Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | The Championships. The Tips. The Blacks.
For some, we might as well call them “Sir.”
The back tees at certain courses have earned respect by busting up the best intentions of some otherwise prepared golfers during rounds in Myrtle Beach. Frequently, the out-of-area victims mastered the tips on their home course; so it shouldn’t be all the different here, right?
As many have come to discover, no two championship tee boxes are set alike. And at some tracks, those longest options feel like a world apart from their lesser options, sometimes only a few yards away.
So tread lightly, carry a big stick and see if you have what it takes.
Even before a 2013 renovation, the jump in slope from the whites to the golds was immense – moving 33 points up the spectrum. Then Rees Jones came in and added some more intensity to those back tees with a distance boost. Now playing at 7,450 yards, Dunes Club pushes its winding track to new lengths, especially around the trio of holes known as Alligator Alley. Often, course marshals have to lecture visitors about biting off more than they can chew.
The black tees at Grande Dunes measure in at 7,195 yards. Child’s play. At the Roger Rulewich design cut among the bluffs of the Intracoastal Waterway, the 7,578-yard gold tees are the ultimate quest. Not all that long ago, this course was the longest in and around Myrtle Beach. And not all that long before that, they were actually 40 yards longer (prior to some touchups on two holes). Either way, those gold tees are no joke.
What even fellow Legends’ on-site courses Moorland and Parkland fail to present like Heathland is the open-air breezes similar to the coastlines of Scotland. Those measuring the extra length from the Whites to the Blues here (a mere 445 yards) are often caught up by cross-, head- and even tailwinds from this unobstructed terrain. It’s so evident that Tom Doak was relatively kind on this par-71 layout by limiting bunkers and water, relegating nearly all of the latter to four holes on the back nine.
Jack Nicklaus went with avian descriptions for his Pawleys Plantation tee boxes – Redtail Hawk, Yellow Finch, White Egret and Blue Heron. But there was no way he was getting out of Dodge without adding one last touch. The 7,031-yard Golden Bears can’t be played anything like the others. Not only are they set back, nearly all of them are angled differently from their boxes to the fairways, maximizing the pressure for all of his hazards.
When Tom Watson won $365,000 here at the Senior PGA Tour Championship in November of 2000, he shot an 18-under during the course of the event. Guess what? You’re no Tom Watson. On top of that, they also weren’t utilizing TPC’s black tees that week. The 7,000 yarders are nearly 800 further than the standard whites, a factor in the course adding a set of blues in-between on this Tom Fazio design.