Story by Ian Guerin
Thankfully, residents and visitors of South Carolina’s Grand Strand aren’t relegated to just one course. With 90 or so to choose from, the variety is part of what makes Myrtle Beach golf. But what if you could only play one course in Myrtle Beach? This would be your new home course, where everyone knows you by name, you become buddies with the head golf professional and your standing tee time becomes part of the property’s history. Once on the links, you’d become an expert (over time, of course), and have the opportunity to steer your guests or random pair-ups around its 18 holes like a tour guide-esque player-coach.
We know it would be a struggle to choose that single, solitary course, so we’re going to give you a nudge in the right direction. Regardless of which pocket of the Palmetto State’s northern coastline you might call home, you have options to complete this dream without feeling regret that you picked the wrong site.
We’ll start this magical fiction on the southernmost tip of the Strand in Pawleys Island, an area loaded with some of the finest courses in the area, mostly members of the Waccamaw Golf Trail. And if there is a crown jewel of the bunch, look no further than Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. The Mike Strantz design pitted his architectural vision with plantation-quality property lines. What they teamed up to deliver is one of the most decorated courses in all of the 843 area code. It was one of just to local courses to place three holes on the Perfect Round, a joint effort between Myrtle Beach Golf Trips and the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel that identified the top 18 holes in all of the Myrtle Beach area.
Just up the road from Caledonia sits one of the few tracks to host a professional golf event. TPC of Myrtle Beach was the home of the 2000 Senior PGA Tour Championship. The tournament, held mere months after TPC opened, added even more clout to the Grand Strand’s golfing empire. That certainly hasn’t devolved in the last two decades. TPC is the only course to ever earn a full five-star rating from Golf Digest Magazine. The Tom Fazio layout blends crisp site lines, varying degrees of difficulty expertly matches to its tee boxes and a thinking-man’s approach to the game.
The second course to ever open locally has continued to find new ways to impress since it first brought players onto its property just after the conclusion of World War II. Dunes Golf & Beach Club, originally a Robert Trent Jones design, has been touched up by Rees Jones, added some length to specific holes over the years and held professional events at different points of its fine history. It joined Caledonia as the only course with three Perfect Round hole selections, and what’s more, those three holes fall simultaneously (Nos. 11, 12 and 13) around the well-known Alligator Alley stretch of the back nine. Players aren’t allowed to simply walk on the course or make a standard tee time. However, those who meet the package requirements necessary to get on at Dunes Club are rewarded with the singular views of the Atlantic Ocean and plenty more bells and whistles.
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH
Tidewater Golf Club is surrounded on three sides by neighboring courses, some of which have brilliantly held their own place in the market. But at Tidewater, players are given something they won’t find anywhere else. One side of the property borders the Intracoastal Waterway; the other drops you down closer to sea level alongside the Cherry Grove Inlet. What those edges nestle are 18 holes of eye-popping and picturesque scenery from a one-off designer in Ken Tomlinson. He blended wooded terrain and plateaued views, earning Tidewater the nickname “The Pebble Beach of the East.”
No one is going to say that golf expansion led to population center moving slightly away from the coast. After all, the Myrtle Beach National home sites predate most of the homes that have been added in the Carolina Forest section of Horry County (west of Myrtle Beach city limits) by more than a decade. However, at the heavily regarded King’s North track at Myrtle Beach National, golfers have at their disposal an Arnold Palmer course that can be considered his finest public option in all of South Carolina. It is highlighted by “The Gambler” – the par 5 with an island fairway – but has 17 complementary holes to keep players on their toes from start to finish. Anyone lucky enough to call this his or her home course would be lucky to have that distinction.
Ian Guerin is a DJ and freelance writer based in Myrtle Beach. You can follow him on Twitter @iguerin and Facebook facebook.com/IanGuerinWriter/