Caledonia and True Blue. True Blue and Caledonia. However you want to introduce the two legendary Myrtle Beach golf courses, they are tied at the hip. Same ownership, same legendary designer – Mike Strantz – and both are ranked among America’s Top 100 You Can Play by Golf Magazine. They are among the Myrtle Beach area’s crown jewels, offering contrasting but equally enjoyable experiences. You have to pick one. Which is it going to be?
We turned to our local experts, Ian Guerin and Chris King, for the answer.
Chris King: Much like our last debate, this is a no-lose situation for golfers, but you have to choose between True Blue and Caledonia. Which way is Myrtle Beach’s favorite bald but bearded golfer leaning?
Ian Guerin: Wooly Willy jokes already, huh? Before I tell you my favorite, I want to share a quick story about the first time I played these two courses. It was several years back, and me and a buddy played them on consecutive days – Caledonia first and then True Blue the following morning. We are on hole 15 or 16 at Caledonia when my buddy stops, looks around and says, “I have no business being here.” We laughed because we knew it was true. Our game’s weren’t worthy. Next day at True Blue, he essentially repeats himself. No matter how much time passes, when anyone ever asks me about either course, that first impression always pops into my head.
CK: Both are outstanding courses, and what makes them such a great combination is how different they are. Caledonia oozes lowcountry charm from the moment you pull onto the property. It’s a shorter, tighter layout, and golfers never forget all those oak trees draped in Spanish moss. At True Blue everything is big – the fairways, greens, waste bunkers and, most of all, the fun. Ian, that story about your game not being worthy is nice, but you are stalling while trying to make a tough decision. You can only play one: True Blue or Caledonia? What’s it going to be?!
IG: I like how you call me out for not picking while simultaneously doing the same thing. But whatever. I’ll go first. With a lot of these debates we’ve done, I’ve mentioned how playability to my own game affects my favoritism. That applies here, too. Most folks believe Caledonia is the easier of the two, and I agree with it. I can usually shoot a little better here. So that helps. And while Caledonia is only four years older, there’s a built-in nostalgia factor with me in that it came first. You think about the legend of Mike Strantz, and I think this is the course that truly set him on his relatively short but illustrious path.
CK: Agreed with everything you said, and my guess is if you surveyed traveling golfers, Caledonia would likely be the top course in the market, but I’ll take True Blue in this debate. The design is so creative, and I Iove the visuals created by the waste bunkers. The layout is, by reputation, a difficult one but I think that’s a little overstated. True Blue’s fairways are 100 yards (or more) wide in spots and who doesn’t love having that much room to hit the ball?
IG: I’d like to caution players who haven’t been there, though, that it is also significantly longer than Caledonia, ranging anywhere from 500-700 yards longer (save for the ladies tees, which are pretty close). That’s a significant amount of yardage for a two-shot difference in par. And as nice as those huge landing areas are at times, they are also deceptive. If you muscle up on a bunch of those to get a little extra distance and go anywhere but dead center, you’re sitting smack dab behind a tree or needing to lay up to avoid a massive bunker.
CK: True Blue is longer, no question, but there is a two-stroke difference in par AND the par 3 ninth at Caledonia is super short (less than 100 yards from white tees). I’d argue the effective distance in length isn’t nearly as great as the raw numbers suggest, and I’m much more likely to end up behind a tree at Caledonia. As a matter of fact, the back at True Blue is less than 100 yards longer than the back at Caledonia, both being par 35s. I’m not trying to portray True Blue as a pushover – it’s most certainly not – but conventional wisdom says: True Blue is hard, Caledonia is easy. If you are hitting it crooked, I’d rather tee it up at True Blue.
IG: And I kind of think you helped make my point regarding playability (for a newcomer, at least). Caledonia is going to be less deceptive than True Blue, so players are going to use what club they feel more comfortable hitting. Ergo, fewer big misses. Overall, though, I think that also factors in for the 99 percent of us who don’t play there super regularly. We may not get a steady feel for either course, so we have to better rely upon our existing skillsets. All that said, these are two pretty sweet places to tee it up.
CK: We will agree to disagree! As I see it, True Blue isn’t deceptive, unlike Strantz designs such as Royal New Kent or Tobacco Road. The layout is in front of you. I will concede your point on club selection: you have to hit driver at True Blue. With that acknowledged, most players are as comfortable with a driver in hand as they are a 3-wood or 5-wood on the tee. One thing I think we can agree on: the challenge at both courses is at its greatest during the closing holes.
IG: No argument from me there. The last four holes at both courses are each extremely memorable, not to mention unique from the other three. And I love the reverse effect of the No. 18s at True Blue vs. Caledonia. At the first, you carry water off the tee; at the latter you do it on the second shot. Strike two solid shots back to back on either, and you’ve got a possible birdie putt amid one hell of a backdrop.
CK: You are absolutely right in your assessment of the 18th hole at each course. They are among the area’s most demanding and memorable finishing holes. Even with two quality shots to reach in regulation, there is no guarantee of par because both feature daunting greens complexes. Regardless of your preference, there is no “wrong” answer in the True Blue vs. Caledonia debate.