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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leopard's Chase Has Claws

Golf Course Review: Leopard's Chase Leaves Golfers Purring

Leopards Chase Review.jpg
Leopard's Chase is one of the best Myrtle Beach golf courses.
Any hunt for great golf along the Grand Strand will lead players to the home of Ocean Ridge Plantation’s most fearsome Big Cat – Leopard’s Chase. The newest of Ocean Ridge’s four felines, Leopard’s Chase has raced to the top of must-play lists faster than its namesake chasing prey across the savanna.

Leopard’s Chase opened to great acclaim in 2007, earning a spot on Golf Digest and Golf Magazine’s list of America’s best new courses, and vaulting into the consciousness of Myrtle Beach golfers. The Tim Cate design has proven worthy of the plaudits it received, providing an ideal combination of challenge and beauty.
Cate, who has worked almost exclusively along the coastal Carolinas, is one of the game’s most underappreciated architects and Leopard’s Chase is his signature design. He co-designed Ocean Ridge’s first course, Lion’s Paw, before creating Panther’s Run and Tiger’s Eye on his own.

Cate took elements from all three courses in creating Leopard’s Chase and the results were spectacular. He used locally harvested coquina boulders, abundant sand traps and environmentally sensitive areas to mold a course that is visually stunning without being deceptive.

Selecting a favorite hole at Leopard’s Chase is only slightly less difficult than naming your favorite color M&M. The choices are many and the differences in quality are non-existent. The fourth and fifth holes deliver consecutive island greens, providing an early glimpse of what makes the course special.

The green on the par 3 fourth hole is surrounded by water, a more “typical” island green. On the par 4 fifth, the green is enveloped by sand, leaving a bunker shot players don’t want to contend with. The front nine, which features three, par 3s, has water on every hole.

The back nine, with its three par 5s, is full risk-reward opportunities and offers an outstanding finish. Water is visible on eight of nine holes, but it isn’t as impactful. Instead the environmentally sensitive areas and waste bunkers are the more dangerous hazards.

The par 5 11th is a prime risk-reward example. An environmentally sensitive area dissects the fairway twice, the first time 275 yards from the white tees, setting up a decision on the second shot. From the end of the fairway, the green is approximately 200 yards out but it requires a carry over 70 yards of wetlands. The alternative is to pull out a wedge and layup between 125-150 yards from the hole.

To further complicate matters, players that reach the tip of the fairway, have to contend with two bunkers fronting the left side of the green.

Number 14 is another reachable par 5, and one of the course’s best holes, but 17 is a monster (585 yards from the tips) that is unreachable in two.

A 439-yard par 4, No. 18 is Leopard’s Chase at its best. A waste bunker on the right, a beach bunker on the left and a water fall gliding over the trademark coquina boulders conspire to create one of the Grand Strand’s most memorable finishing holes.

Leopard’s Chase is the toughest of the four courses at Ocean Ridge, but it’s a challenge golfer’s embrace. The fairways aren’t narrow, but between water, waste bunkers and trees, drives that stray too far offline, are punished.

“It’s a challenge, but you want to come back and play again,” Bill Long, Ocean Ridge’s director of marketing, said. “You come here and you are going to see things you don’t see at other courses.”

The Verdict: Leopard’s Chase is a great course and certainly among the best in the area. It’s a layout you will want to play repeatedly. If that’s not enough, Leopard’s Chase offers tremendous value given its place in the market. It’s a Big Cat that always leaves golfers purring.

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