The only question is: Where to play first? Lowcountry salt marshes? Budget-friendly fairways? Magnolia-strewn plantations? Myrtle Beach has them all, and often with discounted, multi-course packages. Here are a few of our favorite places to hit the green in Myrtle Beach.
Champion golfer Davis Love III was born in North Carolina, so he used regional knowledge designing Barefoot Resort and Golf’s “Love” course. Golf Digest has noted his elevated greens and tree-lined fairways as some of Myrtle Beach’s best. Golf gods Pete Dye, Tom Fazio and Greg Norman also boast acclaimed courses at the mega-facility, incorporating sand dunes, native grasses and the Intracoastal Waterway into your game’s beauty and challenges. Accommodations overlook courses, beach or the Intracoastal Waterway in these golf getaway packages.
Meet Your Waterloo -- and Love It
The Dunes Golf and Beach Club has consistently topped golf “best of” lists since its 1948 opening due to its rolling terrain, oceanside proximity and grassy aggravations. This fabulous terrain comes landscaped by legendary, no-pain, no-gain course architect Robert Trent Jones. It also features the world-famous No. 13, par-5 “Waterloo” hole, whose dogleg around Lake Singleton frustrates even those golf pros with a closetful of green jackets. See Waterloo next year when The Dunes hosts the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship -- or better yet, try it out yourself.
At the southern end of the Strand lies Pawleys Island, and on it some of Myrtle Beach’s favorite courses, set on former rice and indigo plantations.
The “Golden Bear” Jack Nicklaus designed the Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club course across 600 acres of magnolias, salt marshes and azaleas. The par-72 Bermuda grass beauty is constructed on Nicklaus’ philosophy that “golf is a game of precision, not strength.” Generous fairways invite big swings, but subtle greens, lined with natural-growing hazards, require conservative shots for a win. Afterward, enjoy a beer at the Palmetto Pub or invite the family for lessons at the Ritson-Sole School of Golf -- kids learn for free at this top academy.
Also on Pawleys, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and its sister course, True Blue, draw fans with centuries-old moss-draped oaks, antebellum clubhouses, down-home food and courses designed by world-renowned architect Mike Strantz, who died of cancer in 2005 at age 50. Caledonia offers a course of challenging play while preserving the natural beauty of meandering streams and native foliage. True Blue is considered one of the area’s most interesting courses, with Strantz’s signature hidden greens and deceptive bunkers.
More Green for Less Green
OK, true: To play True Blue, and our other courses so far, is not cheap, ranging from $100 to $185, depending on the season. But many other Myrtle Beach courses are very affordable, with unique charms that stand up to the big boys.
For example, Heron Point claims “a lot of green for your green!” Its pine-lined fairways, hidden water hazards and bunkers make for a stimulating, Old South-style day of play for around $50. Don’t miss the “Wednesday Morning Shootouts,” including breakfast, raffle, lunch and beer for about $35 per person. Whispering Pines is not only economical ($40 after 3 p.m.), it’s ecological as the only “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" in Myrtle Beach due to its attention to natural areas and wildlife habitats. And Myrtlewood Golf Club offers 2 courses along the Intracoastal -- PineHills, a Golf Digest Myrtle Beach top 10, and Palmetto, a classic par-3 that’s perfect for beginners and experienced golfers alike. Both cost $54 to $64, depending on tee time.
Golf began in Scotland, a truth that inspires the terrain at Heather Glen. Designed by architects Willard Byrd and Clyde Johnston, the course has garnered numerous accolades for its blend of Carolina countryside with Scottish-style holes -- expansive dunes and deep pot bunkers. Ancient oaks, pines and wetlands surround its 27 holes, making Heather Glen a popular course both with locals and visitors.
For a more modern take on the Scottish tradition, PGA bad boy John Daly’s Wicked Stick was also designed by Johnston, but with Daly’s “grip it and rip it” approach in mind -- abundant opportunities to let it fly on bunker-less fairways, plus numerous bump-and-run shots. Wicked Stick is also affordable at around $65 to $75.
Finally, while nearly all Myrtle Beach courses and resorts allow visitors, be sure to check rates, availability and membership/guest rules before booking. Sites like MyrtleBeachGolf.com can help in arranging vacations.