Our Myrtle Beach travel group played Crow Creek in Calabash, NC on Saturday, June 2, 2018. This Rick Robbins design held up extremely well during the 2018 harsh winter and we were met with immaculate playing conditions which was a pleasant surprise. Tropical Storm Alberto had soaked the area earlier in the week and every course we played on was wet and slow except for this beauty. I had an 8-iron approach on the first hole, caught it fairly well and watched it bounce hard from the front of the green to the back. The course’s website advertises V8 bentgrass greens, and these were clearly new, beautiful, and held up very well after the winter.
If you can drive it you can score here but if you are crooked, you’re going to struggle with the ample forced carries over water, troubling sucker pins, and loads of bunkers. After playing a couple holes, the course reminded me of Thistle from a conditioning standpoint, and the visuals on the tee shots, but didn’t have Thistle’s share of wooded parkland routing that they boast on on one of their nines.
Value: (4.25 out of 5.0)
Crow Creek would be considered a middle end play but provides excellent bang for the buck. The combination of perfect conditions and a very reasonable replay rate ($35) make this a must play for your northern end golf packages. We got paired up with one of the local senior players and he indicated the word was out on this course. It was popular with all levels of players (five sets of tees make it playable for everyone) and that became evident when we tried unsuccessfully to book a replay in the afternoon.
Facilities: (4.25 out of 5.0)
The course has a nice clubhouse and full service grill and is serviced by an all grass driving range and two beautiful manicured putting greens. Once on your cart, you travel under a tunnel to the other side of the road where the practice range, large chipping/putting green, and first tee all reside in a nice orderly distance from each other. You buy your range balls ($5.00 for a small bag) at the shed adjacent to the range. The layout makes sense because once golfers are staged in the cart area, they are moved to the other side of the road for warmup and front nine play which reduces cart traffic around the clubhouse. You travel back under the tunnel to play the back closer to the clubhouse.
Customer Experience: (3.75 out of 5.0)
We pulled up to the bag drop and there were a lot of players arriving simultaneously. The cart guys got us unloaded reasonably well but seemed a little harried trying to get everyone saddled up and across the road, with ample time to warm up. A special thanks goes to the gentleman manning the pro-shop counter in the afternoon. After our round we inquired about a replay and he had nothing for a couple hours, but made a call to Sea Trail Dan Maples course and got us on there for the reduced price replay rate of $29. This was a well appreciated effort. The only ding I’ve got is an important one. There were only two fresh water stops on the course. Every track in the Myrtle Beach area should have at least two per nine because of the frequent hot and humid conditions. So carry plenty of water with you from the start.
Overall Rating: (4.0 out of 5.0)
If you are staying in the north at Sea Trail or the Glens Village, you could add this course to a package that included Thistle, and Perl East and West courses. You’d be playing some great tracks on some excellent conditions. Don’t miss out on playing Crow Creek!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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!
Travelers/golfers going to the Grand Strand: Red Alert! Check with the golf courses you are booked at regarding course conditions. About 3/4 of the golf courses in Myrtle Beach have lost their greens due to the abnormally cold winter, and you may not be auto re-booked by your tour operator. Tripadvisor and Golfadvisor have the gory details and I’d recommend you read the latest reviews. Courses with Bermuda putting surfaces have been hit extremely hard. Nothing is exempt, even the great courses like Grand Dunes, Thistle, Tidewater, and Oyster Bay. Most have had their greens reduced to dirt or dead grass with patches of dirt; and some have been dyed green. These conditions are deplorable and are creating significant angst among the traveling public.
We were booked on four of the Big Cats, Oyster Bay, and Thistle and have moved off all of them. Three of the Cats were reported as dead with the lone exception being Leopard’s Chase which has bent grass on the putting surfaces. Area courses with cool season grasses came through the winter in better shape, but the vast majority of courses have Bermuda, which holds up better in the summer heat, but needs to be covered in extended periods of freezing temperatures. This was not done and there is a local symposium being held for greens keepers to understand how to better handle such an emergency in the future, but that has not solved for this season’s problems. June and July could be rough in the area if the Bermuda surfaces haven’t recovered and the bent greens become stressed from heat and over play.
