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Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Max Morgan was part of the staff at Myrtlewood Golf Club when one of its two courses, PineHills, reopened in 1993 following a significant overhaul. It was then that the track - which originally debuted in 1966 as Myrtlewood Pines - was given a major facelift from designer Arthur Hills and became an ultra-popular course that could keep up with its centralized location. This time around, Morgan is in a larger role within Founders Group International (FGI), the club’s owners, but he’s just as excited about some new possibilities. PineHills and fellow FGI course Tradition Golf Club will be able to claim some of the most modern and freshest greens around during the fall of 2018 after a pair of two-month projects to install new putting surfaces.
Tradition and PineHills closed up shop for a portion of this summer in order to install Sunday Bermudagrass. It was a change from the old strand of TifDwarf Bermuda, one that was nearing the end of its lifecycle before less-than-ideal weather conditions this past winter changed the trajectory of the greens for good. “We had a record-long cold snap where the greens were frozen for seven straight days,” Morgan said. “When it came time for them warm up for the spring, it was clear there was a lot of damage from the cold.”
Ownership elected to implement the large-scale project instead of salvaging what remained, and players this fall will be able to appreciate that commitment at both locations. In many ways, the greens projects will complement the rest of what Tradition and PineHills have to offer. Tradition, a member of the famed Waccamaw Golf Trail, recently entered its third decade of operation, offering freedom off the tees and variety from the fairways on into the greens. The Ron Garl layout opened in 1996 and to this day, bump-and-run golf is possible, especially with the new-age target areas. The greens at PineHills, meanwhile, will wrap up holes in which other avenues of Hills’ ideas will be coming into play once more. Rolling terrains and bunker placement already made the course very much a shot-maker’s paradise.
But on top of the greens project, Morgan is overseeing the re-implementation of 23 acres worth of Fescue grass that will be planted again in early fall. By late October or early November, he said, the roughs at the high-volume course will further force players to examine their club selection prior to bold (or not-so-bold) decisions to attack the greens. Golfers at both PineHills and Tradition will, however, have some leeway in that the greens will look more like they did during the 1990s and early 2000s. They will measure anywhere from 10-20 percent larger, per their past designs, further allowing players to test out the Sunday Bermudagrass in all its glory. “By the time they walk on the first green,” Morgan said, “They’ll think ‘This thing is nice.’”