Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club near Myrtle Beach: An old course is new again
GEORGETOWN, S.C. -- The drive to Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club makes it clear this place is like none other.
A sentry booth at its entrance includes the brick-matrix wall that hints of its 18th-century origin. Getting closer, one passes under an arch of live oaks to the Manor House, built in the early 1900s. One expects to see rice or cotton fields, not fairways.
A developer bought the 1700s-era plantation in the 1970s and built tennis courts, pool, golf course and homes. It went bankrupt shortly thereafter, thus beginning a recurring boom-bust cycle.
Wade Marlowe, golf operation manager, admits the course has had a "checkered past."
Fifteen years ago, Golf Digest called it the 15th-best golf course in South Carolina. Efforts to improve the course have been made along the way. Tifdwarf greens were installed in 2004, and the 16th hole was rebuilt a couple years ago. The latest efforts come from a management group that took over in the fall of 2010 and is dedicated to restoring the course's former glory.
"The general condition of the course is better," Marlowe said. The course's Web site, also a work in progress, declares Wedgefield is "an old course becoming new again."
The work is starting to show, with smooth greens and fairway turf that is filling in nicely.
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club isn't simple, rating a 74.1 and 136 slope from the 7,034-yard tips. Par is 71 due to only one par 5 on the back. However, it's a par-72 course for the front tees -- a 37-35 combo -- because No. 5 plays as a 400-yard par 4 from the whites and a short par 5 of 378 yards from the front tees.
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club: The front
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club starts with a par 5 with the first landing area sloping into a small ditch on the right, making your second shot more difficult as the fairway curves right around a huge live oak after a water carry.
The next hole is a par 4 with a landing area pinched between two bunkers and a green with a large bunker in front.
Later, Wedgefield doles out two tough holes in a row. The fifth hole, the par 4/5, has two pockets of water, the first one on the left about 150 yards out, then another closer to the green on the right. Precise placement is required.
The green for the sixth hole, a par 3, is perched on a mound with water front and left, bunkers front right and back right, and sharp drop-offs all around. Advice: Hit the green.
The seventh hole uses water on the right to catch slices and a large tree on the left to block out that side, with water past it. It's unexpectedly challenging.
The front concludes with a par-4 hole with water dominating the right half of the fairway in front of the green. The fairway slopes to it, so be aware of your distance.
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club: The back
The 10th hole is another warm-up hole, a straight shot to a well-guarded green with lots of opportunities to tuck the pin behind a bunker.
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club's 12th hole begins a string of beautiful holes that descend and rise along rolling hills. The 12th, a par 4, has a bunker and trees right that could cause trouble, then an elevated green with dual bunkers in front and a sharp drop-off behind. The 13th is a fun par 3 with bunkers nearly all the way across the front.
The 14th, one of the course's signature holes, is an exercise in placement and restraint to carefully land your drive to the right over water to set up your second long attempt over more water to the offset green hiding behind a bunker. Or you can hope for a booming drive that will clear all of the water at once.
The 15th turns the tables a bit, requiring you to determine distance downhill to a green, a skill that might have atrophied after a steady diet of elevated greens.
The 17th hole is another one for the memory bank, with the back lawn of the manor house to your right and a fairway reduced to a ribbon between two marshes. Beyond the green are miles of marsh.
The course wraps up with a last reminder that this course resides in a historic place. Ahead, past the green, is the manor house. To the left is a string of live oaks form a tunnel that might have shaded a plantation driveway.
Wacey Chong plays Wedgefield often. "It's forgiving and wide open," he said. "It's a decent course. It's a good practice course."
He's noticed continual improvement. "The fairways are a lot nicer, and they've got the greens going," Chong said.
Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club: The verdict
If you're looking to get away from the crowds in Myrtle Beach and want to impress your friends with the gem of a course you "discovered," Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club is the place.
It's got history, charm and some very interesting holes. You can sense its pending grandeur, and you'll be able to say "I remember when."
It's worth a drive to Georgetown, just across a bridge from the south end of the Grand Strand.