I’ve verified playing conditions are good to excellent on the following courses and aeration schedules will not impact play the week of Memorial Day. We are re-booked on: TPC of Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach National – Kings North, Pawleys Plantation, Willbrook, Glen Dornoch, and Crow Creek. We’re staying in Sunset Beach, NC at Sea Trail and as a result of all the re-bookings in the south, will be doing some extended driving, but at least we’ll be playing on good surfaces.
Perl East and Perl West are also reported in excellent condition but are being aerated right before Memorial Day. If anyone has information about more courses that are in good condition please share and thank you!
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.
On Thursday, June 1st, 2017, our travel group teed it up at the Willbrook Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC. The plantation was established in 1798 and a visit here provides a mix of lovely old southern charm with a humbling history lesson. The place is beautiful with large live oaks framing the clubhouse, course, and surrounding residential areas, but you also can find historical markers noting the location of slave quarters and burial grounds that remind you of our 18th and 19th century culture and lifestyle. Everything is done tastefully and the atmosphere is welcoming to all.
Our group has played Willbrook on several previous trips and unfortunately most of those visits were spent in the clubhouse watching doppler radar and sitting on the porch in stately rocking chairs waiting out torrential rain storms. No problem with the weather on this day as we enjoyed broken clouds and temperatures in the 80s, but we had our full rain gear packed.
Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)
You’ll notice as you first enter the facility that everything is on the small size, from the parking lot, to the clubhouse, to the grill area, to the driving range. The range was all grass and was in wonderful shape but only had about seven hitting stations. Balls were $4.00 per bag and were sold in the pro shop. There were two medium sized putting greens; one between the range and clubhouse and the other conveniently located between the clubhouse and first tee. Traffic flowed nicely around the staging area.
Willbrook has Bermuda grass through the green and on this day, the putting surfaces were rolling true and at medium speed but had a light layer of sand applied. The course conditioning was very good with all the tee boxes, fringes, and bunkers neatly manicured. I only remembered a few of the holes, probably because the last time through, we were so focused on keeping ourselves and our equipment dry, the course play-ability and routing were not at the forefront of our minds.
At 6,292 yards from the white tees (70.3 / 129), the course is not an overly stern test. It has a mixture of short to medium length par-4s with all the par-5s playing over 500 yards. If you are driving it straight you can score. As it was, they had many of the pins cut on small crowns and slopes, and while I hit 11 greens, I couldn’t make any putts, but managed to avoid any three-putts, and carded a solid 4-over 76. I recall a much tougher time playing in the rain from the blue tees at 6,722 yards.
A few playing notes:
#1 tee shot is tight (pictured below). You have a big tree on the right to contend with and water on the left. Drive it straight 🙂
#10 is a par-4 that only plays 356 yards but a large oak tree guards the right side of the green. Shots right center in the fairway may be blocked from coming in high, even with a short iron. There’s plenty of room left even though it doesn’t look like it on the tee. Take it.
#18 is a hard dogleg right par-5 and is super tight. There’s a bunker at the end of the fairway 250 yards from the tee. Long hitters should lay up. There’s a big tree on the right guarding the dogleg so you have to get it far enough out there to avoid. Up by the green, there are more large oaks that block the left side of the approach. If you can get it to 100 yards, you can get over them with a wedge, otherwise, you are blocked. Try to keep it right. I felt this hole was a smidgen unfair, as did others in my group.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
Willbrook was $71 on our Founders package. The replay rate was $40, which is a good value, and the beauty of the package is that it included a $100 gift card to use at all 21 of the Founders courses. We also learned that the replay rate at Willbrook could be applied at a higher end course, which is exactly what we did. We booked a replay at Willbrook and decided not to use it but called Myrtle Beach National – Kings North, and they let us play the afternoon for the Willbrook price, which was $22 less than the Kings North price. As long as you played your first round on a Founders group course, you can leverage this benefit and I would take advantage of that again.
