Over the hills and far away: Adventurous golfers take aim at the Moorland Course at Legends Golf and Resort in Myrtle Beach

By Robert Gray, Contributor

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Hit 'em straight may be a hackneyed phrase, but if your tee shots are not down the middle on the Moorland Course at Legends Golf and Resort, then you may end up hacking knee-deep in the rough.

Legends Golf and Resort - Moorland Course - 15th
The Moorland Course at Legends Golf and Resort seeks to transport players to the Scottish countryside.
Legends Golf and Resort - Moorland Course - 15thLegends Golf and Resort - Moorland Course - 16thLegends Golf and Resort - Moorland Course
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Moorland Course at Legends Golf Complex

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On Moorland you can play many of the most feared holes in Myrtle Beach as well as the shortest par four guarded by "Hell's Half-Acre". This is definitely a "target" golf course. It is also a controversial golf course. Moorland will cause the golfer to rise to incredible heights and constantly use every bit of skill and luck in their possession.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6755 yards | ... details »

And that's by design.

P.B. Dye created the target golf links to tempt experienced players into going for reachable, though elevated greens that are protected by some punitive hazards.

Dye likely would've smiled at a recent group of long-ball hitters whose motto by round's end became, "It might be findable." Many of their aggressive tee and fairway shots failed to stay in sight, much less in play. Many of these balls would've been both at other golf courses.

Less adventurous golfers will find so-called bailout landing areas off many tee boxes, but there is little relief for errant shots that drift left or right.

All golfers, however, may find relief from a rough economy at Legends Golf and Resort. The Moorland Course and its siblings -- Heathland and Parkland -- are known for their Southern hospitality, especially at the 19th hole. The modest green fee for a prime tee time at Moorland includes breakfast and lunch, plus two beers or soft drinks. The friendly staff serves up your food and beverages in short order to make sure you get out on the course, or to the driving range, with time to spare.

Legends Moorland: The golf course

Moorland's first few holes open innocently enough with just a bit of brush and waste to carry, but there are massive sand areas that come into play for short strokes or tee shots that veer right. And it is this terrain that puts the moor in Moorland, as the course seeks to transport players from the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand to the Scottish countryside.

PGA Professional Matt Biddington, the head professional at Legends, literally offers straightforward instructions: "The best advice is to shoot for the center of the green," he said. "With many elevated greens you can be left with very difficult chip shots when you miss the greens."

He may have been thinking about the fourth hole, where the climb begins in earnest. Tee shots that drift left introduce the driver to "Big Bertha," a mammoth sand-filled fairway bunker with brush covering the mound itself. It is literally a tall order to get out, up and over the trap with no view to safety. If you avoid this hazard by reaching the landing pad on the right, the next shot must clear a series of bulbous, undulating mounds guarding the green.

The middle third of the course is also the most lush, drawing comparisons by some golfers to Irish, not Scottish courses.

No. 10 offers one such view from the tee box, and those driving the straight and narrow will enjoy the stroll uphill past the white sandy traps and multi-tiered green.

These well-kept fairways entice long-ball hitters with fewer, but steeper hazards (especially No. 8's deep bunker, which leaves a blind shot over the top to a very elevated green).

Down the stretch, golfers face Moorland's signature 16th hole. The lush green fairway is bordered by water on the right, inviting tee shots to the left off the relatively short par 4 (270 yards from the tips). And that is where a half dozen deep and sandy bunkers as well as a massive waste area await, earning the hole its nickname, "Hell's Half Acre."

"Hell's Half Acre is the ultimate risk/reward golf hole," Biddington said. "A great drive gives you an eagle opportunity and anything but a good drive leaves you in many different waste and grass bunkers hitting to a green that is 15 feet above the lowest bunker."

Dave Snider, who hails from Durham, N.C., and frequently plays courses in and around Myrtle Beach calls Moorland "a beautiful, unique course for the area."

"You can be punished severely for bad shots, especially in the deep bunkers," Snider added. "The only flat spot was the tee box, so don't miss the fairway."

Golf instruction at Legends

The Legends complex has a huge driving range next to the clubhouse and attached to The Classic Swing Golf School. They offer lessons individually or in groups.

Legends Golf and Resort's Moorland Course: The verdict

Moorland offers a serious challenge for all handicaps, especially if you normally play wider fairways. But the golf course is designed to reward all players who manage the unique course, or opt for shorter shots if straight is not in the cards.

"I think Moorland is a must-play in the Grand Strand," Biddington said. "The conditioning is right there with the top-tier courses, and the design and experience is tough to top."

Dr. Steven Werdehoff, visiting from Huntsville, Ala., said, "The verdant, plush carpet of fairways and greens was surprising given the modest price."

As for the putting surfaces, they were largely player friendly, allowing shots to stick on the lofty greens and allowing putts to roll true without running off the putting area.

The scorecard recommends, and the starter reinforces in his rundown spiel, that only handicaps of 7 or lower tee it up from the tips. Golfers with a handicap of 8-14 are advised to start at the white tees and 15-plus from the green markers.

Following this advice may help some golfers stay out of trouble as they hit over the hills and far away, sometimes blindly over undulations or bunkers, to the elevated greens. It keeps the pace of play moving along and aims to allow golfers of all skill levels to enjoy the course's Southern hospitality as much on the course as they did in the clubhouse.

Robert GrayRobert Gray, Contributor

Robert Gray is a freelance journalist now based on the West Coast after covering Wall St., the economy, and the business of sports among other things for Fox Business and Bloomberg TV in New York. Prior to that, he covered sports, news and entertainment for various media in Washington, D.C. and Prague. Follow Robert on Twitter at @robertdgray.

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