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Story by Ian Guerin
Recognizing the golf output South Carolina’s Grand Strand has each year is one thing. Realizing how closely the game is tied to the area’s past is another.
Each year, players from around the globe are exposed to not only the courses here, but also their history. Specifically, their connection to decades - and in some cases centuries - of trends and events is what makes them stand out even more. Here are five local tracks where your round comes complete with an increased knowledge of golf in Myrtle Beach and what helped shape it into the entity it is today.
Not many courses have had to facilitate a historical section of their web site quite like the Dunes Club. From a 1947 meeting among Myrtle Beach citizens about what to do with a prime piece of real estate to its eventual opening two years later as a nine-hole course and then its expansion to include nine more holes, a tennis facility and an all-out renovation (twice), the years are well-documented. The transition periods have kept the Dunes Club among golf royalty, and players experience that during a round here.
About the only significant change Litchfield County Club has undergone in its now 50 years has been the opening from private membership to public play. As for the rest, visitors here will see much of the same design that created an ambiance all its own. George Washington’s trek down the old Kings Highway into the area during his tour of the south in 1791 is referenced frequently, and after a lengthy historical campaign to promote the course’s 50th anniversary in 2016, previously hidden artifacts and factoids continued to be found.
The trio of courses at National - King’s North, SouthCreek and West - have a connection to the game that so few others along the Grand Strand can boast: A direct tie to Arnold Palmer. It was in 1973 that the King’s joint efforts with architect Francis Duane led to the creation of the North course (renamed King’s North in 1996 after Palmer’s redesign) and then West and SouthCreek that ultimately tied him to the area for good. In some ways, these creations spawned a centralized golf hub helped berth a movement of golf expansion and promotion.
Calling Pine Lakes Country Club Myrtle Beach’s first golf course is accurate in every sense of the description. But it is also a misnomer of sorts. In fact, Robert White’s original layout opened in 1927, a full decade before the city was incorporated and several decades before anyone associated the area with the game. Pine Lakes has continued to build off that, and the property is now home to the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, a walk-in collage of the men, women and moments that helped create a secondary identity to the Grand Strand’s bustling beach community.
Starting on the fourth hole, it is apparent that golf isn’t the only attraction Willbrook’s 6,700 yards of play has to offer. A small plaque identifies the area approximately 500 feet to the west where one of the original plantations housed their 18 slave cabins. One hole later, there is a queue to the original plantation housing, with three more before the end of the back nine - including one pointing to the grave sites of slaves, both those who died during their time here and others who returned to joined relatives.