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Monday, June 6, 2011

Myrtle Beach TPC, Best On The Strand?


Golfers with attention-deficit disorder will want to take their medication before a round at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.
The course will require your full attention.

The 12-year-old Tom Fazio and Lanny Wadkins layout requires accuracy and quality shots from the opening tee shot to the final putt.

"The layout was great," said Keith Williams of St. Matthews, a former Clemson University and NFL linebacker who took part in a review of the TPC in late May. "This is a shot-placement course. It doesn't really matter how far you hit it as much as where you hit it. Ball placement and strategy are crucial. It's not grip it and rip it. You have to mentally play every hole."

Joining me and Williams, a 15 handicap, in the review foursome were Sam Jones of Eastover, a retired college football official, police officer and South Carolina finance official with a 12 handicap, and Duke Melton of Myrtle Beach, a real estate broker with a 2 handicap.

The 6,950-yard course was built in part to host tournaments and hosted the 2000 Senior Tour Championship won by Tom Watson before the event moved, and hosts many of the top college players and programs every March in the General Jim Hackler Championship.

"This would definitely be a championship golf course especially from the tips," Duke said. "There are only a couple golf courses in Myrtle Beach - if you were going to have a tour event - that you could make hard enough to hold a tour event and this would be one of them."

The challenge begins off the tee. Driving accuracy is imperative to scoring on par-4s and par-5s. "It was a challenge to put the ball in play off the tee," Keith said. "From the blue tees I didn't really hit my driver that much."

The TPC greens vary in size from 26 to 50 yards deep, generally have a significant amount of break or multiple levels, and feature Mini-Verde ultradwarf Bermudagrass that was installed four years ago.
"The greens are good and consistent throughout," Keith said. "I like the undulations in them. Sometimes you have to read two or three breaks. I like the challenge of that, though I don't think they're excessively undulating."

The greens were also accepting and soft, allowing aggressive approaches to pins. "The greens are very receptive to spin," Duke said.

The course was in good condition for our review, including well-kept bunkers. "I like the bunkers out here," Duke said. "I like the sand. It's fluffy and true. The ball reacts well out of it."


Sam appreciated the exact pin yardage sheets and plentiful marked sprinkler heads that measured yardages to the front, middle and back of greens. "It's well-marked so I always knew how far I had," Sam said.

Keith and the rest of the group enjoyed the service, facilities and special amenities including club cleaning and cold towels after the round, and ice-filled coolers on carts. "This was great," Sam said.

Duke thought the practice area was top notch, including a comprehensive short game area and range with measured flags. "The chipping green and practice bunker were great," he said.

The wildlife was a bonus. We encountered a deer off the 12th tee, alligator on the second tee box, large snake off a fairway, numerous waterfowl and other assorted critters.


Sam found the greens especially challenging. "It took me a while to get adjusted to the fast greens and the amount of effort needed to make putts," he said.

Keith found shaved areas around greens especially penalizing. "The shaved areas were hard because if you didn't hit your ball on the green it would roll off," Keith said.

Duke would like to see a few trees removed from the layout or tee boxes moved. "From the back tee, some trees were right in the flight pattern for even a straight shot," he said.


The 158-yard fifth hole measures 133 yards from the blue tee - which is the second tee up from the back - and features a downhill tee shot over water. Low-cut front rough slopes into the water and an undulating green has a couple bunkers and collection areas around it.

On the 187-yard seventh hole measuring 162 from the blue features a sprawling bunker front and left of a green that slopes to the front and left beginning at a middle ridge. The tee shot on the 205-yard 13th hole, which measures 163 from the blue, must carry water and a bunker front and front-right of a green featuring a ridge separating higher right and lower left sides.

"I liked the difference in the distances of the par-3s," Duke said. "They were very challenging and pretty, but they were also fair and rewarded a nice shot."

The 193-yard 17th is 158 from the blue and features a peninsula green with only land to its left. A ridge creates a lower front portion of the putting surface. "It's a phenomenal hole," Duke said. "That's one of the tougher finishing holes I've seen."

