At the baby gator hatchery. Pawleys Plantation, SC
Your humble servant has just returned from a trip to the Grand Strand for nine rounds over eight courses, in five days. There is some great golf to be played in Myrtle Beach but some courses to be avoided at all costs. Along with playing some awesome venues, we managed to visit with as many golf shops as possible to get an accurate picture of playing conditions across the region. The following trip report has first hand accounts, photos, and snippets of knowledge picked up by conversations with key people. Hopefully you’ll find it valuable and interesting.
On Monday, we made the hour drive from our condo at Sea Trail to TPC of Myrtle Beach only to get dumped on by Tropical Storm Alberto and completely washed out after three holes. We grabbed our rain checks and went shopping. Off to a poor start.
Practice Green at Kings North. Notice the winter kill on the left.
Tuesday we ventured out to Myrtle Beach National for a round on Kings North. Much to our surprise, the greens were rolling okay on this Arnold Palmer gem, but were in very poor shape with significant browning caused by the winter freeze/kill that affected the area. After the round, the pro explained that the Champion 327 strain of Bermuda was on the Kings course and that another strain of Bermuda was on the West and South courses and they were playing much better, so we replayed on the West and had a very enjoyable round on lush conditions. Only one or two greens were in questionable shape. The North is still an awesome layout with tees and fairways in great condition, and is still playable but temper your expectations.
8th green at Glen Dornoch along the intercoastal waterway
On Wednesday we hit Glen Dornoch for 36 holes and encountered lush full greens that were rolling rather slow. Admittedly it had rained the previous two days, and we got dumped on again for about five holes but the surfaces were in good shape. We asked the pro how they managed to keep their greens in order and he indicated they had overseeded with Rye, which was essentially what we were putting on. It had filled in nicely but you could see the spotty Bermuda and our thoughts were that after another month of heat, if that Bermuda didn’t come back, they’d be in trouble when the cool season grass became stressed from the summer bake.
Back down to the southern end we went on Thursday to Willbrook Plantation. The course was wet from the previous deluge but in otherwise great condition except for a lot of clumpy grass in the fairway since they had just mowed for the first time that week. For the third straight day we were playing cart path only and getting plenty of exercise toting clubs from buggy to ball and back. The greens were in good shape and were another overseed job similar to Glen Dornoch. We had a nice round and elected to forgo a replay in order to save our strength for a head smacking big day on Friday.
The morning round on Friday was at Pawley’s Plantation and we left the condo at 5:45 a.m. to make our 7:48 tee time. We found Pawleys in great shape and we were finally allowed to ride the fairways. 17 of the 18 greens were perfect, except for the memorable island 13th, which was very stressed.
Lou and Mike sizing up the tee shot at Pawleys #13
13th at Pawleys
I love this golf course and its killer par threes and it took every ounce of skill for me to muster an 8-over 80 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,549/73.7/144. Finally the heat and humidity had returned. These were conditions were were more accustomed to playing in.
173 yards of marsh carry to the 17th at Pawleys
In the afternoon, we made our way up the coast to Murrells Inlet and TPC of Myrtle Beach to cash in our rain checks. TPC had dried out but for some reason they were still playing cart path only. This is a big golf course with wide holes loaded with tons of sand and water. The course was in excellent shape and the greens were rolling medium fast but again were primarily on overseeded Rye. You could see the Bermuda was very spotty and we were glad we were playing it now before conditions deteriorated. We were tired from the 36 holes, the heat, and playing from the cart paths in the afternoon. But there was one more day to go.
10 foot friend guarding the banks of the 17th at TPC
Our last play day was Saturday and in the morning we tried out Crow Creek in the north. Course review is coming but in short, conditions were pure on this all Bermuda track. It’s a must play.
Dennis warming up at Crow Creek
We wanted to replay in the afternoon but they were booked. They called over to the Sea Trail resort and got us a time on the Maples course right after lunch. Sea Trail has three courses and had been brutalized by the winter kill. Two of the courses, Jones, and Byrd had totally lost their Bermuda greens. Maples had lost everything but their greens because they were bentgrass. We learned that they close Maples in the summer so as not to stress their greens. The Maples tee boxes were very scratchy and there wasn’t much turf in the fairways, although you could play on it. We were just glad to be playing our final round of golf on a course next to our condo. After all the driving to the south, it was nice to sink your final putt and collapse in your bed in five minutes. Oddly enough, despite the conditions, I had my best round of the trip (3-over 75) on Maples. I suppose if you’re going to play on a scratchy course, the one thing you want is playable greens.
#18 Green on Sea Trail Jones course
We did a great job moving our venues off courses with known winter kill and generally played on very good conditions during the week. Sunday, I had a late flight and decided to visit some of the area courses for intelligence gathering. Here’s what I learned:
Oyster Bay: I adore this layout but the greens are shot. Avoid it.
The sad practice green at Oyster Bay
Big Cats in Ocean Ridge Plantation: Tigers Eye’s greens are slowly coming back. They are letting them grow out, and they looked kind of spotty and shaggy. Lions Paw is closed for two weeks and Panthers Run is closed for six weeks. Those two courses totally lost their greens. Leopard’s Chase is still reportedly playable as they have bentgrass on the surfaces, but I didn’t get a visual. I’d stay away from these courses as a package.
The Legends: According to the pro in the shop, Moreland has the Champion 327 Bermuda and lost seven greens. They are giving discounts to play it. Steer clear. Heathland is in great shape and Parkland has a few spots on a couple greens. I checked the practice green and it looked fine. Play here at your own risk.
Thistle: The practice green had a couple damage spots but I examined a green on the course and spoke to the pro who told me the greens keeper did a great job and the course was in excellent condition. I rolled a few balls on the putting green and it seemed fine. I’d play here as the layout is awesome and the operation first class.
9th at Thistle. Looking good.
Then I drove across the street to Perl (East and West courses). Their greens were Bermuda and looked immaculate. I went inside and learned that Perl had covered their greens during the winter, off and on and especially during the one week stretch that had killed everyone else. This was the key, and I had received earlier reports that both courses were in great shape. Passed the eye test, get yourself out on both of these!
Beautiful greens at Perl
Finally, I struck up a conversation with my seatmate on the flight home who was wearing a Caledonia shirt. He reportedly had played and said the course was in fabulous shape. So there you have it. If you are making your way down to the Grand Strand, I’d do it sooner rather than later when all the Rye overseed on some of these good courses is going to get stressed. If you have any other first hand accounts on Myrtle Beach course conditions, please share!