Try these Carolina short courses

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

NC - No one seems to know why they are called executive courses, but a lot of golf executives are betting they will significantly help grow the game of golf, which has seen declining numbers in rounds played in recent years.

Executive courses are smaller version of traditional courses, made up of par-3s with a smattering of par-4s, but no par-5s.

Some golfers just want to work out the kinks in their short games without the bother of playing a traditional course of 6,000 yards or longer.

There are other reasons golf's powers are interested: studies have shown that more people play golf at traditional courses where there are higher concentrations of executive courses.

Research by various golf organizations has shown that the reason many people either don't start the game or give it up is because of three factors: cost, time and what is known as the intimidation factor.

Executive courses, by their very nature, meet all three criteria: they are cheaper, take less time to play and, because they are obviously shorter, aren't as intimidating, especially for the beginner.

"They prove natural access points into the game, user-friendly places to learn," said a study by Golf 20/20, a research company.

Sportometrics, a golf economics research company in South Carolina, determined in a study that there are more than 5,000 "alternative golf facilities" in the U.S., including executive courses, par-3 courses, driving ranges and other layouts that differ markedly from traditional 18-hole layouts.

Of those, 865 are executive courses and nearly 1,700 are par-3s.

In the Carolinas, there are quite a few to choose from, but most of them are in North Carolina, which has around 100; South Carolina has few.

Those wanting to play short courses in South Carolina were set back a bit when the Reese Jones-designed Belle Terre executive course was forced to close due to the expansion of Highway 31.

Here are some of the better executive courses in the Carolinas:

Ocean Edge is a public, nine-hole course that permits 18-hole play. Located on the North Carolina's Outer Banks, squeezed in between the town of Frisco and a municipal airport on Hatteras Island, Ocean Edge is set against the dunes separating the "mainland" from the Atlantic Ocean.

A big pond comes into play: the first, second, fifth and eight holes play over water. Despite its short stature, this is one of the more scenic courses on the Carolina coast.

Designed by an avid golfer named David Parker, the course is a par-60 and under 3,000 yards. It has different tees, giving golfers who want to play 18 a different look; one hole has two greens.

More than 50 golfers have recorded holes-in-one here, and the price is right: $30 for nine holes, including cart; $40 for 18. In the offseason, prices drop to $20 and $30 and walking is permitted.

Seven Lakes County Club in the North Carolina Sandhills area is where former President Dwight D. Eisenhower notched his only hole-in-one; a plaque still stands honoring his feat. This is one of the better and more well-known short courses in the area.

Tupelo Bay Golf Center in Garden City, S.C., is a lighted, 18-hole executive course at the Grand Strand. It has par-3s and par-4s ranging from 260 to 313 yards with a par of 58. It also features a nine-hole course with holes ranging from 73 to 105 yards.

Carts have been added, and rates are $10 for adults and $15 for 18 holes; kids under 12 pay $7 for nine holes and $11 for 18.

The center has a driving range, full-service clubhouse and snack bar and pro shop with a head pro providing lessons and clinics. Tupelo Bay received one of 23 honorable mentions from Golf 20/20, a golf research company.

Midway Par-3 at South Beach Resort isn't technically an executive course, but it was named by the Golf Range Association of America as one of the top 10 par-3 facilities in the country.

An 18-hole course opened in September 2003, Midway has "situation tees" and includes bunkers, rough, pine straw and uneven lies. It also has waste bunkers, greenside bunkers, fairway bunkers, lob shots to an elevated green and bump-and-run shots off hard pan.

Another nine holes on the property, the north nine, offers only mats to play off of. The east and west nines also have flat areas with artificial turf mats and rubber tees for beginners. Midway has an 18,00 square foot clubhouse and a pro shop.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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