Azalea Sands Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach: Friendly in more ways than one
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Azalea Sands Golf Club is the perfect "go to" course to get your game in shape.
It's extremely reasonable (in difficulty and price), forgiving and comfortable. At the tips, it's 6,902 yards -- so there is enough course for everyone -- and it goes down to 5,148 yards at the front tees.
"The biggest draw we have is that we're friendly, both the people and the golf course," said Craig Kenley, first assistant golf professional at Azalea Sands. It also helps that the course is very visible to North Myrtle Beach traffic.
"We're one of the few remaining golf courses that aren't filled with tons of man-made hazards."
There are no houses around the course, another rarity along the Grand Strand.
The Signature Golf Group bought the 35-year-old, Gene Hamm-designed course in October 2009 and has been sprucing up the turf ever since. The greens are smooth and the fairways are filling in.
The first hole sets the tone for the course -- a tree-lined fairway made narrower by rough pressing in periodically and a bunker or two at the offset green.
Kenley's favorite hole is No. 2, a short par 4 that requires a water carry to the offset green with a pair of bunkers in front. It's a strategy hole.
Water reappears on the third hole, this time across the fairway, and on the fourth, pushing in from the right.
Azalea Sands Golf Club's fifth hole is one of the most scenic, a par 3 over water to a green beset with four bunkers. That hole is not going to just roll over for you. If you're way right, you might be lost to the airport property.
The sixth is a let-it-run hole, a 500-yard par 5 from the whites with little trouble other than a bunker at the green. Water shows up again at the seventh hole in front of the green.
The ninth hole employs a lot of sand, nearly coating the right side in it with four more bunkers around the green.
The 11th hole is another challenge, a par 5 with a carry off the tee and another at the green.
Water runs along the right on the 13th, so if you slice, you're gonna be sinking. It's the only true dogleg on the course.
The 16th hole closes in tight with trees, so try not to spray it, okay?
The 18th is a nice closing hole, with trees on the right with bunkers at their base. Really? The trees weren't enough by themselves? From there, it's a water carry to the green surrounded by bunkers.
Mary Ann MacCormick is one of about 20 Nova Scotians who caravan 2,000 miles each year to Myrtle Beach. Azalea Sands is their base course because it's friendly, familiar and homey. It also offers a good package deal.
"I like the water holes where there is a drop area on the other side," she said, laughing.
She said Azalea Sands is "an excellent warm-up for our season, which doesn't start until June."
The more they play the course, the more chances they're willing to take.
"It's one of those courses that make you go for it," MacCormick said.
Corinne MacDougall likes the course because it's fair and doesn't punish good shots.
"I find it has a variety of holes and a variety of challenges," said Corinne's husband, George. "Every hole is achievable, you just have to select your clubs carefully."
Azalea Sands Golf Club: The verdict
Azalea Sands Golf Club is Golf 101. Nothing fancy, nothing too hard. It's a peaceful day on the course without any houses nearby. You might lose some balls in a few of the holes fronted by water, but otherwise, you can generally resurrect your game from any lie. There is just enough detail on this course to prevent you from assuming anything. Like the slight shift left for the first tee, a small pond in front of seven and 18, or the crowned green the par-3 eighth hole. It's a good refresher course, indeed.