Carolina Golf Getaways
A few decades before the first golf ball was holed on a string of beaches along the northern coast of South Carolina known as the “Grand Strand,” families were already dipping their toes into the Atlantic Ocean. Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand’s largest city, began attracting visitors in 1908 with the arrival of a railroad. The area’s natural beauty, including the abundant wax myrtle shrubs for which the city was named, proved a strong magnet.
Golfers first came to the destination in 1927 with the routing of the course at Pine Lakes Country Club (initially Ocean Forest Club). In the 1940s, Myrtle Beach businessman Buster Bryan saw the need for more golf opportunities in town and subsequently became one of the original founders of the Dunes Golf and Beach Club. The group recruited legendary golf-course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr to design a layout, and the club opened in 1949.
In 1962, Bryan came up with a (non-peak season) vacation package concept for 3 nights’ accommodations at his Caravelle Motel located along the “Golden Mile” oceanfront section of central Myrtle Beach. The package included a round of golf at both The Dunes Club and Pine Lakes (today nicknamed The Granddaddy), and breakfast each morning for $34.50. With that, the Myrtle Beach golf package was born. Now all that was needed were more courses. And they came, in bunches.
Though early skeptics refused to believe Myrtle Beach could ever become a popular golf destination, nearly 100 courses are within 60 miles of the city center. This amazing growth has earned Myrtle Beach, as the centerpiece of the Grand Strand, the unofficial title of “Golf Capital of the World” by golf pundits.
Here’s a “divine nine” showing the region’s quality and variety of golf courses:
Northern RegionBarefoot Resort's Dye Club (2000) – Play this Pete Dye creation in windy conditions, and you’ll experience the extreme in Myrtle Beach golf. The course has all the pitfalls of a Dye classic, including high grasses, fairway mounding and his trademark railroad ties.
Thistle Club (2000) – Step outside the grand Scottish-style clubhouse, and you are in for a treat at this 27-hole facility located in Sunset Beach, NC. Designed by Tim Cate, all 3 of the 9-hole courses reflect its 1815 Scottish heritage with rolling, open fairways, sand and water.
River's Edge (2000) – Designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, this wonder in Shallotte, NC, features at least 6 breathtaking holes that sit high upon bluffs overlooking 2 miles of grassy marshlands along the Shallotte River.
Central RegionPine Lakes Country Club (1927, redesigned 2009) – The first golf course opened in Myrtle Beach was designed by architect Robert White, a native of St. Andrews, Scotland, where the game was developed more than 600 years ago. White routed the course on natural dunes near the ocean. A renovation to the course and clubhouse in 2009 returned the character of the course to its original state.
The Dunes Golf and Beach Club (1949) – The region’s second course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr, may be its finest. You can see the ocean from the ninth and 10th greens, complementing a test of golf that challenges every aspect of the game in a traditional setting.
Arrowhead Country Club (1994) – PGA Tour great Raymond Floyd and designer Tom Jackson integrated mounds, lakes and woodlands to create classic design features on 27 holes, several of which overlook the Intracoastal Waterway.
Southern RegionCaledonia Golf & Fish Club (1994) – Built on the site of a historic rice plantation, the masterpiece by the late designer Mike Strantz overlooks the Waccamaw River and showcases live oaks that have been around for centuries.
The Founder's Club at Pawley's Island (1966, redesigned 2008) – Formerly Sea Gull Golf Club, it was recreated by designer Thomas Walker. This serene layout is best-known for the natural sand waste areas giving the illusion that it’s harder than it is.
Pawleys Plantation (1988) – As a player, Jack Nicklaus collected more major golf championships than anyone on the planet; as a designer, he drew up another winner here. Lake and marsh views are plentiful.