Must-play Myrtle Beach: Three stellar Central Strand golf courses
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Visitors to the Grand Strand have plenty of golf courses to pick from.
The 90-plus tracks sometimes tend to overshadow themselves, making picking a few to play that much harder. But for those who call Myrtle Beach home or are simply visiting for the week, three stand out.
Without requiring much of a drive, these Central Strand courses offer a range in price and skill level that will have players of all levels landing a memorable round.
Dunes Golf and Beach Club
In play as one of the best courses in all of South Carolina, the Dunes Golf and Beach Club is going strong in its seventh decade.
Located directly off the Atlantic Ocean, the semi-private club is continually named one of America's best courses, and for good reason.
Noticeable renovations have taken place on average every four to five years. They've included improvements to the greens, fairways and outlying portions of the course, as well as the driving range and clubhouse.
And while this course certainly isn't cheap to play -- and sometimes, tee times are difficult to come by, as you must be with a member or stay at one of the 16 or so affiliated hotels -- the Dunes is everything players would expect, white glove treatment and all.
Once on the course, it only gets better.
Three holes on the back nine, Nos. 11, 13 and 18, are worthy of some extra time. Whether it's the par 4s on 11 and 18, or the massive 590-yard par-5 13th, gawking tends to happen.
Add in the sounds of the nearby ocean waves crashing, and an overload of the senses is bound to happen.
King's North Course at Myrtle Beach National
Time has passed, yet stories of the sixth hole on the King's North Course at Myrtle Beach National -- aka "The Gambler" -- are readily available.
Arguably the most notorious hole on the Grand Strand, this par 5 is a draw on its own. In 1996, the hole was christened by music legend Kenny Rogers. And the name couldn't have been more appropriate.
With an island landing area that stretches about 100 yards wide, the right tee shot can have players aiming for the pin on the second shot. However, miss the landing area, and the strokes start to add up.
No. 6 has been selected numerous times on various publications' top-18 holes for both the immediate area and the entire state of South Carolina.
But the rest of the course is nothing to scoff at, either.
A 1995 Arnold Palmer redesign modernized the course. He also made it in his image.
There's the par-3 13th, a hole that stands out because of its island green and two bunkers. There are also doglegs and -- to cap off the day -- the par-4 18th includes about 30 sand traps.
The risk-reward King's North has opportunities to score or feel a little defeated. And that spectrum doesn't just go for The Gambler.
The Heathland Course at Legends Golf and Resort
Depending on whom you speak to, any of the three core courses at the Legends Golf and Resort could be plugged in here.
But with Legends' Heathland Course, golfers will find a throwback 18 with holes similar to Scotland's world-famous St. Andrews.
"Heathland has always been coined the true links-style course," said Matt Biddington, head professional at the Legends. "It's got a lot more of the heather grass out there. It's got a lot of untreated areas, which kinds of adds to that rugged feel over across the pond."
The distance won't scare players. That's not really the point anyway. At approximately 6,800 yards from the tips, the Heathland can't be played in the same way as Legends' other two home courses, Parkland and Moorland.
Instead, wide-open fairways lend themselves to the wind tunnels that normally don't come into play in this part of the country. In designing the Heathland, architect Tom Doak renovated what had been flat land. He incorporated rolling fairways, strategically -- yet often frustrating -- bunkers and plenty of imagination.
That's something players must take with them, as well, especially if they're used to the target-rich golf most courses in the area provide. The Heathland allows golfers to take chances. Maybe it won't pay off; maybe it will.
Either way, the course has the reputation few on the Grand Strand have.
May 9, 2012