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Story by Ian Guerin
Back before Myrtle Beach was a city, before the area became a golfing mecca and before the vast majority of anyone reading this was even born, there was one course that started it all.
Ocean Forest Country Club brought the game once believed to be for only the affluent members of society to South Carolina’s northern coastline. And now, 90-plus years after its opening, the re-named Pine Lakes Country Club is still doing the same.
The 18 holes here tie those nine decades of golf together into a single round. At a property that houses the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, history is abundant - from the marker on hole No. 1 pointing to architect Robert White’s work to a clubhouse identifier illuminating the birth of Sports Illustrated - and celebrated.
But as difficult as it may seem to separate the foundations of the club from the actual golf at Pine Lakes, it isn’t simply done because it can. Yes, it would be easy for the staff to simply hide behind the fact that
it was the first in an area that now boasts 90 playing options. However, making it part of the round from start to finish is what makes Pine Lakes so special.
Cradling it has put it back into the forefront of people’s minds again.In 2017, management elected to go back to much of what made it stand out to first-time and repeat visitors for a considerable part of its past. Starters are donning knickers again; plaid bow ties and hats are everywhere; clam chowder and mimosa stops mid-round are customary during specific times of the year.
“Obviously, we’re the Granddaddy. We’re the first golf course,” head golf professional Jonathan Brock said. “… We’re trying to embrace the history. It’s what we used to do. It’s what we’re going for.” Evolution of the brand has always been something that Pine Lakes has been pretty good at, though. Consider that the course trademarked its famed crossing clubs and crown logo in 1971, when there were fewer than 15 courses in the market and as many as another 100 or so (at the area’s height) to come.
In terms of actual golf, White’s design was tinkered with some throughout the years, only to go back to some of its original form during a massive renovation project in 2008-2009. Follow
ing that, the front nine appeared similar to White’s first plan, with the back displaying what the area just off the Atlantic Ocean had to offer.
All of it brings a feel of old-school golf.
The current par-70 layout accentuates shot selection and thought, not booming power and luck. For those not playing the tips, there is only one hole (No. 10) that plays longer than 500 yards. Indeed, distance gives way to strategy. And that is magnified the closer you get to the greens. Protected by sand, water or both, the relatively small target areas put a premium on accuracy. “I think the course speaks for itself,” Brock said. “Obviously, it is an old design right in the middle of Myrtle Beach. It does not have the flare of some of the new modern designs, but that is part of what we’re doing.”