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Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Great course designs don’t need overwhelming visuals to craft a fantastic round. But boy, do they help. Along South Carolina’s northern coastline, several golfing options have given players even more reason to snap photos - and not just of them and their buddies standing on a tee box with drivers pointed toward the earth. Come fall, some courses put their best foot forward in that regard. From changing leaves to the needles on the ground to colorful skies overhead, the following five courses leave a visually staggering impression, maybe even more than the rest of the year.
RIVER HILLS GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
On the north end in Little River, Tom Jackson’s River Hills design is a testament to the natural terrain, taking in both plenty of water and surfaces that can be described accurately as rolling. Along the way, several varieties of existing tree lines that were altered less than 30 years back still define the land, fully complementing the river effect Jackson was going for. The holes here aren’t parallel to each other, leaving players the chance to focus and take in what is immediately around them.
BLACKMOOR GOLF CLUB
The doubled fairway on No. 8 gets a ton of attention at Blackmoor, and rightfully so. However, pigeon-holing Gary Player’s lone Grand Strand design or his imagination on one sliver of the property isn’t fair. Because in laying out this beauty, he found nifty methods to force players to use every club in the bag. Dog legs on half the holes, safety bunkers, oversized ponds, marsh grasses and even an old slave cemetery are all found here amid a tract of land also known for its wildlife.
CALEDONIA GOLF & FISH CLUB
The Augusta National-like drive onto the property is the first indication that some courses are just playing with a different set of rules. At Caledonia, Mike Strantz designed a masterpiece of a lifetime (one that for him was cut short in early age). Frankly, Caledonia has everything you’d expect from a top-tier course: Excellent layout, a thinking man’s approach to the game and scenery that would warrant a trip to the land even without clubs in tow.
PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
We encourage players making their first trek to Pawleys Plantation to study up beforehand, and maybe the best way to do that is to sneak a peek at the overhead photos. It may be the most informative way to get a lay of the land that is sandwiched by thick tree lines, extensive marsh land (especially on the back nine), large waste bunkers and enough natural grass positioning to change your game. Without that preparation, you may miss some of the great photographic details, including “Jack’s tree” on No. 14.
GRANDE DUNES RESORT CLUB
Unlike the others on this list, Grande Dunes is not considered a heavily treed property. And while it also may have more on-course housing than the others, as well, those homes are frequently in the high-six-figure range and a sight to behold all their own. Somehow, even those are dwarfed by the number of holes here playing alongside the cliffs overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, where many of the largest boats to come up and down the thoroughfare are docked at the adjoining marina just off the ninth and 10th holes.