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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pearl West Myrtle Beach, Worth The Time And Money

Pearl Golf Links: West Course is a Gem

Pearl Golf Links.jpgThe Grand Strand’s emergence as the nation’s premier golf destination has included numerous courses that have opened to national acclaim, but the birth of Pearl Golf Links was a seminal moment on par with nearly any opening, though its significance sometimes goes unrecognized.

At the heart of the Myrtle Beach golf boom was the course development just across the state line in North Carolina, and Pearl Golf Links was the first multi-course facility to open in Brunswick County. The first tee shot at the Pearl was struck in 1987 and 24 years later, the facility, both the East and West courses, continue to please golfers.

The success of the Pearl helped pave the way for the numerous multi-course facilities that followed, but the Pearl has maintained its popularity, especially the 4.5-star West Course.

The West Course long ago earned a reputation for playability. The Dan Maples design, with its sweeping fairways, has a links-style feel that encourages players to swing away with the driver.

“The West is similar to an aircraft runway,” head pro Jimmy Biggs said. “You have to do something wrong to miss a lot of these fairways. They are pretty wide, very forgiving and give you a very good angle at the green.”

The West Course has undergone no substantive changes to it routing since it opened, but the greens were rebuilt six years ago and the result was a much more interesting set of greens complexes. Many of the L93 bentgrass greens now feature multiple tiers and plenty of break, but they are very fair. The greens are uniformly smooth and quick.

Just as the greens are consistent, so is the presence of water on a layout that plays along the Calabash River. There is water on all 18 holes at the West Course though its impact on strategy and nerves varies.

The front nine is an outstanding start, highlighted by three par 3s and a varied collection of par 4s. The West Course’s longest and shortest par 4s are on the front nine and each offers distinct challenges.

The sixth hole is only 358 yards from the tips, tempting everyone to bomb away. It’s a birdie hole but an undulating green demands an accurate approach, so players that go for to much and put themselves in a bad situation off the tee will be looking at trouble.

The 458-yard ninth is a par that rarely surrenders a birdie. It’s a dogleg left with a green that is 35 yards long. Par is a great score.

While the front side is good, the home nine is the West Course’s most memorable. Beginning with the 15th green, the scenic Calabash River and marsh come into view on the final four holes.

On 16-17-18 the marsh lurks on the right, and the par 5 16th is particularly daunting, playing 604 yards from the tips with the marsh running from tee to green. Players that miss right will lose a ball (or two).

The par 5 18th (534 yards) is by far the shortest of the three back nine par 5s, but it’s a great closing hole. The green is reachable in two but it requires a carry of more than 200 yards over water, so the risk is considerable.

The closing holes on the West Course understandably garner the attention, but the par 5, 14th hole shouldn’t be overlooked. At 614 yards from the tips, it’s one of the area’s five longest holes and requires three good shots to get home in regulation.

The Verdict: The West Course at Pearl Golf Links offers natural beauty with the Calabash River and it remains a trailblazing layout. Setting history and scenery aside, the West Course’s greatest attribute is its playability. With wide fairways and five sets of tees, including four that range from 5,768 to 7,000 yards, it’s a good layout for any level of golfer, which is vital for large groups. The West Course makes for an outstanding round.

Pearl Golf Links: 5 Things You Need to Know About the West Course

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The West Course at Pearl Golf Links requires players to make risk-reward decisions.
Pearl Golf Links helped lay the foundation for the North Strand’s explosive growth during the height of the Myrtle Beach golf boom. Dan Maples designed a pair of scenic layouts along the banks of the Calabash River and a host of multi-course facilities followed suit in Brunswick County, N.C.

Here are five things you need to know about the West Course at Pearl Golf Links:

1. Bring Your Driver: The fairways are generous and it’s a links-style layout so there is room for the ball to roam. In the words of head pro Jimmy Biggs, “you have to be doing something wrong to miss a lot of these fairways.”

2. Weigh Your Options: Pounding the driver at the Pearl is encouraged, but so is good course management. The layout offers risk-reward decisions on everything from relatively short par 4s to long par 5s. The choices you make will likely define your round. Here is one word of caution.

“There are a lot of risk-reward shots and some of them just aren’t worth the risk,” Biggs said. “A very narrow chance at birdie could be a big chance at triple bogey. If you are going to succeed and shoot a low number you are going to have to be smart.”

3. Speaking of Risk-Reward: The West Course has five par 5s, including two of the last three holes, and they are mammoth, ranging from 534 to 614 yards long. The West Course is the only Myrtle Beach area layout with two holes that exceed 600 yards. The 614-yard, 14th hole is one of the area’s five longest and No. 16 (604 yards), narrowly missed the list. The eighteenth hole presents players with their final (and most difficult) risk-reward decision. The green is reachable in two, but it takes a great effort.

4. Smooth, Fast Greens: Many Grand Strand courses are understandably moving towards miniverde bermuda grass greens, but the Pearl maintains L93 bentgrass on both layouts, the preferred surface for many visitors.

5. What you will remember: When people take a golf trip they want to play courses they will remember, and the Pearl’s West Course delivers on that account. Beginning with the 15th green backing up to the Calabash River, the final four holes are the layout’s most scenic. Who can forget playing playing two of the Grand Strand’s longest six holes during the closing stretch?

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