TPC Myrtle Beach, an acclaimed Tom Fazio/Lanny Wadkins design, is celebrating its 25th birthday in 2024. As we look back on the course and its place in the market, we enjoyed a conversation with Tom Marzolf, Fazio’s senior design associate and the legendary architect’s right-hand man during the design and construction of TPC.
The opening of TPC Myrtle Beach was a seminal moment in the area’s golf history – PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was part of the grand opening press conference – and Marzolf fondly recalled his time working on the project.
Let’s delve into some highlights from our conversation with Marzolf.
Were there plans for a 36-hole TPC facility and how involved was the PGA Tour?
Myrtle Beach was booming in the late 1990s and the PGA Tour wanted to have a branded course in the Golf Capital of the World. While Fazio and Wadkins are the architects of record, they worked closely with Steve Winzloff, Senior Vice President Design Services, Player Liaison for the PGA Tour. Winzloff walked the property with the Fazio team, staking out 36 holes. You read that right, there was a plan for a possible second course. Alas, a declining economy eventually sidetracked that idea.
About that routing …
While there were plans for two courses, Fazio used the best of the property for TPC Myrtle Beach and even two decades later, the quality of the terrain stands out.
“It was beautiful land that had never been developed,” Marzolf recalled. “Great terrain for golf. We had free rein of the property … we tried to pick the areas that had unique contours and some movement.”
In particular, Marzolf recalls with pride watching players at the Senior PGA Tour Championship play the downhill par 3 5th hole. The dicey one-shotter requires a carry over water to a multi-level green, and the Senior Tour players loved it, as do traveling golfers, especially when there are alligators on the bank of the small lake.
You can thank Lanny Wadkins for the daunting approach on No. 16
Is a player architect deeply involved in course design or just happy to attach his name to a project as part of an easy payday? In the case of Lanny Wadkins, the former PGA Championship winner was an integral part of TPC Myrtle Beach.
“He was very passionate about the project,” Marzolf said of Wadkins. “If he was going to put his name to it, he had to be a key player in the design of the golf course. I learned a lot from Lanny.”
Golfers continue to learn a lot about Wadkins’ design philosophy every time they play the 16th hole, a shortish par-4 that plays 390 yards from the back tees and 347 from the whites.
“If a tour player has anything below an 8 iron in their hand (on the approach), Lanny believed you should design the hole so hard the player would be fearful to draw the club back,” Marzolf said. “I remember doing the 16th green and it’s perched up in the air with three deep bunkers beneath it. That’s all Lanny saying it’s a birdie hole, but I want these guys shaking in their boots.”
Mission accomplished, Lanny!
Lanny even had his own TPC Myrtle Beach golf clubs!
“One day early on, I could tell Lanny was going to be highly involved, so I grabbed him and said, ‘Lanny, I know you play Titleist clubs, but what shaft do you have? What irons do you have? What driver do you have?,” Marzolf recalled. “So, he told me what clubs he had (while we were) eating lunch one day, and then I called his Titleist rep and had them make a duplicate set that matched his bag.
“The next time he came, I had the ball he hit and I had these clubs, and I said, ‘Lanny, you need to hit some shots out here to get a feel for it as we are building it.’”
That’s why Marzolf and the Fazio team have long been on every short list of the game’s best architectural firms.
Lanny’s custom TPC Myrtle Beach golf clubs were displayed in the clubhouse for a number of years.
TPC Myrtle Beach was designed to host professional events
Unfortunately, TPC Myrtle Beach only hosted one Senior PGA Tour Championship, thanks to a new title sponsor with no ties to the area moving it to Oklahoma (in November!), but the layout was absolutely built to accommodate the large crowds that accompany professional tournaments.
The mounding around 18 allows for stadium style seating and there is ample room on the interior of the property for spectators to gather and move around – think about the space between holes 14, 15 and 16.
Yes, the 17th hole, a par 3 featuring a peninsula green, was designed as a tip of the cap to No. 17 at Sawgrass, but next time you play, make note of the mounding to the left of the green. Just so happens, it’s a perfect viewing spot for fans, and that’s not a coincidence.
The layout is part of the Tour’s network of courses, which were designed with the idea of testing the world’s best players, leading to an obvious question …
Is TPC Myrtle Beach a good candidate to host another professional event?
“The design of the course is strong so there is no reason why it couldn’t [host a Tour event], especially with the investment Founders Group International made in the bunkers (and greens).” Marzolf said. “The character is there in the design and routing of the golf course.”
TPC currently plays 6,950 yards from the tips, short by the standards of the modern professional game, but Marzolf and FGI officials have walked the course, laying out a prospective plan to add distance, just in case.
Not everything was grand about the opening
Grand opening events can get hectic when people are traveling from different parts of the country to participate in the festivities. That was certainly the case for TPC’s opening, which featured Finchem and South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges, who was on hand to commemorate the course as the Myrtle Beach area’s 100th layout.
As fate would have it, bad weather made travel difficult and prevented Fazio from making it to the press conference, thrusting the thoughtful and well-spoken Marzolf into the spotlight as he spoke in between Finchem and Hodges.
Despite Fazio’s absence, the grand opening went off without a hitch, announcing TPC Myrtle Beach’s arrival at the top of the game’s most popular market, a position it continues to hold.
Aerial photos for this piece captured by Golf Tourism Solutions, Top photo from our Instagram Account
Historical News Features About TPC Myrtle Beach from The Sun News