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Story by Ian Guerin
CONWAY, S.C. | Stephen Grooms has played the Avocet Course at Wild Wing Golf Plantation more times than he can remember.
But the Conway resident found something he respected during a January round.
With most of the roughs in their winter dormancy, the definition of the fairways, the depth perception of the mounding - both in the fairways and outside the immediate playing surface - and the visuals throughout provided a completely new experience without sacrificing anything he regularly noticed during his visits here other parts of the calendar.
“It’s in great shape considering the time of the year,” Grooms said. “It’s tough to keep a golf course up with the cold and the rain that we’ve had. The course was in great shape. The difference in the coloring makes for a nice round of golf.”
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018, Avocet has already proved that it has significant staying power. Not only was it the prime 18 selected (along with the Hummingbird 9) to carry the site’s banner after three of the four original courses were rezoned for housing, it has all the make-up of a consistently strong playing option from start to finish.
The opening two holes allow players to get their feet set with straight-line par 4s with little interruption. No. 3 utilizes a natural grass and marsh area forty feet shy of the a two-tiered green that forces you to decide whether it’s time to lay up or muscle up.
Make the wrong choice, and there’s another similar approach zone on the very next hole. It is the idea Larry Nelson and Jeff Brauer had in mind when they designed the Avocet course back in the early 1990s and one they repeated with other pairings.
Nos. 9 and 10 - there is no turn at Avocet - are fluid par 4s with slender fairways with bunkers just outside the prime landing areas. Nos. 13 and 14 are shorter holes where finding the green in regulation should be expected for most. And 15 and 16, while the first is a par 5 and the second is a par 4, are only 30 or so yards different from the whites.
What it does is favor those who like a defined rhythm to their game, regardless of season.
“I like the shorter par 4s. They make for a great atmosphere,” Grooms said. “I like the challenging holes with the bunkers right in the middle of the fairway. It makes you think about your shots. It’s definitely a shot where you have to choose the right club.”
BUCK UP ON NO. 14
The elevation of the tee box, the distinct mounding throughout the fairway, a pond that covers much of the right side and eight in-play bunkers make No. 14 a pure go-for-broke hole. Playing at just 265 yards for average players, reaching the green is not only possible, but also probably advised for most.
It is the safest play - and not just because the cool kids are doing it. Truth be told, missing near the end of the target area is going to come with fewer dangers. Scoring and eagle can be done with the right tee shot, of course, but birdies and pars should be expected. That is, if you can fly all of the aforementioned trouble.