Some golf courses are destined to succeed. Maybe a monster name was attached to it during one of the upticks in in the market. Or possibly corporate ties kept its tee sheets full. Still, there are a few underdogs along South Carolina’s Grand Strand that weren’t considered automatic locks. We stop short of saying they were likely to fail – that’s not only inaccurate, but unfair. Still, the following five golf courses have proved over the years that breaking trends in the industry can lead to great golf and innovative options.
PINE LAKES COUNTRY CLUB, MYRTLE BEACH
Being the first to do anything can skim the surface of the impossible. Yet, today, 95 plus years after the Ocean Forest Hotel and Country Club originally opened and gave Myrtle Beach its initial course, the Granddaddy still serves as an anchor for the surrounding area. Eventually getting its new name, Pine Lakes continues to merge history and the present, outliving numerous courses which have come and gone since its first days. The design of Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America, has been re-installed courtesy of recent green and bunker restorations, and the reputation of the Grand Strand’s first track has never been stronger. (pictured right)
CALEDONIA GOLF & FISH CLUB, PAWLEYS ISLAND
No one is going to call Caledonia an underdog now. The course is almost universally considered one of the top rounds – if not the top round – Myrtle Beach has to offer. However, when the property owners elected to add 18 holes and hired a relative unknown to lay them out, questions arose over how well it would do. Mike Strantz was an Ohio native, and although he worked under Tom Fazio in Hilton Head, he was working on his own brand for five years before getting contracted to design his first solo project. It was an equation that went against the strategy employed by nearly every course opening in and around Myrtle Beach during the 1980s and 1990s; established architects were loaded up with work. Strantz didn’t disappoint, and his project at Caledonia launched him into the upper echelon of his peers.
WORLD TOUR GOLF LINKS, MYRTLE BEACH
Replica golf courses are few and far between, if for no other reason that some golf traditionalists thumb their nose at the idea. With World Tour, located just a few miles from 10 mainstream options, there was little to say that 18 holes mimicking some of the best from around the globe would function as hoped. How Mel Graham dipped and dived around those holes, though, can be deemed a success. Players start out in Scotland, before moving to North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Louisiana – all in the first five holes. There’s an imitation Swilcan Burn on No. 9 – patterned after St. Andrews’ famed 18th – and a trek through Amen Corner. (pictured right)
FOUNDERS CLUB, PAWLEYS ISLAND
Founders Club is loaded with natural beach sand gives players something unlike anywhere else on the Grand Strand. Not all that long ago, however, the property was a desolate piece of land where another club had eventually fallen enough out of favor to warrant its closing. The Sea Gull Golf Club, opened in 1966, could no longer sustain its southernmost distinction against some of the new-age choices closer to the central portion of Myrtle Beach. It means all that much more for Founders Club, which was built atop Sea Gull and has twice earned a top-30 statewide nods from the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel. (top photo)