On Friday, June 3rd, 2016, our travel group had the pleasure of playing Thistle Golf Club in Sunset Beach, NC. Thistle had not been on our regular Myrtle Beach course rotation but it is now. We last played it about 10 years ago and the course has only been open since 1999. It has grown into a fabulous track and should be on your MUST play list of northern end courses.
I will usually poll my playing group at dinner on their likes and dislikes about the day’s course and the group was hard pressed to fine any negatives. In short, we loved it. Thistle is a straight forward superbly conditioned course with all Bermuda playing surfaces. There are no trick holes on the two nines we played and if you drive it well, you can shorten some of the par-4s considerably and score. If not, you’ll struggle because there is a lot of water on the tee shots. Of the three nines (MacKay, Cameron, and Stewart), we played MacKay-Cameron as Stewart was closed for maintenance.
Right out of the gate on MacKay #1, you have hidden water on the left and an approach over water, so keep your tee shot right center. Most other shots have a clear line of sight for the player to follow. Trust your aiming points and if you’re hitting it solid, you’ll be in for an enjoyable round.
Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)
We started off our day warming up on the beautiful driving range. There are 12 all grass hitting stations and a bag of 40 balls costs $5.00. Much to our surprise, all the range balls were brand new Titleist NXT Tours and were in excellent condition. This added to the sense of class, and to the feeling that we were entering into the realm of a hidden gem.
The clubhouse is a modern well appointed beauty and the entire premises has that feel of a classic Scottish course. There is an ample sized putting green and pitching area and all are located very conveniently to the starter’s station for efficient traffic control. Out on the course, there are several rest stops with modern clean bathrooms, as well as water fountains and good supplies of divot mix replacement bottles for your golf cart. This struck me as a good idea and probably helped keep the golf course in its great condition.
Value (4.25 out of 5.0)
Thistle is a high end play but doesn’t charge high end prices. The replay rate was $45 (a steal for this caliber of course). I suppose you could ding them for not including balls in your greens fee but that’s a nitpick when you figure the overvalue you are getting for the golf experience.
Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)
The bag drop guys provided snappy service as soon as we pulled in and got us loaded and on our way promptly. The gentleman manning the desk in the pro shop was courteous and helpful, but the lady in charge at mid-day went over and above. Three of us badly wanted to replay and came in right after the a.m. round to inquire. The lady said the tee sheet was full until 4:00 p.m. (it was 1:00 p.m.) but she could get us out again if we wanted to go in 10 minutes. She made sure we had time to grab a lunch to go and a drink, and got us back out into a sweet spot that allowed us to play the afternoon in just under four hours. We very much appreciated her flexibility and loved our afternoon round.
Then, our group leader found out he lost his car keys and the same lady let him come behind the desk to use the phone, call a tow, and take all the time he needed. The cart guys helped search the premises for the missing keys which was also appreciated. We found them locked in our car and resolved the situation with their help in 1/2 hour.
The course would get a perfect 5.0 except that each of the golf carts were equipped with two coolers and neither had any ice. Virtually every course in Myrtle will provide ice in your coolers and hand towels, but there were none. A very minor inconvenience but not perfect.
Overall Rating (4.5 out of 5.0)
I would love to come back and try the Stewart nine when it’s open. As it was, we played the MacKay-Cameron combination from the blue tees (one up). The course measured 6,495 and I carded an 8-over 80. Thistle is a fabulous play. I’ll be back and you should too on your next trip to Myrtle Beach!