Though greatly admired, renovations began just two years later. According to an article in the Brunswick News, Club Members had decided to change “eight of the sixteen holes.”
Thus, in 1926, Travis was hired to build Jekyll Island’s Great Dunes Golf Course. He redesigned Keffer’s holes and added new ones along the beachfront between present day Blackbeard’s Restaurant and the Day’s Inn. Travis declared he “was enthusiastic over the prospects at [Jekyll] for one of the most beautiful courses in the country.”
Travis was an avid writer, publishing two books, Practical Golf (1901) and The Art of Putting (1904), as well as a magazine, The American Golfer (1908-1920). In his works, Travis clearly laid out his vision of a first class golf course.
He believed that “the true type of links is to be found only by the seaside, in their highest excellence, having as their basis nothing but pure, white, sea sand” and fine dwarf grasses. He wrote that holes should have undulating mounds and ridges for an infinite variety of shots. He disapproved of uniformly-sized and spaced cross-bunkers, installing some of the first strategically-placed bunkers along fairway edges on American courses. Travis also believed that no two holes should be alike to create diversity of play.
The Great Dunes Golf Course opened for a tournament in January of 1928. One of the last courses Travis designed, it models the values he promoted throughout his career. Travis passed away on July 31, 1927. He never saw the course completed.
Travis was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1979. In all, he designed or remodeled approximately 50 golf courses. Courses Travis designed or remodeled regularly make Golfweek’s list of top 100 “Classic” courses.
Today, the remaining nine holes of the Great Dunes Golf Course are an authentic example of Travis’ legacy. It is a tight course, built on grassed dunes and containing strategically placed hazards, traps, and bunkers. The 36 par course offers varied terrain, both rolling and flat, with ocean breezes to pose a challenge. The Great Dunes course provides a variety of play, with a different shot for every club in your bag.
Most recommend Great Dunes for amateur golfers, but Frank Walsh had only one suggestion for improving the course: “You really should have a little clover in the fairways and some grain on the greens, so that when a Professional misses a fairway shot, or pushes or pulls a put, he will be able to blame it on the clover or the grain.”
To discover more about Jekyll Island’s Gilded Era recreation and resort history, call or visit the Jekyll Island Museum on Stable Road, 912-635-4036. Exhibits and tours are available daily.
Article by Andrea Marroquin and John Hunter of the Jekyll Island Museum.