Customer Experience (3.75 out of 5.0)
The bag drop guys provided snappy service as soon as we pulled in. The pro only had a single replay time when we inquired so we grabbed it. The tee sheet evidently fills up quite fast at this course and I was glad we had the opportunity to replay, but there’s a chance we could have got shut out. We also figured with one replay time, the course would be full and slow. When we replay, we usually enjoy a quicker pace because most courses in the area are empty. It pays to look for courses with more than 18 holes when you consider replaying. Our decision to play at Kings North was a good one, as they have 54 holes and we flew around in under four hours.
On the course, the marshals kept play moving and were friendly and helpful. The pace was good as we were in threesomes and were never pushed and did not have to wait on any shots.
The grill area is small and has a limited selection of food items. After the morning round, I settled for a chili dog, chips and soda that cost me $6.00.
Overall Rating (3.75 out of 5.0)
I enjoy playing this course and will come back to Willbrook on future trips. If you want a medium end course that’s not too difficult or expensive, add it to your playlist.
On Saturday, June 3rd, 2017, our travel group had the pleasure of playing TPC of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet, SC. For visitors to the southern end of the Grand Strand, this Tom Fazio design is in the the top tier of courses along with True Blue, Caledonia, and Pawleys Plantation. Most golf courses have one defensive feature whether it be fast greens, narrow fairways, or whatever. TPC has them all. The course is lined with tall pines and strategically placed fairway bunkers that frame long difficult tee shots. There are deep green side bunkers, plenty of water, and fast Bermuda greens. An outing here is not for the faint of heart or those with crooked drivers. Bring your A-game, plenty of golf balls, and prepare for one heckuva challenge!
Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)
TPC was built in 1999 and has a prestigious history. The course hosted the 2000 Senior PGA Tour Championship (won by Tom Watson) and is the present day home to the Dustin Johnson School of Golf. Inside the clubhouse are several cases smartly displaying DJ’s memorabilia, and the presentation reminded me of the Payne Stewart display at Pinehurst.
After checking in, we started the morning by warming up at the fabulous short game area. The bunkering and approaches were neatly manicured and there were ample spots to set up for all kinds of shots without getting in your neighbor’s way. I don’t usually take sand shots before a round, but the bunkers were beautiful and inviting, and the prospects of visiting sand during the round were high.
When you check in, the bag drop guys get you on a cart immediately which allows you to drive to the range. The grass stations were beautiful, the balls complimentary, and everything was in top shape. At the end of the driving range was a medium sized putting green. If I had a minor pet peeve it was that you couldn’t easily walk to the putting green from the clubhouse and staging area. It seems like it was designed to have players putt last, and right up to the time before they teed off. Again, minor issue, but if I just wanted to come out and putt, the jaunt to the area would be a little inconvenient.
The course was double teeing and we were sent off #10. I find the back nine here more difficult than the front and #10 is a tough hole to start on. While only 360 yards from the blue tees, the tee shot is tight and water comes right up to the front of the green. Sure enough, I rinsed my approach, but manage to get up and down from 100 yards and was thrilled with my bogey 5. We started our afternoon round on #1 which is a par-4 of roughly the same length but has a little more room off the tee and no water guarding. For some reason my eye doesn’t fit #10 and I recall struggling there in previous rounds. Given my druthers, I’d start on #1 every time.
The front nine features three par-4s over 425 yards and #9 actually had the tees at the back markers and was playing 472 yards. Oddly enough, I was more comfortable hitting driver and a fairway wood into these longer holes than some of the shorter par 4s that were tight and well bunkered. The premium on the par-5s is the second shot. You don’t need a fairway wood but MUST stay out of fairway bunkers and water. In short, there’s a premium on excellent ball striking. The greens are fast but are not tricked up. You have to avoid some of the mounding that surround the approaches because pitches from these lies to fast greens are difficult. A word of caution on the par-4 15th hole. The fairway runs diagonal and you must carry a marsh on the left and avoid woods on the right. Take your range finder and shoot a comfortable distance on the far bank of the marsh to aim for. I didn’t measure, thought I hit a perfect drive, and ended up in the woods and with a seven on my scorecard.
