The Long Bay Club just north of Myrtle Beach is a Grand Strand classic

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Long Bay Club might lie a bit off the beaten Grand Strand path –- Longs is about a 15-minute drive from the north end of Myrtle Beach –- but it is well worth the trip.

Long Bay Club golf course - 10th
The short par-4 10th at Long Bay Club in Longs, S.C.
Long Bay Club golf course - 10thLong Bay Club golf course - 4thLong Bay Club golf course - 5thLong Bay Club golf course - 7thLong Bay Club golf course - 13thLong Bay Club golf course - 18th
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Long Bay Club

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The Long Bay Club boasts a Jack Nicklaus Signature design that is consistently ranked as one of the top golf courses in South Carolina, a major accomplishment when you're competing with golf destinations such as Hilton Head and Kiawah Island. The landscape showcases the beauty of the Lowcountry with forests of pines, dogwoods, and maple trees divided by clear blue streams.

18 Holes | Semi-Private golf course | Par: 72 | 7021 yards | ... details »
 

LONGS, S.C. -- The year was 1986 and the place was Myrtle Beach, S.C. The fuse of the "golf boom" was just being lit. No name in the sport was bigger than Jack Nicklaus, and his golf course architecture business was beginning to burgeon.

There are many locales that claim the title of "Golf Capital of America," but Myrtle Beach is most deserving of the crown. The Grand Strand today contains around 100 courses along its 60-plus miles of white sand beach, yet in 1986 the golf still took a backseat to the beach and seafood buffets.

Enter The Golden Bear, whose first design in the area, the Long Bay Club in Longs, helped solidify Myrtle Beach's position at the top of the list of American golf vacation destinations.

The Long Bay Club was long by 1980s standards -- stretching to 7,025 yards from the back tees -- and difficult by any standards -- 74.3/140 from the back -- if you pick the wrong set of tees. These features, length and difficulty, were typical of Nicklaus designs in the 1980s, and many of his courses were criticized at the time for it.

But Long Bay is an excellent example of how Nicklaus, contrary to reputation, tried to incorporate features from the local landscape into his courses and often succeeded in creating memorable tracks despite the confines of surrounding real estate development.

Playing the Long Bay Club

Most holes at the Long Bay Club are lined with trees and, a bit further back, houses. Normally holes with O.B. on both sides give me the willies, but Long Bay provides, for the most part, enough room to roam. Indeed, aside from the first hole, where I over-cut my drive into the trees on the right ("Mulligan!"), I was able to keep my ball in play all day -- a rarity for me.

Before teeing off, the starter -- just one of a large and unceasingly friendly staff -- filled us in on the defining feature of the course: waste bunkers. On six holes, long, wide, meandering waste bunkers serve as both hazards and cart paths.

The course's most hyped hole (I have sworn off the term "signature hole") is 10, a potentially reachable par 4 where a waste bunker runs from the tee to up around the front of the green and back again on both sides of the fairway like a giant, sandy, drunken horseshoe.

Most of the time, though, the waste bunkers are not quite so obtrusive. And I must admit that #10 is a sort of strange trophy hole, as without said bunker, it would be pretty non-descript.

There is a nice mix of greens that require carries over bunkers, water or rough, and greens that allow run-ups; however, many of those run-up shots need to be precise, and the greens sit at a bit of an angle to the fairways.

A perfect example of the latter type of approach is the 472-yard, par-4 fourth hole, which is also the No. 1 handicap hole. Here you're presented with waste bunkers on both sides of the narrow fairway and O.B. beyond those. At the end of this gauntlet, the run-up area to the green is much appreciated.

The par 3s at Long Bay are all visually appealing, but three of the four are the same length. This slight monotony is forgiven at the memorable island green of the 156-yard 13th. This green, complete with a pot bunker in the front, appears to be an homage to Pete Dye's iconic 17th at TPC Sawgrass, which opened six years prior to Long Bay. (Nicklaus began his course architecture career working with Dye, so this would make sense.) Beware, though: even if you land aboard the green here, you'll need to be on the right tier, or a two-putt will be hard to achieve. (Another commonality between this green and the 17th at Sawgrass.)

The greens at Long Bay are typical of Nicklaus greens in the 1980s -- devilishly difficult. They undulate and are shaped so that, on some holes, certain pin positions are hard to putt at if you land in the wrong spots.

The putting surface of the longest par 3, the 203-yard 17th, turns to the left at a right angle to create a sort of upside-down "L" shape. It's hard to hit, hard to hold and, if you land in one of the eight deep surrounding bunkers, hard to score better than a double bogey on.

Some common themes materialize throughout the round: For one, most of the serious trouble is on the left side of the fairways/greens, like water on 5, 7 and the excellent risk-reward, drivable ninth, and sand or woods on most of the rest.

Jack preferred to hit a cut, and Long Bay –- like many other earlier Nicklaus designs –- rewarded left-to-right ball flight. Then on the back nine, cross hazards arise, including sand on 12 and 16, and water on 15 (which actually then runs to the right of the fairway and green). If you're not a long hitter like Jack, you'll need to lay up and maybe even play for bogey.

Long Bay Club: The verdict

Long Bay might lie a bit off the beaten Grand Strand path –- Longs is about a 15-minute drive from the north end of Myrtle Beach –- but it is well worth the trip to experience some Myrtle Beach golf history and a "classic" Jack Nicklaus design.

The course is in the best shape in recent memory (though the rough is dormant during winter and early spring), and the staff are friendly, informative and accommodating to a fault.

Walk-ins are welcome, with rates ranging from $70-$90 (with cart but not range balls) in shoulder seasons to a high of $104 during peak season. Clientele consists about 50-50 of locals and tourists, with more locals during the summer.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.


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