Story By Tom Cunneff
With 100 golf courses, 18 times as many restaurants, and countless other activities, figuring out a Myrtle Beach itinerary isn’t easy, so we’ve done it for you. But first, a little primer on The Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of golf and beach nirvana that extends from the North Carolina border in a long arc down to Winyah Bay, where the Waccamaw, Pee Dee, and Black rivers meet.
North Myrtle Beach features the most nightlife and entertainment, particularly at Barefoot Landing, which is set along the Intracoastal Waterway and features live music at House of Blues, more than a dozen restaurants, and close to 60 shops. The South Strand area of Murrell’s Inlet and Pawleys Island offers a more laidback vibe with charming seafood shanties. Stay in the center of town so there isn’t much of a drive to either side.
Great hotel options there include the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, a AAA four-diamond resort that rises high above the Intracoastal Waterway with guest rooms up to four bedrooms in size. Prefer decamping at the beach? Try the Anderson Ocean Club and Spa, which offers upscale condo units from studios to three bedrooms overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Morning: Begin your trip at the course that started it all 90 years ago, Pine Lakes Country Club, located right in the heart of Myrtle. Completely restored in 2009, “The Granddaddy” is the only course in South Carolina listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Afternoon: The scenic Robert Rulewich-designed Grande Dunes is unique for Myrtle: It sits on a high bluff with great views of the Intracoastal from the holes perched above it. You’ll encounter expansive fairways and large greens, so leave the head cover off the driver. You might, however, want to practice some long lag putts before you tee off.
After Golf: You can’t come to Myrtle Beach and not sink your toes in the powdery sand found on the beach. Heck, you can even play a putting game with your buds after the tides goes out and leaves a perfectly flat surface on which to roll the rock.
Dinner: It’s practically a state law that groups of golfers eat at Greg Norman’s Australian Grille, and why wouldn’t you? The food and the setting (on the Intracoastal at Barefoot Landing) are equally appealing.
Morning: Just west of town is Myrtle Beach National, the area’s first multi-course facility. The headliner is King’s North, an Arnold Palmer design with many memorable holes. Some courses have island greens; King’s North has an island fairway on the par-five 6th, known as “The Gambler,” where your route to an eagle is considerably shorter if you don’t mind a little risk before (hopefully) receiving your reward.
Afternoon: Stay put and play the West Course which, like King’s North, is carved through tall Carolina pines without any housing in sight. Play the middle-back tees for a fun round — no par-4s are over 400 yards and no par-5s play longer than 500 yards.
After Golf: Not up for 36? Then go play one of the best miniature golf courses in the world at Hawaiian Rumble. Or wait till nightfall to see the 40-foot volcano spew fire.
Dinner: One of the best restaurants in town is the Aspen Grille, which features sophisticated yet simple dishes like the seared scallops over wild mushroom risotto with fried spinach in a classy but comfortable setting.
Morning: Head to the South Strand to play one of the most manicured courses in the area, TPC Myrtle Beach, which meanders through Lowcountry marsh, red oaks, and tall pines. It also has a great collection of par-3s, particularly the 17th and its peninsula green.
Afternoon: Continue a little farther south to the River Club, which is one of the most challenging and scenic courses in the area with water in play on 14 holes that wind around a former rice estate.
After Golf: There are four different NASCAR Racing Experiences at the historic Myrtle Beach Speedway, from a pace-car ride with a professional driver to 16 minutes of driving yourself in cars once used by the likes of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Dinner: Located on Pawleys Island, Bistro 217 is an ideal place to eat after an afternoon round on the South Strand. Co-owner Adam Kirby has been named one of South Carolina’s Ambassador Chefs for 2017. There’s a big bar with a diverse menu offering one of the best burgers in town.
Morning: The 27 holes at Aberdeen Country Club make up one of the most nature-filled courses anywhere. Set along the Waccamaw riverfront preserve, all three nines are teeming with wildlife. Designer Tom Jackson routed the rolling fairways around water hazards on 24 of the holes.
Afternoon: Another must-play Jackson design on the North Strand is River Hills Golf Club, where holes meander through scenic hardwoods and wetlands. The undulating terrain is very distinct fr
om most area courses. Like a lot of Jackson designs, River Hills can be visually intimidating off the tee, but it plays easier than it looks, except perhaps the par-5 17th, a double dogleg that requires two water carries.
After Golf: Head south to Murrells Inlet for a day of sport fishing on the Sea Rake, a custom-built Carolina boat with a restroom and four fighting chairs. You’ll travel 10 to 30 miles away from land to troll for mackerel, amberjack, barracuda, and cobra, and bottom fish for sea bream, black sea bass, snapper, grouper, and triggerfish.
Dinner: Unquestionably the area’s best steakhouse is New York Prime, which has a ritzy supper club ambiance, extensive wine list, and USDA prime steaks that are aged a minimum of four weeks. The colossal seafood platters are also pretty tasty.