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Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Jimmy Richardson imagined the possibilities at Prestwick Country Club. The Grand Strand resident and avid golfer finished a recent round at the course and could see the makings of what could be with only minor tinkering. “It’ll kick your butt, but it’s also very fair for good shots,” Richardson said after a recent round. “They don’t put stuff out to punish good shots. It’s a fair course, but it’s very difficult. If they wanted to build it up for a tournament, they could make it almost impossible.”
Like many before him, and many more to come, visitors to the neighborhood-anchored track a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean have come to discover what co-designers Pete and son P.B. Dye strived to accomplish with this Myrtle Beach golf course, which originally opened in 1989. Offset tee boxes feed into wide yet heavily mounded fairways which feed into more elevation at or around well-guarded greens.
Simple, it is not. “That’s one of the things that people consistently say: ‘It’s a great challenging golf course, I enjoyed playing it but brought me to my knees,’” Head Golf Professional Jay Smith said. “There’s just certain holes that grab you. I have trouble at No. 2, hitting off that tee box; it’s my nemesis. No. 14, I hit it [into the rough] every time. A lot of it is how the Dyes design tee boxes.” That angling is present at certain spots on the front and back nine, and often, that added effect creates havoc in terms of disrupting rhythm. That was the point, if for no other reason that Prestwick is not abnormally long.
The average player is going to be facing a distance of less than 6,400 yards, with four of par 4s measuring 350 yards or less and only two of the 10 par 4s pushing those hitting from the white tees to a distance longer than 400 yards. To make the most of the available space, the father-son Dye duo each instituted traits of their own styles into the project. There are railroad ties nestling some greens while combinations of deep and shallow bunkers protect others. From one hole to the next, then, sticking to just two or three of your favorite clubs is not advised.
The course abandoned its “semi-private” label not all that long ago after nearly three decades of membership-first play. Still, repeat players are the ones who know to heed the biggest warning of all: Take note of the terrain. “There’s very few times where you’ve got steady footing,” Richardson said. “They make use of hills on the fairways and greens. That’s no small feat for a beach golf course. There are a lot of hills, blind shots. It’s a relatively flat area where they’ve done a lot of build-up.”
Said Smith: “The course is not terribly challenging off the tee box. It’s got pretty wide landing areas off the tee. It’s the second shot into the green. If you’re in the wrong place, it’s really difficult to get up and down for par. You’re standing uphill, downhill, sideways. Its extremely demanding. We’ve mellowed out some of the rough areas because they were so steep we couldn’t even mow them.” That could qualify as one of the very few changes over the years. As for the rest of the Prestwick’s elements? They let players who shoot well here to know they’ve earned it.