Anyone who has played regular rounds in Myrtle Beach can tell you their favorites. Often, they’re persuaded by awards or popularity. But frequently, it’s simply how a course catches you – how it makes you feel about the game. Our local experts, Chris King and Ian Guerin, tackled the side of the spectrum that is usually less lauded. Here are takes on the Grand Strand’s most underrated courses.
IAN GUERIN: Chris, we’re inundated with various award panels’ findings year in and year out, and a couple times each year, we hear about the same courses. There’s plenty of reason for those select few getting consistently honored. However, what I think it also does is leave others without their proper due. So I’m curious what courses you start thinking of outside of what could be considered the top tier. What is an underrated course or two that you tend to prefer for your own rounds?
CHRIS KING: First course that comes to mind for me is Arcadian Shores – Rees Jones’ first solo design. In 2017, Arcadian completed a renovation project that included new greens, drainage, refurbishing all the bunkers, new cart paths throughout the property, and the construction of a new clubhouse. The place has been in spectacular condition ever since, and the layout has always been exceptional. Speaking of awards panels, did you know Golf Digest ranked Arcadian among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses in the late 70s/early 80s? I’m not saying Arcadian is a top 100 public course today, but it’s a really good round that delivers great value ($80 in peak season).
IG: Yeah, it’s funny what the golf market tripling here in the span of about 25 years did to some of those courses that were built between 1965-1985. They weren’t forgotten – obviously many of them are still holding one hell of a footprint – but they do get overlooked because of the influx of cash with the big-name designs. I have much of the same feelings you do about Arcadian with Burning Ridge Golf Club. This is a course that was originally opened in 1980, added depth to the U.S. 501 corridor, then had to scale back to one 18 under previous ownership. It’s fair and clean, but so many folks ignored it because of its location as more concentration closes in on the beach.
CK: You raise a good point about the age of our underrated courses as it seems to me recency bias is alive and well in the evaluation of golf courses, both here in Myrtle Beach and nationwide. At the risk of sounding like the old man telling people to get off his lawn, I’m betting every course we mention today will be at least 30 years old. We are fortunate to have a bunch of outstanding newer courses in Myrtle Beach, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of experience provided at courses such as Arcadian Shores and Burning Ridge, even if their profiles aren’t as high as they once were.
IG: You’re spot on. “New and pretty” bells and whistles attract the most attention. I’ve seen folks rave about courses that had GPS in carts on courses where it really wasn’t all that necessary. Either way, take a look at one of my other two most underrated: Willbrook is on a property that is among the oldest recorded land tracts in the area. The course itself isn’t ancient. But it’s also surrounded by a handful of some of the top-10 courses on the Grand Strand – most of them which opened in or after 1994.
CK: With Pawleys Plantation, Caledonia, True Blue, Heritage and even TPC all within 10-15 minutes of each other, Willbrook, along with River Club, gets overlooked. Willbrook almost made my list, but I’ll throw another name out there – Prestwick Country Club. Prestwick has received some critical acclaim, but I don’t think people recognize how good the layout is. It was a semi-private club, so lack of access may have limited its popularity with traveling golfers, but it’s full-on public now and worth a look.
IG: I think you might be onto something with Prestwick that in many ways is applicable to at least three of these four courses. Outside of a small sign off S.C. 544 close to the beach, there is very little to make passersby aware that Prestwick is even there. It’s covered up by an RV parking lot and tons of towering trees. But that lack of last-minute foot traffic may also be these courses’ blessing. It reduces wear and tear, because a staff is better prepared for that day’s business by knowing what to expect.
CK: Pleasant surprises are hard to come by as we get older, but when golfers play layouts like Willbrook, Arcadian Shores, Burning Ridge and Prestwick, their reaction tends to be, “Damn, that’s a good course.” Finding courses that make you react that way is a big part of what makes Myrtle Beach so popular, in my opinion.
So let’s hear your take. Do any of these four fit the bill for Myrtle Beach’s most underrated? Or do you have a different one in mind?