The Sea Gull Golf Club in Pawleys Island had a good run.
Opened in 1966, it ran under a variety of management teams right on into the early 2000s, when it began its five-year transition to new life. It was renamed Pawleys Island Golf Club, included several new faces in various positions and control and started to show inklings of new life. However, the biggest change of them all was monumental for the property.
Sea Gull, er, Pawleys Island Golf Club, closed its doors in November of 2005. By that point, Thomas Walker was having conversations with ownership, showing them sketches and outlines of what he believed the property could be.
Within three years, the new life wasn’t just hypothetical.
Founders Club was officially born.
Under Walker’s leadership, the course went from a past-their-prime 18 holes to a reinvigorated South end gem. More sand than most anyone had seen on a golf course was brought in. Fairways were widened and more defined. Greens were framed magnificently and all of a sudden, a must-play course rose from the proverbial industry ashes.
All these years later, Founders Club has had such an impact that players often don’t know the history of the land, even during its golfing age. But they remember the impact.
And they certainly remember the challenge of these four holes.
NO. 3, PAR 3, 166 YARDS
This mid-range Par 3 early in the round is among the only non-sandy holes on the front nine. Still, four bunkers deep of the elongated green and two more on the front right serve as a nice reminder for where players are trying to go. Thanks to a bevy of pin locations, the focal point has to be smack dab in the middle of the green. If you can do that, it means you’ve avoided the distraction of the large pond that needs to be carried from multiple tee locations. (Founders Club 3rd pictured right)
No. 9, PAR 5, 493 YARDS
We’re not sure about this, but if we were told that the word “gargantuan” was first used in the English language while someone was hitting their second shot here, we’d at least entertain the idea. The No. 5 handicap hole and front-nine finisher at Founders Club includes only one waste bunker. Cool, right? Oh, sorry. We forgot to mention that you have to carry it off the tee and then it swings to the right and runs all the way up to the edge of the right side of the green. Players have been known to have to hit out of this doozy two and three times. Founders Club 9th pictured right)
No. 12, PAR 5, 491 YARDS
There are exactly three reasons why this hole is almost universally recognized as one of the consistent challenges at Founders Club, regardless of weather conditions and the prevailing winds off the coast. Two of those reasons are the split-level fairway – divided by mounds and bunkers – and the last is the forced carry over a large pond into the green. This is one of those beasts where even dreaming of an eagle is absurd. Just hang on and do your best and enjoy the ride. (Founders Club 12th top photo)
No. 14, PAR 4, 395 YARDS
You might be thinking to yourself from the tee box that the No. 2 handicap at Founders doesn’t look so hard. The 150 marker is there for the taking and the fairway is wide enough to land a Boeing. Go ahead and steady yourself for what lies after the slight rightward bend. There, an elevated green is ensnared by mounds, pot bunkers and a devilish waste bunker and – most importantly – an uphill front lead-in to the putting surface. Anything but a direct up and down shot even remotely close to the pin will cost you. (Founders Club 14th pictured right)