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Story by Ian Guerin
No hole on the Perfect Round series is going to be an optical dud. Tracks featuring magnificent sections also give players reason to appreciate the terrain.
Among the 18 holes that were selected by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel, some carry extra pop, both to the eye and the camera lens. Between the combination of natural environment their famous designers utilized in crafting these holes and years of top-notch maintenance to preserve them, you’ve officially been warned.
Have the smart phone handy for the scenery ahead.
BAREFOOT RESORT & GOLF DYE CLUB NO. 9
It was clear Pete Dye wanted to showcase the final hole of his front nine at Barefoot’s Dye Club in a certain way, utilizing mounding down the left-hand side. It took away some of the safety zones from the 493-yard par 4, but what it also did was prevent the best visual elements of the hole and the surrounding Carolina Bays from getting lost in the shuffle.
Instead, players coming up the fairway get a great view of the water connecting multiple holes and the feed into the clubhouse turn. Add in a touch of Dye’s patented strategic use of sand on the left of the fairway and the mirrored bailout grasses sloping down toward the water on the right, and everything about No. 9 keeps players heads on a swivel.
CALEDONIA NO. 18
For every bit as stunning as the tree-lined entryway onto the Caledonia property is, the closing hole here as turned out to be every bit the moneymaker when it comes to those searching for the perfect combination of playability and artistry. Not so surprisingly, architect Mike Strantz was frequently described as more of an artist than a course designer.
With his No. 18 at Caledonia, the proof is there for all to see. The 383-yard par 4 starts players off with a relatively short shot off the tee onto a fairway angling slightly to the left. Before, during and after that second strike, however, the natural surroundings Strantz had to work with are evident. An oversized pond breaks off the green from the rest of the hole. On either side, thick trees - some pushing toward the end of their second century - and the thick marsh grasses of this former plantation make the blue roof of the clubhouse beyond the green stand out even more.
GRANDE DUNES RESORT COURSE NO. 14
One member of the ratings panel who took part in this project referred to Grande Dunes’ iconic No. 14 as “one of the best par 3s anywhere, not just on the Grand Strand.” That kind of heady introduction is quite the description of why fewer than 250 yards of land can have such a reputation.
Beginning from the bluffs overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, players must fly an inlet cutting the hole in two onto a depressed green pronounced by a front-side bunker and the crest beyond it.
“The Waterway has a huge impact on how the optics look to the golfer’s eye,” Grande Dunes head professional Dustin Powers said. “But the elevation change adds to the aesthetics. It drops down 30-40 feet, and then you have the run off [from the Waterway]. Then after the green, the hill rides back up to the 15th tee. It frames it very nicely.
“With the bridge between [fellow Grande Dunes Waterway-lined holes] 9, 10 and 8, you see a lot more activity. Once you get to 14, it’s just woods across the Waterway. It’s kind of serene.”
PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB NO. 18
Jack Nicklaus left little to chance when he cultivated Pawleys Plantation’s finishing hole on the ocean side of U.S. 17 on the southern edge of South Carolina’s Grand Strand. From start to finish, there is something for everyone looking to soak up those last 443 yards of playing surface.
“When you’re standing on that tee, you have the view of the inlet,” head golf professional Brian Lewis said. “Down the right hand side, you have the live oaks. You have the marsh there. Hitting your ball into the green, you have that beautiful clubhouse.”
Also included is a waste bunker up the left, feeding into the green-side pond - complete with a fountain. It is of little surprise that those celebrating weddings in the adjacent ballroom frequently spill outside for formal photos between the clubhouse and that 18th green.
TIDEWATER GOLF NO. 4
By the time you’ve reached the green on No. 3, the value of No. 4 is coming into picture. Thanks to the trees up the right, so much beauty is bringing everything this 430-yarder has to offer into view. Bending around the Cherry Grove Inlet marsh and opening up right out to the hotels along the coast, No. 4 - which has a depressed waste bunker lining the left and eight total sand traps - has every design element a picture can handle.
No matter how hard you try, focusing on the fairway is easier said than done.
“When you look at No. 4, it doesn’t appear to the be the most difficult hole on the golf course,” Tidewater head golf professional Chris Cooper said. “We lost that tree on the corner maybe 12 years ago. The first thing we did was replace that with another large tree. We try to force you back to the right. But the marsh tends to draw your eye back to the marsh.”