Experts Debate: Pawleys Plantation vs. Long Bay

Pawleys Plantation and Long Bay are forever linked. Both are Jack Nicklaus designs that opened in 1988, bringing the Golden Bear to golf’s most popular destination, and it’s hard to think of one without the other. While there are similarities between the two courses, they certainly provide different experiences, and our two experts Ian Guerin and Chris King (or, as they prefer to think of themselves, Myrtle Beach’s two best-looking bald golfers), debate the merits of each.

Chris King: Ian, Jack Nicklaus, golf’s greatest champion, visited the area last year to celebrate the 30th birthdays of his two area courses, Pawleys Plantation and, to a lesser degree, Long Bay. That’s generally speaking how the courses are perceived. Pawleys attracts the attention while Long Bay flies under the radar. Where do you stand on the two Golden Bear designs?

Ian Guerin: Both courses tend to kick my butt, that’s for sure. I think Jack got into my head a few years back when I started writing about local golf courses – and for whatever reason, I haven’t been able to shake him. I tend to agree with you that most people would think of Pawleys Plantation first and then Long Bay second. And I don’t have a problem believing it has to do with the marsh views between the end of No. 12 and throughout the final six holes.

CK: The final six holes at Pawleys are as pretty as any along the Grand Strand, and they provide golfers, especially land-locked visitors, the one thing they crave: take-home memories. I think the 13th hole at Pawleys, a par 3 that plays to a peninsula green, is one of the five most memorable holes along the Myrtle Beach golf scene. That being said, which “lucky” No. 13 do you prefer? Pawleys or the island green par 3 at Long Bay?

IG: I absolutely love the Shortest Par 5 on the Grand Strand. It is iconic in my mind. But if I’m putting one of those two holes in my backyard and taking swings on it whenever I want, I’m going with Long Bay’s No. 13. I typically play the whites (those who have played with me think that’s too much, but whatever), and I want to take a full swing with a club I’m comfortable with on most par 3s. Long Bay’s thirteenth plays from about 120 yards, which allows me to do that. Plus, if I shank one, I don’t want to see my ball plugged in marsh where I think I can get brave and go try to snag it.

CK: Unfortunately, I haven’t made many birdies on the area’s shortest par 5! I share your sentiments about the 13th at Long Bay, though I wonder if that’s a widely held view. Another similarity both layouts share is a short, par 4 10th hole. As an aside, I love a short part-4, though my passion is often unrequited. At both Pawleys and Long Bay, all you need is a hybrid into the fairway and a short iron on to the green and you are off to a great start on the back nine. Sounds easy enough, right?

IG: I’m actually a big fan of both of these as a 10th hole option, whether it’s kicking off your back nine or whether you’re starting your morning off there on double-tee days. For those on the 1-through-18 pattern, I also like both Nos. 10 because they are relatively forgiving to errant shots via those large waste bunkers. I mean, nobody dreams of hitting out of the sand, but by this point on these two courses, players should be willing to take any break they can get – and sand is better than losing a ball or hitting it O.B.

CK: The back nine on both courses is what leaves golfers talking. The 18th at Long Bay, a dogleg right that plays around a lake is spectacular and it’s also where I saw a bald eagle pluck a fish out of the water and proceed to begin feasting in the middle of fairway. Unfortunately, my tee shot didn’t join the eagle in the fairway.

IG: And maybe as proof of how good they are is how much they change the conversation from impressive front sides. Nos. 3, 5 and 8 at Pawleys and 1, 4 and 7 at Long Bay are really cool and memorable holes that are often overlooked. But what I like so much about what Nicklaus did when you’re comparing the two courses is how different they were set up and subsequently routed. There are similarities, of course, but so many more differences. It proves that Nicklaus wasn’t using some template for his designs.

CK: You are correct in pointing out how different the courses are. Pawleys certainly enjoys a higher public profile, but if you could only play one of the two courses for the rest of your life, which way are you going? I’ll buck conventional wisdom and take Long Bay. It lacks the views of Pawleys but I love the layout, and I’ve always a played a little better there, which matters when you have a swing like mine!

IG: Pawleys is one of the three toughest courses along the Grand Strand, at least when it comes to neutralizing my personal strengths and inflating my flaws. I usually feel like I’m playing left-handed. Maybe I’m just a sucker for punishment, because it’s also one of my favorite courses of the 90 or so up and down South Carolina’s northern coastline. Am I nuts? Don’t let my wife answer that.

Let us know what you think: Pawleys Plantation or Long Bay?

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