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Founders Club at Pawleys Island is celebrating a decade on the Grand Strand. First opened in 1966 as the Sea Gull Golf Club, it was the fourth oldest course in the Myrtle Beach area, making it one of the originals. Thomas Walker, former lead designer for Gary Player Design, started a $7 million renovation in 2006 and opened the course in 2008 as Founders Club. Walker maintained the corridors of most of the holes, but moved more than 250,000 cubic yards of dirt, creating an aesthetic all its own. With a backdrop of the picturesque Pawleys Island, a 20 minute drive from Myrtle Beach, it’s no wonder this par-72 golf course has an allure far and wide in all of its 6,910 yards.
Just a year after it opened, the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel chose Founders Club as one of the 30 Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina. In 2011, it was chosen as both Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year by the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association and as one of the 30 Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel.
Walker’s signature style is to make his courses look tough but play fair, and the Founders Club at Pawleys Island certainly embodies this design approach. Walker excavated the Sea Gull course and used the dirt to create the sloping fairways, bunkers, elevation changes, and mounding you see today. He also reversed the front and back nines.
“We’re a unique golf course. You won’t find anything like us on the Grand Strand,” said Tom Vanhoogan, head golf professional at Founders Club at Pawleys Island. “With our elevated greens and sloping fairways, it’s a strikingly beautiful course to play.”
Founders Club is known to offer a dramatic, but accommodating round of golf, from isolated tee boxes to water features, enhanced by a sprinkling of azaleas and towering live oaks. It’s the only course in the area that sports Emerald Bermuda greens, many of which are elevated and require a deft touch to maneuver. This unique strain of grass is made to withstand the summer heat, requires less water than other grasses, and is not as grainy as other strains. Although this is a difficult course, with five tees you can enjoy a relaxing game or challenge yourself. The strategic nature of the course will bring you back time after time to try out a different plan of attack.
You’ll be struck with the beauty of the 9th hole as you enter the golf club. It’s a long dogleg right par 5, with water along the left side of the hole and an accompanying beach bunker. A beautiful, well-laid-out hole, it makes a strong statement and sparks the most comments from visitors. And it sets the tone for what is to come.
Natural beach sand fills the waste areas and native grasses, such as love and bluestem, populate the mounds and waste areas. Cart paths are kept to a minimum, which gives golfers a unique coastal-feel golfing experience and makes the course senior-friendly. Players are given unrestricted cart access to the vast waste hazard areas because of the excellent drainage and irrigation systems. Wetlands, live oaks, and pines add to the course’s beauty.
Walker eschewed large areas of long rough in favor of sandy waste areas and pine needles, which provide a better chance for recovery in case of wayward shots. The back nine features numerous holes that use this feature, such as the fabulous long par four 14th hole, which doglegs to the right around a stand of pines and heaves upward to a green sloped steeply from back to front. Players often try to cut the corner by too much and end up with a choice between pitching out to the fairway and threading the proverbial needle in order to reach the green in regulation. Two holes, #12 and #18, involve optional forced carries, even from the women’s tee. The 18th is a shorter par 4 that finishes with the beautiful Lowcountry clubhouse in the background, giving it an elegant and challenging finish to the course. After the 18th hole, reminisce upon your day on the wrap-around porch at the clubhouse overlooking the 18th green.
The interesting layout is what keeps players coming back.
“Very enjoyable layout, different from other Myrtle Beach Golf Courses,” said William K. “Friendly staff and even after a lot of rain, we were driving on the fairways. Will definitely play here again.”
“A great layout and in good condition,” said Timothy. “The staff was very friendly. You just might wear out your sand wedge here because there are many bunkers, but that's part of the game.”
And Norman of Bristol, Conn. had this to add, “The course was more of a target golf than a grip and rip it course. Greens were in really good shape and rolled true. This course is a good value and a course to start your vacation.”
Golfers also love to check out the putting and chipping facility. The putting area is 11,000 feet. The chipping facility allows golfers to simulate hitting out of waste hazards.
Founder’s Club may have only been around for 10 years, but it’s already fast-becoming a tradition among countless golfers.