Story by Chris King
Pine Lakes is the golf course that started it all, the Dunes Club shined a national spotlight Myrtle Beach, and the 1960s and ‘70s brought steady growth. Make no mistake, Myrtle Beach exploded onto the golf travel scene in the 1980s, transforming itself into America’s most popular golf destination. After four course openings in 1980, the South Course at Deer Track, Oyster Bay and Indian Wells opened between 1981 and 1984 before the floodgates opened. From 1985-89, the Myrtle Beach golf scene added an astounding 26 courses that ranged from highly regarded private layouts (Wachesaw Plantation and DeBordieu) to premier public designs such as Pawleys Plantation, Heritage Club, Long Bay and Prestwick, among others. Jack Nicklaus (Pawleys and Long Bay), Pete and P.B. Dye (Prestwick) and other high profile architects began flocking to the area, raising the bar for the destination. Golf course construction nationally also boomed in the ‘80s and Myrtle Beach was the epic center of it all. Many of the layouts that opened during the days of spandex, big hair and Miami Vice continue to deliver value and good times. Layouts like Sandpiper Bay (1987), both courses at The Pearl (1987), Willbrook Plantation (1988), The Witch (1989), Burning Ridge (1986) and River Club (1985), among many others, provide Myrtle Beach with a depth of golf course offerings other destinations can’t match.
Here are some of our 1980s superlatives:
Most prolific architect: The Myrtle Beach golf community may have provided generations of the Maples family with financial security. In the 1980s alone, Dan Maples designed Marsh Harbour, Oyster Bay, the East and West Courses at the Pearl, Brick Landing, Sandpiper Bay, Maples Course at Sea Trail, and The Witch. That is a career for a lot of guys.
Most Unforgettable Course: There is a case to be made for Heritage, but Pawleys Plantation earns the nod. The back nine is as memorable as any along the Grand Strand, highlighted by a pair of stunning par 3s, the 13th and the 17th. The Nicklaus design has stood the test of time.
The One That Got Away: Of the ‘80s era courses that have closed, Marsh Harbour is the loss that is most lamented. The course has been closed for 20 years and people still reminisce about the views and wonder about the possibility of it reopening.
Most Influential 80s Course: We are going to go with Oyster Bay, which was the area’s northernmost course at the time. Oyster Bay earned “Best New Course Honors” upon its 1983 opening and demonstrated that golfers were willing to drive for a memorable round. It’s no coincidence that floodgates opened in Brunswick County after Oyster Bay’s success.