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Monday, April 26, 2010

Course Review: Glen Dornock, Myrtle Beach

Course Spotlight: Glen Dornoch is Easy on the Eyes

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The 16th hole at Glen Dornoch offers one of the most dramatic views in all of Myrtle Beach golf.
As players bring clubs to the bag drop, their eyes are naturally drawn to the Intracoastal Waterway, which meanders by Glen Dornoch on its way to the nearby Atlantic Ocean. When players check in, it’s almost impossible not to look out over the double-green the ninth and 18th holes share and admire the backdrop the water provides.

Long after leaving the course, the eighth, ninth, 16th, 17th and 18th holes, which bring golfers to the edge of the waterway, stir memories. The Intracoastal runs from Maine to Florida, and the more than half-mile stretch that runs alongside Glen Dornoch defines the Clyde Johnston design.

Boats pass by the clubhouse almost as often as golf balls find a watery grave, and on the other side of the Intracoastal, only undisturbed wetlands and trees block a view of the Atlantic. The scenery puts Glen Dornoch in any discussion involving the most scenic Myrtle Beach golf courses.

Pretty as the course may be, people come to the Little River layout for golf, and Glen Dornoch delivers on that account as well.

The course, which opened in 1996, isn’t exceedingly long, playing 6,890 yards from the tips, but it’s plenty challenging. Most players play from the blue (6,446 yards) or white tees (6,035 yards), but don’t let the “lack” of yardage lull you into playing from a set of tees your game can’t handle.

Some layouts need length as a defense; Glen Dornoch isn’t one of them. The course was one of Johnston’s first independent designs and he crafted a layout that rewards creativity and shot-making. Pulling the driver on every tee isn’t a recipe for success as wetlands and/or water come into play on the final 14 holes.

Playing from the blue tees only three of the 10 par 4s play more than 400 yards, including the final two, and that number drops to one when playing the whites (something you should do if your handicap is over 15). 

18 green glen dornoch.jpgThe short par 4s challenge golfers to be accurate off the tee and find the right spots in the fairway, but they don’t take the driver completely out of the bag. Glen Dornoch invites players to get off to a fast start as none of the first three holes – all par 4s – play more than 342 yards from the blue tees. For long-hitters, No. 2 and No. 3 are birdie opportunities.

The inviting nature of the opening holes stands in contrast to the difficulty of 16, 17 and 18, holes almost universally regarded as among the most scenic and difficult on the Grand Strand. But that’s part of the fun. At times players wear down toward the end of the round and turn their attention toward the 19th hole, that doesn’t happen at Glen Dornoch .

“It keeps you in the round because you want to see how you do on the last three,” Jason Himmelsbach, Glen Dornoch’s marketing director said. “Even if you don’t finish exactly how you want, it’s a great test and it keeps your game focused.”

The holes along the Waterway provide the take-home memories, but Glen Dornoch is solid throughout. Here is a closer look at what the Johnston design offers:

Par 3s
The 17th is one of Glen Dornoch’s signature holes. It plays 182 yards from the blue tees and 164 from the whites. According to the scorecard, it’s the second easiest hole on the back nine, but the scorecard can’t measure the visual intimidation of the wetlands and the wind coming off the Atlantic.

The front side par 3s, No. 4 and No. 7, give players a chance to score. No. 4 is the course’s shortest hole, playing just 155 yard from the blue tees and 137 yards from the whites. The redan green is inviting and there is nothing tricky. Just play the yardage and hit a good shot. The seventh (176 yards/166 yards) is much the same. Bunkers on the left pose potential problems, but players don’t have to thread the needle to score here.

Wetlands factor in on No. 14, but if you favor the left side there is plenty of margin for error. It’s the easiest hole on the back nine, and players need to take advantage.

Par 4s

Length isn’t required to play Glen Dornoch’s par 4s well. Accuracy, on the other hand, is a must. Players that can hit the ball between 200 and 225 yards and do so accurately will have opportunities at Glen Dornoch. There is only one front nine par 4 that plays more than 400 yards and that is the knee-knocking ninth.

No 1 glen dornoch.jpgNo. 9 plays 420 yards from the blues and 406 from the whites, and the Intracoastal runs along the entire right side. The hole will make players with a slice wake-up at night with cold sweats.

The first three holes are all short par 4s  and players should take advantage.

The back nine offers opportunity, particularly on the 330-yard, 12th hole, but the closing par 4s, No. 16 and No. 18, are among the course’s most challenging. The 16th hole, which plays down hill, is one of Glen Dornoch’s best and most dramatic.

The 18th forces a difficult decision. Played conventionally, no. 18 is a dogleg left with a landing area that is difficult to hit, but Johnston gives players the opportunity to cut the corner, though it’s an all or nothing proposition. It’s approximately 161 yards to clear the wetlands from the white tees and 220 from the blues. The distance needed to clear the wetlands isn’t great but there is no room for a bailout and there is sand on both sides of the fairway.

Players that attack the hole conventionally are left with a 175-yard approach into what is often a left-to-right wind. Given the difficulty of that shot, it’s worth it to try and cut the corner.

