Challenging Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club in upper tier of Myrtle Beach-area courses

By Ian Guerin, Contributor

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Standing on No. 13 at Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club, you start to wonder exactly where you signed up to play.

Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club - No. 16
At Pawleys Plantation, Jack Nicklaus made the most of its saltwater marsh property.
Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club - No. 16Pawleys Plantation Golf and C.C. - 4thPawleys Plantation Golf and C.C. - 10thPawleys Plantation Golf and C.C. - no. 10Pawleys Plantation Golf and C.C. - 9th hole
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Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club

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The 18-hole Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club in Pawleys Island, S.C. is a semi-private golf course that opened in 1988. With subtle greens enveloped by sand bunkers, challenging fairways dotted with water and unique obstacles evident on every hole, Pawleys Plantation is a player's course that demands strategy, ingenuity and above all, concentration.

18 Holes | Semi-Private/Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 7026 yards | ... details »

The 115-yard par 3 is seemingly shorter than some miniature golf holes. And it's just as tricky. With winds off the Atlantic Ocean hitting you in the face, and marshland separating a landing-strip tee box and an island green, all that's missing is the windmill.

"We call it the shortest par 5 on the Grand Strand. It's so easy to make double there," First Assistant Professional Jon Boston said. "It's definitely a conversation piece. It's a tough little shot, especially when it's windy.

"It's always a knee-knocker, and it's hard to feel confident with that distance."

No. 13 -- which also plays at an eye-popping 40 yards from the ladies' tees and 150 from the back tees -- has developed into the most memorable hole on a golf course full of possibilities. Rumors circulate about how the hole was shortened due to damage done from 1989's Hurricane Hugo.

Boston dispelled those myths, though, and added that it was simply designed to be a quirky break from a possibly frustrating round, especially for first-timers.

However, Pawleys Plantation, located near the south end of South Carolina's Grand Strand, isn't exactly considered a one-and-done course. Approximately 30-35 percent of the play comes from members. And several golf packages bring in repeat business.

George Piccola, for instance, is a part-time resident of the adjacent housing community. He recently played one of his 12 or so scheduled rounds there for the year.

"I play here every time I come down," said Piccola, who spends the rest of his time in New Jersey. "I like variety. I like playing other places. But as far as the courses go, this is as good as most."

Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club: The course

When Jack Nicklaus designed the course, he made it a point to incorporate the salt marshes and moss-covered trees already inhabiting it.

He wrapped his track around both.

At 6,184 yards for most -- 7,031 from the Golden Bear (tips) down to 4,932 from the ladies -- Pawleys Plantation was built to take care of those who don't feel the need to press every shot. There are big-time rewards for those who do but also big-time scoring risks.

Each of the course's par-5 holes add an element of creativity to sheer length. Nos. 1 and 11 are fairly narrow; No. 4 includes three bunkers placed in the middle of the fairway and a large waste bunker up the left side of the final third of the hole; and no. 14 suckers players into placing the tee shot into an opening that forces a second shot either over a lengthy marshland or around it altogether.

"These par 5s out here, outside of no. 1, are not a knock-it-up-the-middle-and-then-lay-it-on-the-green," Boston said. "They're not easy."

None of those are even considered the toughest on the course. That distinction belongs to the par-4 second. Like its longer counterparts, that hole can also beat up the brash.

A long drive is required to ease the pressure on the approach, one that includes a longer bunker between the green and a small pond. On the other side of that is an unforgiving, tree-lined corridor.

"I like that hole. I like the way that sets up. It's up on the rise," Piccola said. "You have to hit a couple really good shots to get there."

Pawleys Plantation Golf and C.C.: The verdict

About the only knock on this course is the propensity for longer rounds. The confusion of some of the holes can require some extra time for first-timers and regulars alike.

Simply, there probably isn't another course like this on the Grand Strand -- part of the reason it can be considered in the upper end of the spectrum of the courses in the Myrtle Beach area.

The design is unique, the course is in great condition and it provides the memorable holes and shots golfers want to have after every round.

The clubhouse features a quaint pro shop, snack bar and clubhouse in the style of other Lowcountry courses.

A nearby driving range and putting green allow players to adequately warm up prior to a round. The facility also houses a full instruction plan accommodating beginners to the more experienced.

Ian GuerinIan Guerin, Contributor

Ian Guerin is a freelance writer and DJ living in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He's decent with the driver and putter; it's everything else in the bag that gives him trouble. Follow Ian on Twitter at @iguerin.

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