A hole location on the back right plateau is treacherous, and is the perennial pin placement for the final round of the collegiate General Jim Hackler Championship. "You can shoot for the middle of the green or go for it and either be rewarded or be in the water," Keith said.


Par-4s measure between 333 and 472 yards from the tips, and between 277 and 445 from the blue tees, though just one hole is longer than 410 from the blue.

"Some of the par-4s were very tight and if you missed a drive slightly you were struggling to fight for par," Duke said.

The first and 10th holes are both fairly narrow but relatively short par-4s. The 377-yard first turns right with low-lying bunkers left and a long, fingered bunker right off the tee. "It's a short hole but it's challenging," Duke said. "You've got to shape it correctly."

The 387-yard 10th has a downhill tee shot with a near-peninsula green and water on the right side of the fairway beginning 110 yards from the green.

The 447-yard third has a slightly uphill second shot after a 210-yard carry over marsh off the tee, the 370-yard eighth turns right and is a birdie possibility with a drive over a bunker at the bend, and the 425-yard 11th angles to the left and requires a 231-yard carry over water off the tee.

The 333-yard 12th is potentially a birdie if not eagle hole, especially if the pin is on the accessible right side. Mounding on the right pushes balls back in play toward the green, and a series of bunkers and wetlands lurk on the low-lying left side all the way to the green. There is little room to miss behind the green. The 390-yard 16th has a drive over water and elevated but fairly flat green.


The par-5s all offer enticing second shots, and none measure 500 yards from the blue tee. "The par-5s were great and are not long holes," Sam said. "I made a birdie on one of them and that made it all worthwhile."

The 522-yard sixth tee hole is a very slight dogleg left from the black and gold tees, with rows of trees to drive through. "I love it when they give you a chute to hit through," Duke said. "It makes it easier to aim." The other three tees are well to the right on a hill, creating a sharp dogleg left around trees with a downhill tee shot to the bend, where a pair of bunkers await on the far side of the fairway.

The 538-yard 18th measures 496 from the blue tee and features a creek down the right side of the fairway off the tee that connects to a lake on the left beginning 338 yards from the tips and 296 from the blue. The water has to be carried to a green that slopes to the front and water on the left, and the right side of the fairway consists of a series of bunkers, mounds and valleys.

The 547-yard second hole measures 482 from the blue. Water comes into play on the left side of the fairway 280 yards from the blue tee, trees pinch the right side of the fairway, and the second shot turns left behind water to a green with a pair of bunkers and wetlands to the left of the green.

The dogleg-left 502-yard 14th hole measures 467 from the blue and requires a drive over wetlands that continue up the left side to a green well-protected by bunkers.

Favorite holes

Both Sam and Keith particularly enjoyed the par-5 18th hole because of the plethora of options and risk-reward possibilities on the second shot. "There are so many ways to go with your second shot on 18, you can improvise with your choices," Sam said.

Duke liked the par-3 17th and par-4 fourth and 15th holes - all of which were among the course's top six handicapped holes. The dogleg-left 445-yard 15th features a drive over marsh that can be completely flown down the left side with a 280-yard carry, and trees pinch the right side of the fairway enough to impede some second shots from that side.

"I really thought 15 was a beautiful hole and a challenging hole," Duke said. "A nice tee shot is a must along with a precise iron shot to make a good par."

Least favorite holes

The least favorite hole for both Keith and Sam was the par-4 ninth, which measured between 432 and 472 yards from the four back tees and 354 from the red. Trees on the right off the tee push shots toward trees pinching the fairway on the left, and the second shot is uphill to an elevated green that falls off to the front, left and right, where a bunker lies below the green.

"With a good drive off the tee box there is still a long way to get to the green and trees come into play," he said.

Duke wasn't a big fan of the 18th as a closing hole and didn't appreciate a tree to the right side of the tee box on the short par-4 12th hole, especially with trouble on the left side. "There is a tree right in the flight pattern of even a straight ball," Duke said. "A shaped left to right ball is a must off the tee."

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