Must-play Myrtle Beach: Three outstanding South Strand golf courses
The south end of South Carolina's Grand Strand golf scene is oft-forgotten.
With a market slightly less dominated by the tourism that drives the entire area, Surfside Beach, Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island don't get some of the foot traffic as the courses in the central or north strand. That doesn't mean there aren't must-plays in the area.
Whether you're looking for a high-dollar round that makes your friends envious or want to scale it back, here are three courses that run the gamut on the south end.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island
The trophy case at this high-end course is an ever-expanding piece of furniture.
Already this year, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club has raked in more state, regional and national awards from various golf publications and for good reason.
The top course of the 12 located in the Waccamaw Golf Trail on Murrells Inlet and Pawleys Island is also one of the best manicured courses most players will ever have the opportunity to play. Of course, the 18-hole package comes at a relatively steep price.
(Tip: Caledonia offers multi-round packages with its sister course, True Blue Golf Plantation, as well as others with neighboring courses.)
But if players are in the mood for a top-notch experience, this one is hard to beat.
The course measures at a respectable 6,526 yards from the "Pintail" tees, Caledonia's version of the tips. The par-70 course, however, isn't one built on distance.
Beauty and creativity is the name of the game, and the No. 18 finishing hole accentuates everything that makes the former rice plantation so popular. The par-4 wrap-up hole cuts to the left off the tee. The second shot must then carry water to a green protected by water on the front and right, four bunkers and a large oak tree.
It's another reason Caledonia is highly recommended and why it has the accolades to fill that trophy case.
The Founders Club at Pawleys Island
One of the most interesting courses in the Myrtle Beach area, the Founders Club at Pawleys Island, is also one of its southernmost tracks.
Of the 90-plus golf options on the Grand Strand, none can say they have the set up of the Founders Club. The course, a Tom Walker design, was virtually built atop the previously existing Sea Gull Golf Course. However, in replacing the old, the architects decided against removing the sand-ridden base with which they had to work.
Sure, Founders Club has the normal allotment of sand traps. But it's the design throughout the course that makes the sand stand out. Waste areas belly up to native grasses -- some that look like they belong next to the Atlantic Ocean, not a golf course.
The course also claims to be the only one in the area to use both the Emerald Bermuda (greens) and strategically placed zoysia throughout the course. It was a plan put in place when the relatively new course was opened. And the management team makes no bones about trying to make the course stand out.
Founder Club is a 45-minute drive from the heart of Myrtle Beach. It receives little walk-up traffic. Instead, those in charge of design and running Founders Club wanted to make the trip worth it when it opened in February 2008.
And now, after just a few years of business, the $7 million project is paying off in the form of a must-play.
Wicked Stick Golf Links in Surfside Beach
Had a tough few days on the links and want to blow off some steam? Prefer to have a few beers while you play a relaxed round? Just don't have a lot of money to spend?
It's hard to top Wicked Stick Golf Links.
Outside of handing out beers and multi-colored pants with your tee card, the Surfside Beach course couldn't be created much more in John Daly's image. The 18-hole track features wide-open fairways, limited hazards and the constant surprise for players who believe they've lost a ball only to find it sitting in decent position.
"It's in great shape. It's a user friendly golf course," part-time Myrtle Beach resident Kevin McDermott said after a round earlier this year. "It's not relatively penal. It's got that links style play to it, natural -- wind and rain."
Wicked Stick isn't particularly challenging. However, it does offer the "Daly" tees, a set-up that allows players to back up to a distance just shy of 7,000 yards. Most golfers will try their hand at the big-hitting tees at least once per round; however, Head Professional John Thomas says only 3-4 percent of visitors do it for the entire round.
Regardless, the course -- located off one of the busiest thoroughfares on the Grand Strand -- provides an enjoyable round. And, afterward, golfers can tee one up in the aptly named "Long Ball Lounge."
May 15, 2012