On Tuesday, May 30, 2017, our travel group teed it up at the Wild Wing Plantation (Avocet course) in Conway, SC. Wild Wing used to host a magnificent 72 hole facility. There was Avocet, Hummingbird, Woodstock, and Falcon. But alas in 2006, Woodstock and Falcon closed as did nine holes on Hummingbird. The huge clubhouse that was previously servicing this golf factory is still there but is sparsely outfitted and looks like it’s more utilized for banquets. In the last ten years, the Grand Strand has lost about 25 golf courses, mostly to housing development, and Wild Wing is certainly a top casualty.
When you enter the grounds, you are confronted with a parking lot the size of the Myrtle Beach International Airport, which is also a leftover from the previous decade of vibrancy. The bad drop was staffed by a single guy who did the unloading, fetching of carts from the barn, and staging of groups for play. Clearly they could have used more help, and we felt something was a little off kilter.
Facilities (2.5 out of 5.0)
Our day started off rough because the driving range was closed. I asked the bag guy if I could borrow a cart to go take pictures of the range and he was kind enough to grant that request. The range is actually quite large and beautiful, and is all grass but it was soaking. Balls are sold in the pro shop for $4.00 a bag and it appeared to be a good decision to keep it closed. Playing a strange course with no warm-up and cart path only for the first four holes was rough. Most of the guys were hacking and trying to get loose. The course was wet and played fairly long from the blue tees (6,658/72.7/131).
Now, the Good, Bad, and Ugly.
The golf course is a great play. The greens used to be bent grass but were redone in Mini-Verde Bermuda after the brutal summer of 2011. They were beautiful and rolling true with a medium fast pace despite the moisture. The course has a mixture of parkland routing framing a lot of the par 4s and 5s, and links style architecture around the greens with big undulations on the surfaces, tall mounds protecting the approaches, water in play on tee shots and approaches, and deep penal green side bunkering. You will struggle to get it up and down if your ball striking is off but I thought this was an awesomely interesting mixture of holes with many being unique and memorable. Several of the par-4s are long. #6 at 451 yards with water all down the left, was playing into a stiff breeze. I knew I couldn’t reach and played it like a short par-5. #7, a par-5 at 553 yards was playing in the same direction and took two massive hits to have a shot to reach. #14 is a cool short par-4 with so many bunkers it looked like the face of the moon. Even with rangefinder in hand, it was a bit of guesswork as to where to hit it first time through.
The green part of the golf course was the allure at Wild Wing, with the excellent layout and conditioning. The rest of the grounds needed serious work. Several holes played adjacent in a back and forth direction which is fine, but there were shared cart paths which left you dangerously close to the ball flight of opposing groups and occasionally left you playing a game of chicken with the carts. A lot of the cart paths were crumbling and in a state of disrepair. There were only two water coolers on the entire course, which is a major ding, and one ran dry around 3:00 p.m. This can be dangerous in the summer time heat, as most courses take care to ensure you have fresh water every 3-5 holes. And finally, the on course restrooms were filthy.
Mike and I were the only ones to replay in the afternoon. We were parked by the par-5 15th green and as we were preparing to exit our golf cart, the beverage cart rammed into our golf cart. Mike was holding the steering wheel and the impact jerked our front tires and wrenched Mike’s hand. The cart lady didn’t even apologize and insisted on blaming us for the collision. This left a very sour taste in our mouths and some pain in Mike’s hand and wrist for the rest of the afternoon. As we drove up the 18th hole, we saw the cart lady parked in the rough with her head down. Couldn’t tell if she was texting someone or sleeping off a hangover from sampling her own wares, but she was parked in the same spot for several minutes – very unprofessional.
Value (3.5 out of 5.0)
Avocet isn’t a bad value for just pure golf. Our greens fee on the Founders package was the lowest of any course at $56 and we replayed for $40. This course seems to be a low budget affair with regard to facilities, maintenance, number of staff, and they sink their available funds into keeping the golf course in as good as shape as it’s in. As a traveler and avid player, the whole experience was a bit of a disappointment. There is also some previous day bias because Monday we had opened our trip at Grand Dunes Resort and everything there is first class.
Customer Experience (3.0 out of 5.0)
What’s odd is that everyone working at Avocet was very accommodating, kind, and professional, except for the beverage cart operator. A special thank you goes out to Meagan, who operated the Players Pub and assisted Mike with some ice for his hand after our on course accident. The starter was very flexible and helpful in getting us out for the afternoon. He suggested we start on the 2nd tee to avoid a foursome that had just teed off #1. We appreciated that and played #1 as our final hole after zipping around in 3.5 hours.
Overall Rating (3.0 out of 5.0)
You need some local knowledge to score on this golf course. I shot 88 in the morning and followed that up with a 79 after I was suitably warmed up and knew where to hit it. Again, the course is a fun play but only if you don’t mind the marginal facilities and low budget feel of the place. I’m mixed on a return trip to Avocet.