Named the 2017 North America Golf Resort of the Year by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, Barefoot Resort & Golf’s four-course complex has been in business for less than two decades and still feels brand new. Three public tracks (Fazio, Love and Norman) are joined by the semi-private Dye Club. Our local experts, Chris King and Ian Guerin, debated the property as a whole trying to decide which of the four should be considered No. 1
Chris King: Ian, Barefoot Resort is one of Myrtle Beach’s most popular facilities; being home to four courses designed by Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tom Fazio and Pete Dye will earn you that reputation. I’m going to put you on the spot off the jump: which layout do you like best?
Ian Guerin: The fun thing about Barefoot is that it’s hard to make a wrong choice here. But I fell in love (pun intended) with the idea and look of the Love Course. What Davis did here was just so clean from start to finish. The golf itself is sweet, and the ruins on the front side are such a cool touch. One of my favorite things to do when I play there is to ask playing partners about their impressions and beliefs of them. By now, most of us locals know that they were simply a cosmetic addition for the course’s opening, but others talk themselves into a really funny and inaccurate basis for the “destroyed” brick structures.
CK: The Love Course is outstanding, but my favorite might surprise you, given that my scorecard typically features more double bogeys than birdies. Give me the Dye Course. The member tees play 6,000 yards, a distance that allows us mid-to-high handicappers to enjoy Dye’s stunning visuals without being challenged to the same degree golfers playing the back tees are. There is no such thing as an easy Dye Course, but I find the layout much more playable than the architect’s reputation might suggest.
IG: I’d love to come over the top right here and trash what you said, but that would be foolish. Obviously, the Dye Club is beautiful. I’m a huge fan of the small clubhouse – where you check in at a desk that looks like it could have hosted a great novelist from back in the day. (Driving through the gate and being welcomed by name at the bag drop is cool, too.) What you touched on – distance – is also part of why I like Barefoot in general. All four tracks give players choices, and at Love, which is only 50 yards longer from the whites than Dye, the average golfer is also encouraged to move up to the Greens and play from a shade over 5,600.
CK: If I were appointed “Golf Czar” for a day, I would mandate every course have a set of tees between 6,000 and 6,100 yards. That is long enough for the majority of players and it’s not overwhelming for those among us who won’t check their ego and play from less than 6,000 yards. Off the soapbox and back to Barefoot. The resort is home to four courses, two designed by architectural legends – Fazio and Dye – and the other two are designed by Norman and Love, two guys known more their play on the course. Despite their lack of architectural experience (though their design teams may argue differently), I think Love and Norman more than held their own. What do you think?
IG: I’ve done a few series on architects since I started writing about golf, and oddly enough, I think that outside of a small handful of guys (Nicklaus, notably), the Myrtle Beach golf patrons more often than not don’t care who designed the course they’re playing that day. I think Barefoot as a mega-property is a perfect example of this. If you changed the names of the four courses to generic terms, there’s no doubt in my mind that they would still succeed. The canvasses the four men and their teams had to work with was ideal. What’s more, Love instituted those ruins as an added touch and Norman ran with the seven holes next to the Intracoastal Waterway.
CK: Agreed, though I think Pete Dye is the exception. I believe golfers are more aware of Dye and his reputation than most architects. You referenced the Norman Course, which is generally regarded as the fourth layout at Barefoot. I suppose that’s where I’d rank it as well, but I think the course is under-appreciated. The par 5 9th and par 3 10th at the Norman Course are as memorable as any two consecutive holes on the property, and the holes along the Waterway are unforgettable. Sticking with the playability theme, golfers will have the chance to score on the Norman Course, and they always appreciate that opportunity.
IG: This is quickly becoming us just gushing about these four. Aren’t we supposed to be arguing or something? I like the Norman design, although I’ll admit I’ve played it fewer times than the others. You brought up the scoring opportunity there, and I’ll roll that theme back over to Dye. I guess my biggest complaint with that one is – personal preference aside – that it tends to never give me the good scoring days I’ve occasionally found on Love. Every now and again, I want everything else the course is about not bearing down on me, making me feel like I need anger management classes.
CK: Oddly, for a player my skill level, or lack thereof some might say, I’ve enjoyed a few good days on the Dye Course (if not for the par 4 11th hole, one of those days would have been a LOT better). The layout at Barefoot most likely to raise my blood pressure is Fazio. There are no shortage of golfers who will tell you it’s their favorite course at the Resort. For me, it has been a torture chamber!
IG: This is again where personal preference means more than some abstract statement of fact. For me, I really enjoy Fazio. A big part of that is that it’s a straight-line 18 without a turn. I’m a fan of load up and go until it’s time to stop, especially since I tend to play early morning rounds and appreciate a good scoot. Even if I’m not playing well (which is usually the case), I can move on quickly and forget the shanks. I’m also a fan of all the water here and how it was used for visual purposes while for the most part not affecting playability.
CK: It’s the sand and heavy rough that have killed me on the Fazio. Glad you mentioned the straight-line 18 at Fazio. I love that two of Barefoot’s four golf courses, Norman being the other one, don’t turn at the clubhouse, meaning they offer tee times throughout the day. It’s a small thing, but it provides group leaders greater tee time flexibility.
IG: Among the many reasons the complex as a whole is a success.
Tell us which of the Barefoot complex’s four courses you prefer and why.