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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Speaking of the Classic Group, Indian Wells Review

This is a reprint, authored by Chris King of Golf Holiday in Myrtle Beach. Chris is a great guy, and a very solid reviewer and writes a great blog at:

Pine trees line the fairway immediately off the first tee and a large lake looms in the distance, a combination of unmistakable scenery, challenge and danger. The view also provides an accurate barometer of what lies ahead at Indian Wells Golf Club.

The 25-year-old layout is a long-time Myrtle Beach golf favorite and that initial snapshot offers a clear understanding of why. Indian Wells features tight fairways and water on 15 holes, but it’s also impeccably maintained and the challenge is straight-forward.

Indian Wells is the type of course that helped Myrtle Beach forge its reputation as golf’s premier value destination. With live oak trees draped in Spanish moss and abundant water, it offers an experience your home course likely can’t replicate.

The Gene Hamm design was popular upon its opening in 1984, but after undergoing a six-month renovation in 2002, Indian Wells secured its niche in the market. The Classic Golf Group facility installed new greens, remodeled the clubhouse and revamped the course. They also made the commitment to providing superior customer service and conditions.

While tight fairways and water conjure images of a difficult layout, Indian Wells (official website) is very playable. The course measures 6,624 yards from the tips and 6,225 yards from the white tees, so it’s manageable. Players aren’t required to bomb the ball off the tee to have a chance and the water, while ubiquitous, doesn’t require long, forced carries, particularly if you aren’t playing from the tips.

The longest par 4 is 430 yards from the back tees, and a driver isn’t a necessity on many holes. The big stick is arguably the right call off the tee on as few as eight holes.

“The driver is probably the least important club in the bag,” general manger Matt Hamrick said.

The course has 48 bunkers, so sand isn’t an overwhelming threat, either. Just as the fairways are thin, so are the greens. The greens complexes at Indian Wells are small, placing a premium on short game play.

“Chipping and putting (are the keys to success), because you aren’t going to hit every green,” Hamrick said. “If you are going to score well you are going to have to have a good chipping and putting day.”

Located in Garden City, Indian Wells, the 2004 Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association Course of the Year, is home to a surplus of wildlife, including a bald eagle. Over the last decade, Myrtle Beach’s reputation as a home to premier golf courses has rightfully grown, but value has long been at the heart of the area’s popularity, and Indian Wells is one of the reasons.

“Conditions are the biggest thing that keeps people coming back,” Hamrick said. “I believe we are one of the top conditioned golf courses on the beach … Overall, it’s just a very good challenge. It’s very fair. “

Par 3s
As a collection, the par 3s are the toughest group of holes at Indian Wells, though the first one is the easiest. The 167-yard sixth hole has two bunkers off the back but the green is 32 yards deep, among the course’s biggest.

The eighth is much more challenging. The hole plays 193 yards from the back tees to an elevated green that has two fairly large bunkers in the front. It’s easy to come up short on No. 8 and recovering is a challenge.

The 210-yard, 17th hole is the most difficult par 3. Water runs from tee to green and the prevailing wind is often in your face. Any player that walks off the 17th should rightfully feel good.

The 14th, a 167-yarder, offers sand on the right and water on the left, but there is plenty of room in between to find the green.

Par 4s
The par 4s at Indian Wells constitute some of the layout’s most interesting holes. On nine of the 10 par 4s, water comes into play, but there isn’t a long, forced carry in the bunch.

The longest carry is on the 355-yard third hole, which requires a 155-yard shot over water, but that is from the back tees. The hole offers long hitters a chance at birdie (if you drive it straight) but a three-wood or hybrid off the tee leaves a very manageable approach. That’s a strategic decision many par 4s at Indian Wells force players to make.

The fourth hole doesn’t require a decision on club selection. The course’s longest par 4 at 430 yards from the tips, No. 4 rewards a long tee shot. A bunker on the left side is a factor on the drive and the fairway narrows approximately 270 yards from the tee, so there is a premium on accuracy. The green is flanked by a bunker on each side. The fourth is the most difficult hole on the front side.

The ninth is among the front nine’s most interesting holes. It’s long at 420 yards from the tips, but a creek dissecting the fairways prevents players blasting away with the driver. The creek is 300 yards from the back tees and 281 from the white tees. That being said, players that layup to far back face a long approach to a narrow, well-bunkered green.

The backside at Indian Wells is where the course bears its teeth. Holes 16 and 18 are two of the most memorable par 4s and water looms on the left side of each. If your swing naturally produces a hook, don’t overdo it coming down the stretch.

The two holes represent different challenges. On a course that often rewards precision, No. 16 provides the opportunity for long-hitters to unleash. No matter how long the drive, precision on the approach is still demanded because the 16th green is the course’s second smallest.

Indian Wells most difficult hole is No. 18. It’s relatively long at 410 yards but accuracy is the most important factor in success. Water interrupts the fairways and a large tree 50 yards in front of the green, requires the tee shot land on the left side of the fairway.

It’s a beautiful hole but very challenging.

sign.jpgPar 5s
This where you have a chance to pick up a couple strokes. Three of Indian Wells’ four par 5s are less than 500 yards so even short hitters will have ample opportunity to score.

The first hole is regarded as the easiest on the course by Hamrick, and at 491 yards, it’s reachable in two. If you go for it in two and miss, a pair of bunkers and water that creeps into the fairway threaten. If played conservatively, there is no reason the average golfers can’t leave the first green with a par or better.

The fifth hole is the longest par 5, measuring a healthy 526 yards. The hole is straight, but the green is small and water runs near its right edge. The toughest of the par 5s.

The back nine par 5s are the shortest. The 13th hole is a 581-yard dogleg right. Players that can cut the corner set themselves up with a manageable second shot into the course’s smallest green.

Number 15 is marginally longer at 584 yards and it doglegs left but the opportunity to cut a corner isn’t there. The green is reachable in two but that means flirting with the narrowest part of the fairway, which is bordered by, you guessed it, water. The 15th green is a large one, but the smart play is to layback and position yourself to get close on third shot.

The Verdict: Indian Wells is a good course that is well conditioned. The greens are fast and true, the layout fair. The Classic Golf Group course is a good test of golf and they type of value that helps make Myrtle Beach golf’s leading destination.

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