Par 5s
Glen Dornoch’s par 5s don’t give up birdies easily. The course, taken as a whole isn’t long, but the par 5s require strength. The fifth hole plays 532+ yards from all three sets of non-senior tees and wetlands are a factor throughout. It's is a three-shot hole under all circumstances. Play your second shot to the left side of the fairway (but beware of the creek) for the best angle into a deep green.

The Intracoastal comes into sight for the first time on No. 8, a long par 5 (540 blue tees/512 white tees) that features abundant elevation changes. The fairway isn’t exceedingly wide but take a crack with the driver and the opportunity to get home in two might avail itself.

The 10th is reachable in two (508 blue/472 white) but wetlands that dissect the fairway leave a second shot of nearly 250 yards, so it’s far from given. 

The most difficult hole on the backside is the par 5 13th. The dogleg left has water running along the left side and requires a demanding second shot. With water on the left, it’s easy for players to push their second shot right and into the trees. Keep it in the middle and don’t get greedy here.

The Verdict: Glen Dornoch is beautiful and challenging. The holes along the waterway provide players with the coastal golf experience they can’t get at home, and the inland holes help consolidate Glen Dornoch’s reputation as a Myrtle Beach golf favorite.

Glen Dornoch is a course you will tell your friends about long after you’ve returned home, and that’s the highest form of praise for a course you are traveling to play.

3 Best Holes At Glen Dornoch

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The 17th green at Glen Dornoch is one of the most scenic on the Myrtle Beach golf scene.
Glen Dornoch has provided some of Myrtle Beach golf’s best visuals since it opened in 1996. Five holes play along the Intracoastal Waterway and designer Clyde Johnston maximized the available land, creating a layout that is near the top of many play lists.

 We consulted with Glen Dornoch’s marketing director, Jason Himmelsbach, who has played the course hundreds of times, for one man’s opinion on the course’s three best holes. Himmelsbach happily obliged.

No. 8 – 570-yard, par 5: From an elevated tee box, the long par 5 is in front of players and the Intracoastal Waterway, running behind the green, comes into full view. The hole presents a risk-reward choice; the safest play is the left side of the fairway, but the right offers the best angle into a green with six nearby bunkers.

The eighth has considerable elevation change, enhancing the view of the Intracoastal, and it helps gives long hitters the opportunity to go for the green in two. It’s not difficult to figure why it’s the best hole on the course, in Himmelsbach’s opinion.

No. 16 – 431-yard, par 4: The 16th doesn’t play as long as the yardage suggests because it’s all downhill. The hole’s second shot is one of the most dramatic on the Myrtle Beach golf scene, overlooking native wetlands and the Intracoastal with a green that offers little room for error off in the distance.

Note of caution: pay special attention to distance control on the downhill tee shot. The crest of the fairway is approximately 250 yards from the tee boxes. Players that fly the crest will likely see their tee shots tumble into a bunker, leaving an extraordinarily difficult second shot, or end up in the wetlands.

The 16th isn’t easy, but it’s a hole no one forgets.

No. 17 – 212-yard, par 3:
Again, the Intracoastal provides a memorable backdrop and the passing boats can, temporarily, take your mind off a challenging tee shot. The green is enveloped on three sides by wetlands, and a huge mound, sprinkled with bunkers, is on the right.

What do you need to know before hitting your tee shot?

“Take an extra club, no matter what the wind is doing, because the trees block the tee box,” Himmelsbach says. “When you get up (above the trees), it’s more open (and the wind can be blowing).”

5 Things You Need To Know About Glen Dornoch

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The 15th hole at Glen Dornoch, a short par 4, rewards players that hit the left side of the fairway.
Glen Dornoch is one of the most challenging and scenic courses on the Myrtle Beach golf market, wowing players with views of the Intracoastal Waterway while forcing them to think their way around the course.

It’s the type of layout where a little local knowledge is beneficial, and we are here to help. Here are five things that will help you enjoy your experience at Glen Dornoch.

1. What is the Most Important Club in the Bag?: Positioning off the tee at Glen Dornoch is key, not length. Whether it’s a 3-wood, a 5-wood or a hybrid, whatever you can hit 200 to 225 yards, with a degree of accuracy, is the most important club in your bag. Find the fairway!

2. Be Ready Early: The first four holes are relatively tame. Playing from the white tees (6,035 yards), the first three holes are, in order, 292, 335 and 272-yard par 4s. Follow that up with a 137-yard par 3, and you should be feeling good about yourself heading to the fifth tee. A good start is critical because …

3. Myrtle Beach’s toughest finishing stretch?: There is an argument to be made that the finishing holes at Glen Dornoch are Myrtle Beach’s toughest. The three closing holes offer stunning views of the Intracoastal Waterway, but wind, wetlands and water require players to be at their best. Conversely, if you are trailing by a few shots, you will have the opportunity to make up ground.

4. Clear Thinking and Shot-Making Are Rewarded:
As previously mentioned, Glen Dornoch isn’t a bomber’s course. Course management and good shot-making skills are exponentially more valuable than distance. Examine the yardage book and play smart, and you will put yourself in position to score well.

5. Play the 19th Hole:
No matter how you play, make sure you take the time to enjoy the beverage or snack of your choice on the clubhouse deck. The double-green the ninth and 18th hole share and Intracoastal Waterway are just yards from the clubhouse. There are few better scenes in all of Myrtle Beach golf.

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