Indian Wells Golf Club just south of Myrtle Beach: A big serving of surprise
SURFSIDE BEACH, S.C. -- Indian Wells Golf Club has been a part of Myrtle Beach for so long, it's sort of become part of the landscape, blending into the background.
The golf course is packed with interesting holes, each requiring a different approach, a different combination of clubs and shots. It keeps you on your toes from start to finish.
"It's not overly long," Indian Wells Assistant Professional Reggie Moore said of the 6,624-yard course. "It's a shot-makers' course. You don't have to be Superman off the tee."
Being a bit of an Einstein might help, though.
The course, Moore said, "isn't going to penalize you too much. If you think your way around it, you'll score well."
That aspect somewhat frustrated Scott Anderson of Baltimore, who likes to pull out a driver on a par 5 and see how far he can hit it. Doglegs and interrupted fairways ruled out that plan for his first round of golf in Myrtle Beach.
Designed by Gene Hamm, it's hard to believe the course opened in 1984. It isn't missing a thing. It has huge, high-walled bunkers mid-fairway and at the greens, frequent water risks and lots of trees. A few quirks are huge trees on par 5s in the middle of the fairway that prompt you to reconsider a driver or block out going for it in two across water.
On many occasions, one stands on the tee and just says, "Wow." Subtle is not in this course's vocabulary.
It's clear from the start you can't sleepwalk your way around Indian Wells G.C. The first hole is a par 5 that skimps big time on the fairway. It's a thin, green ribbon that zigs right, possibly sending a straight, long drive into the water, then zags a bit left around some trees. To get to the green, you have to zig right again and navigate around a lightning-rod equipped "signature" tree in the middle of the fairway about 95 yards out. It's a one-two-three punch. Two large bunkers flank the green, too.
The golf course rarely lets up in tossing at you the unexpected. The second hole gives you a landing area, then nothing but water if you take a direct approach to the offset green. There is a run-up to the far right for more timid players.
The course is also unusual in that it creates a few different holes from the front tees. On No. 3, the front tees are off to the right, blocked from the fairway by a trap and trees. The back and middle tees have a water carry, but a good look at the hole. The 17th, a par 3, put the front tee in line with a large tree on the right. If the pin is over there, so you won't have a shot at it.
Indian Wells' 13th has a collection of obstacles off the tee. From the middle tees on back, there's a tree mid-fairway and a bunker at the far corner. From the front tees, there are goalpost trees with a bunker between them that you can carry to cut the corner.
Other imaginative holes include the 15th, which is similar to the first hole, a par 5 with a huge tree in the middle fairway your drive has to skirt and another tree slashing the odds of taking a shortcut to the green over water.
The 18th wraps up with another complex hole, this one a par 4 that has a river splitting the fairway down the middle. The green and a run-up jump over to the other side. Trying to strategize this hole can make your head explode. It's a fabulous finishing hole. Kudos, Mr. Hamm.
Indian Wells Golf Club: The verdict
Indian Wells is a golf course to put on your Myrtle Beach short list. It's creative, in great condition and well run.
The course was named Myrtle Beach Course of Year in 2004, an accolade it probably has deserved many times over.
There are a lot of water holes, but that's the course's charm. You'll be amazed at the array of combinations where water comes into play, from water carries off the tee, to fairway interruptions to go-for-broke temptations on par 5s.
You'll also appreciate how good that water tastes with Scotch at the 19th hole as you reflect on the great holes you just played.