Some of golf’s most legendary architects, including Robert Trent Jones Sr., Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Tom Doak, Rees Jones and Mike Strantz, have left their mark on the Myrtle Beach golf scene.
Beyond the “A-listers,” a host of outstanding course designers were equally influential in shaping the Myrtle Beach golf scene. Near the top of any list of the Grand Strand’s unsung architects is Tom Jackson, who has five area golf courses to his credit.
A Pennsylvania native, Jackson, who worked under Trent Jones Sr. and George Cobb before striking out on his own in 1971, has designed more than 100 courses, including 45 in South Carolina. Here is a look at Jackson’s quintet of Myrtle Beach courses, in order of their opening:
— Jackson introduced himself to the Grand Strand with River Club (1985), a course that continues to delight players. While the layout doesn’t play along a river, Jackson brought water into play on 15 of 18 holes, most memorably on the par 5 18th hole. The closing hole allows long hitters the opportunity to go for the green in two, but the shot is all carry as water runs to the edge of the putting surface. It’s one of the area’s most exhilarating shots and an ideal finish to a memorable round of golf in Pawleys Island.
— In his only co-design, Jackson partnered with Gene Hamm to craft River Oaks (1987), home to the Fox, Bear and Otter nines. More than 30 years after its opening, River Oaks (pictured right) provides locals and visitors with a value-priced round and a player-friendly atmosphere.
— His second assignment took him to Little River to design River Hills (1988) – no, not all of his courses have River in the name! River Hills provided a piece of property with 40 feet of natural elevation change and Jackson delivered a 4-star design with no parallel holes. This is one of the Grand Strand’s most underrated tracks and is certainly worth the trip to play.
— Jackson’s final two layouts were both of the 27-hole variety, beginning with Aberdeen Country Club (1990). The Scottish-inspired facility is home to the Meadows, Highlands and Woodlands nines. Aberdeen (pictured right) has persevered, surviving a pair of major floods in the last five years and the shotmaker’s course is better than ever.
— Jackson’s final design is arguably the best of his work in the area. Myrtle Beach PGA pros voted Arrowhead Country Club the area’s 12th best course and it’s one of just six Grand Strand courses that play along the Intracoastal Waterway. Jackson’s design work complements a property that is always in outstanding condition and enjoys a primo location, a winning combination for golfers.
He also designed a sixth course – Black Bear Golf Club – that opened in 1989 but has since closed.