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Story by Ian Guerin
By now, players around the country have come to know that South Carolina’s northern coastline features one of the best golfing outlets known worldwide.
What more come to grips with each year is a subset that garners plenty of praise of its own.
The Waccamaw Golf Trail - its 11 golf courses located 20-40 minutes south of Myrtle Beach - is a true force to be reckoned with all its own. The tracks feature some heavy hitters in the design industry and a few of the most decorated courses in all of the Palmetto State.
Narrowing the 216 holes there down to the top five wasn’t an easy task, but we took a swing at it anyway. What we came up with was a list of holes that pop visually, test players of all magnitudes and gives countless visitors reason to remember them year after year after year.
BLACKMOOR GOLF COURSE, NO. 8
Gary Player’s lone layout in the Myrtle Beach area gives players just enough time to warm up before presenting its signature hole. It is at the par-4 No. 8 where many have gained enough confidence to play the chute up the right side. Sure, those who take that route shave nearly 100 yards off the standard option - a dogleg to the left - but the chances of finding disaster are strong. The alley measures no more than 30 yards at its widest margin and is hugged by mirrored tree lines, making No. 8 the ultimate risk-reward hole.
CALEDONIA GOLF & FISH CLUB, NO. 18
Described since its opening in 1994 as one of the true icons of Myrtle Beach golf, Caledonia is an awe-inspiring round from the opening tee. Mike Strantz, then a first-time designer, somehow found a way to tie it all together with his 18th hole. The 383-yard finisher requires a strong drive to wide landing area before flying the oversized pond separating the fairway and green. The entire hole is set against the views of the blue-roofed clubhouse and the marshes that used to feed the former indigo and rice plantation.
Known to locals as “The Shortest Par 5 on the Grand Strand,” the first par 3 of the back nine earned its moniker. Playing no longer than 145 yards from the championship tees, you must get from the landing strip tee boxes to the oversized green (one Jack Nicklaus designed as a shared target area with with No. 16) while avoiding the oft-flooded marsh that envelops it on three sides. Go into any portion of that water, grass or mud, and you might as well plan on not only dropping your next shot, but leaving the previous one for dead.
RIVER CLUB, NO. 18
Whatever ailments golfers could nitpick about the rest of the course - and those are difficult to find, trust us - are readily forgotten with the hard-to-top No. 18 at River Club. Stunningly wrapped around the largest pond on the property, the par-5 finisher gives mid-to-long-range hitters an opportunity to shoot for the green in two via a peninsula that juts off the left side of the fairway into the water. Of course, those who reach that must also carry nearly as much water a second time. However, even sniffing that last-minute glory brings River Club to an end unlike so few courses can.
TPC OF MYRTLE BEACH, NO. 3
The third hole at Tom Fazio’s TPC of Myrtle Beach isn’t the hardest on the course. Factoring in its early placement, though, and the uphill par 4 leaves little room for error at a increasingly staggering rate. The first challenge to No. 3 is the forced carry over a thick patch of native grasses that keeps players from focusing on more specific shot placement. A relative mishit there can be all the difference from going after the green in regulation or simply trying to stave off a bogey or double.