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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Waterway Hills Myrtle Beach, Get Golf Up In The Air

Waterway Hills Golf Club Rises Above

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Waterway Hills Golf Club is one of 7 Myrtle Beach golf courses that play along the Intracoastal Waterway.
There are more than 100 Myrtle Beach golf courses but none comes close to matching the rousing start provided by Waterway Hills Golf Club, a facility players don’t forget.

A 27-hole Robert Trent Jones design, Waterway Hills Golf Club has what might be the most unique entrance in the nation. At Waterway Hills, golf bags don’t arrive at the clubhouse in a car, they come via aerial tram. The parking lot is located along the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway, while the clubhouse and course are on the west side.

Players take the tram, rising more than 100 feet above the Intracoastal, across the waterway. The ride offers a stunning (and beautiful) start to a round of golf. The tram ride lasts less than two minutes and drops players off at a clubhouse overlooking the waterway. (In case you were wondering, the tram is enclosed, protecting players from the elements and the ride across is enjoyable)

When the tram reaches the clubhouse, attention immediately turns to golf. The three nines at Waterway Hills – Oaks, Lakes and Ravine – all showcase the architectural splendor that Trent Jones is renowned for.

Robert Trent Jones fans will recognize the large bunkers, tree-lined fairways and undulated greens. For players who haven’t played a course designed by one of golf’s most famed architects, Waterway Hills serves as a great introduction to the virtues of a traditionally designed golf course.

A four-star facility, according to Golf Digest, Waterway Hills doesn’t require great length off the tee for success. The longest of the three nines is the Oaks, which measures 3,271 yards from the tips, and there is only one par 4 that stretches more than 400 yards.

Don’t associate a lack of length with a lack of challenge. Waterway Hills is a player-friendly course, but it requires accuracy off the tee, and its greens, which are typically in superb condition, are fast.

The recipe for success at Waterway Hills includes a large portion of good course management. Players that can hit the ball long and straight will love the layout because there is ample opportunity to pound the driver. But the reality is most of us don’t hit it long and straight.

If you struggle to keep the driver in the short grass, don’t mindlessly walk to every tee and pull it out. Hit the 3-wood or a hybrid, something that will end up in the fairway, and enjoy the benefits of a good angle of approach to the green.

“You are better off not hitting driver on every hole and managing your way around the course,” head pro Dick LeSieur said.

From an architectural perspective, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the Oaks, Lakes and Ravine nines. All three provide players with a good and exceedingly fair test of golf. (Checkout the 3 best holes on each 9)

Visually, the first hole on the Oaks and Ravine nines offer the appeal of playing along the Intracoastal. The view is particularly dramatic on the Ravine, where the waterway is visible from tee to green (quick tip: don’t slice the ball on that hole!).

The Lakes course doesn’t play along the Intracoastal but it’s, arguably, the most scenic of the nines. A couple large lakes framed by area’s native hardwoods help create a visually pleasing nine holes.

All three nines feature the large bunkers that RTJ is famous for.

The combination of the holes along the Intracoastal, the tram ride and RTJ’s design work have long made Waterway Hills one of the most popular Myrtle Beach golf courses among locals and visitors alike.

The Verdict: The trip on the tram to begin and end each round guarantees that players don’t forget Waterway Hills Golf Club. But the facility offers much more than a memorable ride. Waterway Hills is a good, traditional design, and there is a premium placed on course conditions and customer service.

If quality golf, value and memorability are high on your list of priorities, Waterway Hills Golf Club is a good fit for your next Myrtle Beach golf trip.

5 Things You Need To Know About Waterway Hills Golf Club

The trip across the Intracoastal on the aerial tram at Waterway Hills Golf Plantation is a rousing start to a round of golf.
Waterway Hills Golf Club is a 4-star facility, according to Golf Digest, with 27 holes to tempt players on a Myrtle Beach golf trip. It’s a Robert Trent Jones design and one of just seven area courses that play along the Intracoastal Waterway. But that information is easy to come by.  We’ve got five nuggets about Waterway Hills you likely don’t know, particularly if you’ve not played the course.
1. High Point: The trip to the Waterway Hills clubhouse is the most unique in all of Myrtle Beach golf and maybe the nation. The course’s parking lot is located on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway while the course is on the west side. Players park their cars and take an aerial tram, rising more than 100 feet above the water, across the Intracoastal. The ride, which no one forgets, offers a stunning view of the waterway and the golf course.

2. It’s Not That Wet: Players often assume they will need a surplus of golf balls playing a course named Waterway Hills. That might be true, but water won’t be the cause. The course is named because of its proximity to the Intracoastal, not the amount of water on the layout. Don’t be scared by the name, Waterway Hills is relatively dry.

3. Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch:
Waterway Hills is home to three nines – Oaks, Lakes and Ravine – and none of them play longer than 3,271 yards from the tips. Don’t confuse lack of length with lack of challenge. Waterway Hills is a player-friendly facility but it tests everyone that plays.

4. Speaking of Distance: The runway tee box is a Robert Trent Jones specialty and gives courses great latitude in how long or short each hole plays. Waterway Hills makes great use of the long tee boxes Jones provided, so make sure you check the yardage stone on each tee to gauge distance.

5. Be Nice To Your Putter: The greens at Waterway Hills Golf Club aren’t exceedingly big, but they do have ample undulation. When the contours of the greens complexes are combined with the typically outstanding conditions, the putting surfaces at Waterway Hills are quick, just the way players like them.

3 Best Holes At Waterway Hills Golf Club

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Waterway Hills Golf Club has long been a favorite of locals and visitors alike.
The dean of golf course architects, Robert Trent Jones, designed 27 holes at Waterway Hills Golf Club, so there is ample quality at the Myrtle Beach golf course. The challenge for head pro Dick LeSieur was naming the three best holes, one from each of the facility’s nine-hole layouts.

The veteran pro agonized over a couple choices, but he gave us his list of Waterway Hills Golf Club’s best.
Oaks 9, No. 3, 422-yard, par 4 – The longest par 4 at Waterway Hills, the third hole forces players into a decision. There is water on the left (250 yards from the tee) and right (280 from the tee). The two lakes parallel each other, so threading the needle requires accuracy but the reward is a much shorter approach.  The water is much closer from the white tees (215 on the left, 245 on the right) so everyone will be faced with the decision. LeSieur’s advice?

“If you are comfortable hitting your three-wood and about 160-165 yards on your second shot, that’s the way I would play it,” he says. “Driver brings water on both sides into play.

Lakes 9, No. 2, 534-yard, par 5 – Waterway Hills’ longest hole is also its toughest. You have to be a serious bomber to even think about hitting the green in two. The hole is tree-lined from tee to green and a lake looms halfway up the right side of the fairway. The key to success on No. 2 at the Lakes is getting off the tee and playing smart.

“After I hit my tee shot, I play the hole backwards,” LeSieur says. “I hit my second shot to leave myself a comfortable yardage (on my approach). That normally leaves me with a real good birdie opportunity.”

Ravine 9, No. 3, 483-yard, par 5 –
This one presents a true risk-reward decision. At 483 yards from the back tees, the third hole on the Ravine 9 offers most everyone the possibility of going for the green in two. But there is a catch. A ravine, hence the name, runs in front of the green so the second shot is all carry.

A 250-yard drive leaves a 230-yard carry. It’s makeable, but it will take a good shot from a strong player. The smart thing to do is layup, but sometimes emotion rules the day.

“It’s almost like, ‘I’m on vacation, and I have to give this a try,’” LeSieur said of what most players do. “Rather than manage the hole, you see a lot of three woods being pulled from the bag.”

What would you do?

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