A great read from Joe Passov, Senior Editor (Courses/Rankings) at golf.com. He really hits the nail on the head. Even with courses closing, the market is growing stronger, with better service, renovations, and great package play. Myrtle Beach seems poised for another big year. In the end, 2010, in my humble opinion, will be a huge year for Golfer's Heaven!
I call Myrtle Beach the supermarket of golf, simply because there's something for everybody. True, there's not much snob appeal, but that may be the only thing missing among the 90 or so courses that dot the Grand Strand. Don't get me wrong — there's plenty of "upscale" to be found along the 60-mile stretch of coastline that runs from Southport, N.C. to Georgetown, S.C. — but the pampering here is more laid-back and down-home. What you'll also find in abundance is a fistful of unambitious-yet-handsome, playable and fun layouts where you'll get change back from your Franklin even in high season. That's the real beauty of Myrtle Beach golf: It's all about unparalleled variety for every budget.
What's New in Town
Myrtle Beach is in lock-step with the rest of the nation, where one can only daydream about new course construction. And in a reflection of the times, no fewer than 20 area courses have been shuttered within the past five years. That said, what's new is old — at least in the case of two venerable venues that are sporting dramatic changes.
The result is a throwback design that conjures up classic strategic shot values thanks to enhanced contouring and thoughtful hazard placement. Yardage from the tips will top out at 6,700 yards, and par has been shaved from 71 to 70. Returnees will immediately notice the lush, vibrant green Seashore Paspalum grass that now covers the entire course. "It's like taking the varnish off an old piece of furniture," says Schreiner. "If you paint something seven or eight times, all the detail gets lost. All you had to do was drop the low points of the property and raise the highs, and the golf course just jumps out at you." Check out the renovated clubhouse as well. We're certainly partial to the Snug Pub, where legend has it that the idea for a magazine called Sports Illustrated was born.
A more extreme makeover took place in low-key Pawleys Island at the south end of the Strand when the Founders Club opened in February 2008. Formerly a pleasant (if non-descript) 1966 Gene Hamm track, the layout was turned upside down by architect Thomas Walker, who utilized the existing corridors, routing and mature trees but reworked everything else. Vast, sandy waste areas, bunker-etched mounds and tremendous variety in the green shaping are among the highlights of the new spread.
A consensus for Best of the Beach is tenuous for sure, but I think we can all agree on a few "must-plays." Since it's my two cents, based on many trips there since the early 1990s, I'll stick to my guns. To me, there are two quintessential Myrtle Beach golf experiences — one ancient and one modern.
On the classic front, you've got to sample the Dunes Golf & Beach Club. The ambiance is definitely private club, but cooperative arrangements with several area hotels allow for unaccompanied guest play. It's worth the effort. An early (1948) Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, the Dunes features all of the master's hallmarks, from its fiercely trapped, elevated greens to its collection of scorecard-wrecking water holes, spearheaded by "Waterloo," the 590-yard, par-5 13th that doglegs 110 degrees to the right around Singleton Lake. Back in the 1960s, Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated: "It has long been agreed among knowledgeable golfers along the Atlantic Coast that if a man plays the 13th hole at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club often enough he will eventually lose every ball he owns and perhaps perish by alligator bite." More than 40 years later, Jenkins remains right on target.
Tidewater Golf Club dishes out low-profile fairways that ease past forested bluffs and along marsh-edged flatlands, with photo-ops galore.
My favorite bargain at the Beach is Oyster Bay, in Sunset Beach, N.C. This 1983 Dan Maples design smacks you down early, with rugged back-to-back two-shotters at 2 and 3, then soothes with strategy and scenery, notably at the short par-4 13th that doglegs right toward the bay and features a slightly elevated green shored with a wall of oyster shells.
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