Southern slice of Scotland: Heather Glen Golf Links near Myrtle Beach
LITTLE RIVER, S.C. -- Heather Glen Golf Links, not surprisingly, has a Scottish feel that begins at the plaid-carpeted clubhouse and continues onto the links-style course.
Heather Glen has three nines -- the red, white and blue -- each with its own personality.
Over the past 30-plus years, the golf course has picked up many accolades, with the best new course in all of America in 1987, the top 50 in 1990, 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digest in 2001 and the top five in South Carolina in 2002. This course, however, doesn't rest on its laurels.
It's also remarkable that there is little development around Heather Glen, allowing you to imagine yourself in Great Britain, trying to extract yourself from the many pot bunkers that make the course decidedly un-Carolinian.
Each nine has a dramatic opening with elevated tees. After your drive, you discover a few pot bunkers and realize this course is different and a little scary because many of those bunkers have ladders. Yikes.
The golf course is very strategic, throwing in front of you waste bunkers, undulated fairways and greens, elevation changes and some water hazards. No trick was left in the bag.
You'll remember most the pot bunkers and the elevation changes that provide blind shots to fairways fraught with bunkers, such as the first hole on the white nine (one of the best holes on the course) and greens that vary in size.
Heather Glen Golf Links: Red course
The loop is a smooth start for an interesting course. Here you're introduced to the key elements of the design: pot bunkers, trees placed in pesky spots and large, steep bunkers near the greens.
The two par 5s -- No. 2 and No. 6 -- are strategic holes. The second is a dogleg left with a single tree making cutting the corner risky. The sixth hole curves to the right around a huge waste bunker. The fairway slopes that way, too, with an interrupted fairway to the green.
The Red course has the same aura of the other two nines and carries nearly identical numbers in rating, slope and distance. It just keeps the perils down to a manageable level. It's a good warm-up choice.
Heather Glen Golf Links: White course
Most people like the White nine the best. Perhaps it's the drama that begins the second nine, a carry over water and knee-high grass up a hill with a huge bunker, right at eye level.
Should you drift right, you'll have to trust yourself to launch a shot above your head to the smattering of fairway set among a sea of pot bunkers that encroach on both sides.
Or, if your drive was sound, you're not out of the woods. One still must think three dimensionally to thread an approach shot past draping tree branches on both sides to a well-protected green atop 15-feet of vertical bunker right in front of the green, with a twin to the left. It's a great hole.
There also is the par-3 No. 4, called the "pot hole," fittingly so because of the menacing bunker that seems to erupt in front of the green, rising about six feet. It doesn't take up all of the physical space, but it occupies most of the psychological space in your head.
The seventh hole, a par 4, includes a ditch that runs across the fairway at a distance that requires a commitment to carry or lay up. Indecision will cost you.
The eighth hole is a stunner. It's a water carry, but the choice of fairways is yours. A little less risk to the right, but it makes the hole considerably longer. Be more daring left with a wider carry, and shave off about 30 yards. After you've recovered from your tee-shot nerves, there is another carry to the green over a waste area.
The finishing hole on the nine is a tough exercise in placement and fortitude. First, you have to plot your drive and second shot to give you a chance to clear the "Firth of Clyde," a wide pond, to an elevated green guarded by a huge bunker right where you don't want it.
Heather Glen Golf Links: Blue course
Heather Glen's Blue nine was closed for maintenance, but a quick trip around it showed its personality, again with a lot of pot bunkers as well as features not seen anywhere else, such as a fence of three-foot pickets screening out the seventh green or walls of enormous bunkers next to the two par-3 greens.
A railroad-tie embankment in front of the fourth green could create a nearly blind shot to the green if coming from the right side. Sharp mounds in the middle of the eighth fairway resemble hump-backed whales.
An uneven stance would be an understatement. On No. 8, water crosses it twice, and its green is flanked on the left with a row of mounded bunkers and a pond that wraps around the right and rear. The final hole is a pot-bunker bonanza.
Kevin Hayes says the course is always maintained. "It's long, and you get the feel of a links course," said Hayes, who plays all four Glens courses. "The four courses are always in the best shape and they are tough courses."
Heather Glen Golf Links: The verdict
The best part about the 27-hole course is you can play them all, and I recommend it.
Heather Glen is a unique course that will stay with you and, with all of the pot bunkers, it will challenge your game in ways other courses don't.
It's a relaxing, friendly place with a great course wrapped around it.