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Friday, March 19, 2010

Tradition Club Review, Myrtle Beach

Course Review: Tradition Club Makes Golfers Feel At Home

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Tradition Club, a 4.5-star course, strives to provide the member for a day experience.
Generous fairways. Superb conditions. Outstanding customer service.

Many factors combine to make Tradition Club a 4.5-star layout, according to Golf Digest, and contribute to its inviting atmosphere.

Tradition isn’t one of seven Myrtle Beach golf courses ranked among America’s 100 Greatest, but it delivers an outstanding round of golf and a good value. It’s the type of course people want to play year after year.

The Ron Garl design earned its name; Tradition isn’t a tricked up layout. The challenge is in front of golfers as Garl’s only Grand Strand layout features wide fairways, many of them lined with Carolina pine trees, and some of area’s largest greens.

From a design perspective, Tradition offers great variety. The par 4s range in length from 329 to 475 yards. Some holes encourage players to bomb away with the driver while others demand precision off the tee. Unlike many area courses, water isn’t a huge factor, coming into view on nine holes, but Tradition does have a pair of island greens that are memorable.

Two of the course’s four par 5s are reachable in two, and the par 3s are distinct.

In short, Tradition has a little bit of everything.

“None of the holes play alike, and they all have a different look,” Tradition’s general manager, Clay DuBose, said.

The course plays 6,875 yards from the tips and 6,313 yards from the white tees, so Tradition doesn’t overwhelm players with length. Playability is one of Tradition’s strengths, and while the course isn’t a pushover by any stretch, golfers that play well can expect to score well.

For the mid to high handicapper, there aren’t a lot of forced carries and there is room to run the ball up to the green. Speaking of greens, Tradition’s average more than 8,500-square feet per complex.

When players arrive at the green, they will find complexes that challenge with subtle break as opposed to being forced to make putts with more twists and turns than a country road. Most of the greens run from front to back and are receptive to approach shots.

“(The course) isn’t going to beat you to death,” DuBose said. “But if you are a good golfer and want to step it back, it will give you all you want.”

Par 3s
Garl used water, waste bunkers and natural waste area to craft a memorable quartet of par 3s that give players a chance to score.

The 201-yard second hole (165 from the white tees) has water and a waste bunker on the left side, encouraging players to play to the right side of a relatively small green (28 yards deep).

The 203-yard fifth hole is clearly the hardest par 3. Only a disaster off the tee will bring water into play but sand in front and on the right side present challenges on the longest par 3. A back right pin placement can be particularly dicey because the green narrows and a bunker looms.

The 12th hole is Tradition’s easiest, playing 185 from the tips (but just 147 from the white tees) into a large flat green. The 12th is a good place to start a back-nine run. The 15th hole (174 yards from the tips/157 from the whites) plays into what amounts to an island green. The green is a massive 46 yards deep and it’s surrounded by water and sand. While trouble lurks, if players can past the visual intimidation, the 15th isn’t exceedingly difficult.

Par 4s
The par 4s at Tradition offer great diversity, ranging from the 329-yard third hole to the 455-yard 18th.

The longest of hitters might be tempted to try and drive the third hole, which plays 300 yards from the white tees, and is a slight dogleg right, but it’s a daunting challenge.

On a course with large greens, No. 3 is the exception. The third green is Tradition’s smallest and a waste bunker runs the entire right side of the hole, claiming its share of errant shots. The percentage play is a 225-yard drive up the left side of the fairway, leaving a good angle into the green.

The most memorable front nine par 4 is the seventh, which features an island green. The water that surrounds the green requires a 100-yard carry.

The scenic seventh is followed by Tradition’s most difficult hole, the 430-yard eighth. The hole offers a slight dogleg left and players must drive the ball to the right side of the fairway to avoid the risk of having their view of the green blocked by trees. A fairway bunker on the right increases the difficulty of your drive, as does the fact that the prevailing wind is typically in your face.

Tradition closes with three strong par 4s, all playing at least 379 yards from the white tees. The 18th is an outstanding finishing hole, playing 455 from the tips and 407 from the whites, and it requires a decision off the tee. Players that opt to hit driver face a fairway that is pinched by a waste bunker 250 yards from the white tees.

If you are accurate enough to hit the sliver of fairway untouched by the sand, a relatively short approach could await. If you play the percentages and layback, a long approach into a green flanked by a large bunker on the left awaits.

