My five favorites: Class golf course designers score in Myrtle Beach
The Myrtle Beach Grand Strand, stretching along the coast of the Carolinas, is known for nonstop beaches, fast food, glitz, high rises, strip malls and inexpensive digs, all making it a huge draw for vacationing golfers with more than 100 courses just minutes away.
Golfers have been coming here for years lured by great deals that include green fees, accommodations, breakfasts and more.
Here are five of my favorite golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area, all brought to you by top-notch designers.
The Dunes Golf and Beach Club: R.T. Jones and Rees Jones
A Robert Trent Jones Sr. course built in 1948 with an update by Rees Jones, the Dunes Golf & Beach Club is one of the most coveted golf courses in Myrtle Beach. It's a beauty known for its 13th hole that wraps around a lake, challenging golfers to cut off as much water as they dare on their drive. A plaque on the tee notes a player who took 22 strokes to get around the lake without a penalty.
Host to the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship as well as six Senior Tour PGA Championships, Dunes is classic, straightforward golf playing through and over salt marshes, maritime forests and creeks. Ultradwarf Champion Bermuda grass greens roll true and fast while bunkers live up to the high marks the course garners for superb maintenance. Although the Blues are 6,615 yards, the course plays longer because you are often hitting into an uphill slope or to an elevated green.
Resort Club at Grande Dunes: Roger Rulewich
Overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway from its lofty perch, the Resort Club at Grande Dunes, designed by Roger Rulewich, rolls out a links-style layout with wide, come-to-me Bermuda grass fairways. Ultradwarf Champion Bermuda greens installed in 2012 have enough pace and undulations to hold your attention, while water hazards and bunker complexes up the challenge. Warm up on their expansive practice facility, and have a pint or two in their Mediterranean-style clubhouse.
With six tee boxes playing from 7,618 yards to 5,353 yards, you'd be well advised to pick the one best suited to your game. Several holes run along the waterway starting on the first hole where water runs down the right side of the fairway. Out of bounds are to the left, and the next hole, a par 3, requires a carry over wet and wild, so you know what that means. Also on site, find the Ritson-Sol Golf School at Grande Dunes.
King's North at Myrtle Beach National: Arnold Palmer
Speaking of bunkers, wait until you catch the sandy complexes Arnold Palmer worked in the plan for King's North at Myrtle Beach National -- no. 18 alone has more than 40. Some are even shaped like South Carolina. And if that isn't enough, one of Myrtle Beach's most scary holes is the 12th, a par 3 to an island green.
Originally built in 1973 and renovated in 1996, King's North has plenty of water in the mix along with some amazingly crafty risk-reward holes such as the par-5 sixth, which is called "The Gambler" for good reason. It plays around a lake but gives you the option to hit an island in the middle of the water, leaving an easy shot into the green and the chance for an eagle. Or you can detour around the water to go for your par.
There is a refreshing absence of real estate around the course; here golf (like Palmer) is king. Looking for a challenge? You'll find it at King's North.
Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation: Ken Tomlinson and Rees Jones
Add Tidewater Golf Club & Plantation to the list of beautiful courses called "The Pebble Beach of the East." Here saltwater marshes, maritime forests, river bluffs, views of the Atlantic and Intracoastal Waterway all play a role in Ken Tomlinson's 7,000-plus-yard Tidewater Plantation design. Wind, too, scores a hit, especially on the more exposed ocean-view holes.
With course routing by Rees Jones, you'll find long drives between many of the tee boxes, but these are compensated by a design where there are no parallel holes. What you have are stunning vistas of the ocean, the Intracoastal, and marshes.
Recently Tidewater converted its greens to MiniVerde Ultradwarf Bermuda, a very welcome upgrade. Tidewater also expanded the landing areas and strategically removed some trees. Now the verdict is in: Tidewater's greens and course are better than ever.
Witch Golf Club: Dan Maples
For an escape into the Jurassic Park hinterlands of old South Carolina, head to the Witch Golf Club, one of a trio of Mystical Golf Courses designed by Dan Maples. Carved out of scrub, swamp and forests south of Conway, S.C., The Witch conjures up a striking set of holes weaving through an eerie landscape punctuated by long shanks of hanging moss and spooky tangled trees. Connected by more than 4,000 feet of bridgework, The Witch may inspire your imagination. But above all, it's a solid, well regarded track rating 4.5 stars from Golf Digest.
Opening in 1989 and playing 6,796 from the tips, the first nine holes feature narrow fairways and carries over wetlands to small greens. The back nine opens up with more generous landing areas. A tighter layout than the other Mystical tracks (Man O War and The Wizard), The Witch is a solid course without gimmicks. Well, perhaps the clubhouse -- with its pointy hat-like roof peaks -- and the logo -- a witch riding a broom -- might be a tad funky. But if you know the Mystical courses' creator and owner, Claude Pardue, you'll understand he loves a bit of mischief.
The cart paths could use some TLC, but overall the course is very well maintained, and in spite of its location, it dries out well even after a heavy rain. Just bring your target game or lots of balls.