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Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Witch Golf Course Features Both Tricks And Treats For Golfers


The Witch Golf Club

Journey into a world of golf unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. 18 holes rise as if by magic from undisturbed woodlands and enchanted wetlands.

Nearly 4000 feet of bridges wind their way through hundreds of acres of wetlands, left intact as nature's perfect hazards. But the beauty of the setting doesn't diminish the challenge lurking in the layout.
In the best spirit of golf, The Witch, "Rated 4.5 STARS by Golf Digest," was designed to bring out the best in players of all levels. It's an unforgetable golfing experience.

It isn't as upscale as some: no ball boys currying favors, ornate clubhouses or "hosts" telling you how glad they are you're there. It doesn't boast a beach address and you can bring your own cooler, a little perk every golfer loves.

But it qualifies as one of the better, underrated courses along the entire Grand Strand. First of all, it's well away from the hubbub of Myrtle Beach, laid out in the vast wetlands of Conway with nary a house or condo to intrude on your experience.

These are virtually undisturbed wetlands - a swamp, for the less environmentally enlightened - and snakes lurk in the undergrowth. Bridges - 4,000 feet of them - ferry you over the wetlands and under thick canopies of growth.

There's no out of bounds, only lateral hazards, and with the fall leaves changing colors, you'll think you're on a duck hunt. Thick stands of pine counter the swamp-like feel.
The course itself can be tricky, with a lot of elevation changes atypical of lowcountry golf.
"Most of it's natural, especially on the front nine," said Associate Professional Steve Jaynes. "They did move some dirt to build up the tee boxes."

The Witch Golf LinksBoth the marsh and the elevation are integral to the course. You'll be hitting over high, marsh grass on some holes, virtually blinding you to the landing area, and hitting uphill and downhill on others, making club selection a priority.

The elevation changes are key because the course is barely more than 6,000 yards if you stretched it like saltwater taffy. Still, the slope rating is 133 and the fairways are narrow.

"If you have any distance off the tee, you get a short iron in, but you have to be accurate and consistent," said George Svos, a mid-handicapper from California. "If you're not consistent out here, you can lose a lot of balls. It is a very pretty course."

No. 8 is a long, difficult par 5, as is No. 15, a 574-yarder with a wriggle in the middle of the fairway. If you're not in the right fairway off the tee, you'll have to wrap your second shot around trees to the left. As with all well laid-out courses, hitting close to the hazards will give you the best look at the green.

The verdict

The Witch is a very good core golf experience - highly recommended. It has some challenging holes, with good movement in the fairways, and the four finishing holes are excellent.
The only negatives are the service isn't the best. Plus, the Bermuda greens are a little slow.

Stay and play

Sea Trail has one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom accommodations, as well as mini-suites and luxury suites from $72 to $386 a night.

The Witch Golf LinksIt's on the southernmost coast of North Carolina, and most of the golf villas are on the fairways of the courses, within walking distance of the Byrd/Jones clubhouse and the Magnolia Restaurant. The villas have full kitchens and the plantation has tennis, swimming and fitness centers. It's a terrific place to play the plantation's three courses, as well as the other courses located here at the northernmost Grand Stand.

River Oaks Golf Plantation, just to the west of the Intracoastal Waterway, is also a good, centrally located place for golfers to stay and play Myrtle Beach. It's easy to go north or south via Highway 17, and it's close to Broadway at the Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
They have one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, many of them overlooking the fairways of the 27-hole golf course on the property. It's also within walking distance of both Fantasy Harbour and the Waccamaw Pottery shopping complex. There are also indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis and walking trails.

Dining out

Myrtle Beach has more than 1,600 restaurants and they aren't all fried fast food. In fact, the area has some nice eateries: Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Frank's Restaurant and Bar on Pawleys Island, Bella Napoli, Islamorada Fish Company, just to name a few. The buffet at Sea Trail Plantation is said to be excellent.

Fast fact

The greens at the Witch were bumpy and slow in late October, but officials had just overseeded the course - like most in the Myrtle Beach area this time of year - and promised conditions would improve.

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