flags to hit to with yardage available at each hitting area.
They are currently building a new clubhouse behind the 18th green which the staff hopes to be in by mid-April of 2000. It will be seven stories tall, featuring 23 condominiums, indoor/outdoor dining, a fitness center, men's and women's locker rooms, and cart storage in the basement.
While the course is difficult to follow at times and the 18th hole is nondescript, Kiva Dunes is a well maintained, scenic and enjoyable course for those on the Gulf Coast. And if you need more information, such as tee times and rates, you can log onto their website at www.Kivadunes-golf.com.
Kiva Dunes Golf and Beach Club
815 Plantation Drive
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
1-888-TEE-KIVA or 1-334-540-7000.