Par 5s
Tradition has an outstanding collection of par 5s, giving players a pair of opportunities to reach the green in two.

The 540-yard fourth hole, isn’t one of those opportunities - it’s a true three-shot hole.

The ninth hole, the first of consecutive par 5s, opens the door for a possible eagle putt, but players have to thread the needle. The hole is relatively short (490 from the tips/453 from the whites) but the area’s natural wetlands dissect the fairway 300 yards from the back tee. Any chance of reaching the green in two requires players to push up against the wetlands without going in. Either way the opportunity for birdie exists.

The 10th is a dogleg left with a waste bunker that runs the length of the hole on the left side. The most memorable par 5 is the 500-yard 14th, which requires a carry over water into the green. The hole is reachable in two, especially from the white tees (450 yards), but there is little margin for error. It’s a great risk-reward hole.

The Verdict: Tradition comes highly recommended. It’s the type of under the radar course – if a 4.5-star layout can lay claim to that mantle – that makes a Myrtle Beach golf trip memorable. The course won’t beat you up but at the same time it’s challenging. If your group leader books Tradition, he (or she) is doing you a favor.

3 Best Holes: Tradition Club

The 14th hole at Tradition, with water fronting the green, is one of the course's best.
Tradition Club is a Myrtle Beach golf “sleeper.” Located on the South Strand, the layout doesn’t enjoy the high profile of some of its neighbors, but Tradition is an outstanding course, carved through the area’s native pine trees

One of Tradition’s greatest strengths is the variety of holes it offers.  With that in mind, we asked Clay DuBose, Tradition’s general manager, to tell us the course’s three best holes, and he obliged.

No. 7, 393-yard, par 4 – Most men play from the white tees, meaning the seventh plays 377 yards, and it features an island green. If you are a long hitter, leave the driver in the bag, because the water is 286 yards from the white tee.

“(No. 7) has a large fairway so drive ball up the right side with a little drawl and you will leave yourself with the best angle into the green,” DuBose said.

The green is 35 yards deep and surrounded by bulkhead. If you manage your nerves, there is plenty of room to keep the ball dry. It’s a fun hole.

No. 8, 430-yard, par 4 – In addition to being one of the best, No. 8 is also Tradition’s hardest hole. Your drive needs to find the right side of the fairway because a couple of large oak trees on the left can block your view of the green.

There is trouble on the left (sand) and right (trees) on the approach, though the green provides an ample target.

The eighth is challenging but fair.

No. 14, 500-yard, par 5 – If the eighth is the course’s hardest hole, No. 14 offers the chance to get a stroke back. The hole is reachable in two for most players (it plays 450 yards from the white tees) but a pond that fronts the green raises the stakes.

“If I drive the ball up the right side it will catch some hard ground and get a lot of roll,” DuBose said. “With a well placed drive, you have a really good chance to get on the green in two.”

Be wary, shots that come up short  will funnel back into the water, so take one club more than you think you need. If your drive is errant, you still have plenty of opportunity to layup on the second shot and put yourself in position for a birdie with a good approach shot.

5 Things You Need To Know About Tradition

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Tradition Club features large greens.
Tradition Club is Ron Garl’s only Myrtle Beach golf design, a 4.5-star course that leaves players smiling. What do you need to know about Tradition prior to your first swing?

Here are five things that will help you arrive at the course prepared to play well:

1. Green Room – Players don’t have to have to be Phil Mickelson with a wedge to hit a green at Tradition.  Getting it close might be a different story. The course’s greens, which average about 8,500-square feet per hole, are among the area’s largest, so a precision iron game is rewarded.

2. Two to Win – Because of the size of the Tradition’s greens, distance control is the key to putting well. Elephants aren’t buried under the greens, most which feature subtle break, and good lag putters should be able to consistently two putt. 

3. You Won’t Drown – Water isn’t an overwhelming concern for players. Water is visible on nine holes but on numbers 3, 5 and 16, it will only come into play on the worst of shots. That being said, island greens at No. 7 and No. 15 provide two of Tradition’s take-home memories.

4. You have latitude off the tee but …  – The fairways at Tradition are generous, but trees typically await just beyond the short grass. You will have the opportunity to rip the driver, with some margin for error, but if you are to wild, the trees will penalize you.

5. Tradition earned its name – Tradition is a throw-back. The challenges are in front players, and it’s not a tricked up course, which adds to its appeal. The course provides  an enjoyable round, thanks partly to the work of Garl, who took what the land provided him and maximized it.

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