We played the blue tees at 6,600 yards and normally that’s a comfortable distance for me. Out here, I’d say if you have a handicap of 5 or less, those markers are suitable but if your iron game is off, as mine was, you’ll get punished. You’ll have a better chance to score playing the whites at 6,193. Next time I may just try them.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
As part of our Founders Group package, the cost to play TPC was $109. Our replay was only $42 which was a genuine bargain for a course of this caliber. After 27 holes, the lightning detection system went off and they had to clear the course. It never rained but after a brief delay, we elected to call it quits and the course provided a 9-hole rain check which was good at any time. At this price and the quality of operation and facility, this is a very good value.
Customer Experience (4.25 out of 5.0)
The bag drop staff were excellent and had us loaded literally as soon as we arrived. There was no waiting around to get set up and the organization of the place was evident. The marshals on the course were courteous and had supplies of cool drinking water on their carts. There were ample supplies of water at rest rooms and rest stops which is important when it gets hot and the humidity is stifling. The lady running the beverage cart seemed a bit disinterested in servicing the players and was more focused on just completing her rounds of the course. She did stop in the afternoon when one of our players made a point to flag her down.
Overall Rating (4.25 out of 5.0)
I will be back to TPC and try my luck again next time I’m in Myrtle Beach. This is an awesome golf course from the point of layout, conditioning, and operation. Everything about TPC is first class. Good luck if you give it a try!
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!
Our travel group played the Barefoot Norman course in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Barefoot Resort hosts three other courses named after their architects (Love, Fazio, and Dye) three of the courses play out of a single tremendous size clubhouse (Dye has its own). What strikes you as you arrive at the main clubhouse is the level of organization and sophistication to the golf operation. They have to be efficient with one central area servicing all three courses.
Make sure to get to the course an hour early if you like to warm up. Barefoot has a beautiful all grass driving range facility with complimentary balls and ample hitting space, but it’s about half a mile down the main road and is only accessed by shuttle once you’ve parked and unloaded. The bag attendants will call the shuttle when you’re ready to go hit but you do need about 15 minutes extra time for the transit. Our group either warmed up on the range or putted, but didn’t have time for both and we arrived 45 minutes ahead of our time. A special shout out goes to our shuttle driver who unloaded a golf bag for an elderly lady and took it out to the range to make sure she was set up with her clubs and balls at a hitting station.
On the course, Greg Norman’s layout is very playable for every handicap level. The playing surfaces are Bermuda on the tees and through the green but the putting surfaces are Bent, which I was very comfortable on. There are no tricked up holes or greens with buried elephants to frustrate you. Just a classy straight forward well designed golf course with excellent conditioning. The routing takes you through a mix of isolated holes in the natural landscape, gentle doglegs, with a few holes running through the community. At no time did we feel any of the condos were intruding on our play.
The beauty in this course is in the par-3s. #3 is long and narrow with water in front. #7 (shown below) is a shorter hole protected by a large waste bunker, and #10 (also below) is the signature hole that plays about 180 yards and runs downhill along the Inter-coastal Waterway. There’s always some party boat or jet ski navy cruising by to add entertainment value.
Value (3.25 out of 5.0)
We played on Wednesday when you get a $20 price break on your greens fees. Ours was built into our package, but this is not an inexpensive play. Barefoot is a high end resort and the Norman course is very nice, but we elected to forego the $60 replay charge and play in the afternoon for $45 back at The Legends Parkland course, where we were staying. I’ve played the Fazio and Dye courses here which are also good plays, but I’d place all three a notch below other top end courses like True Blue, Grand Dunes, and Tidewater.
Facilities (3.5 out of 5.0)
Big plus is the size and amenities available in the clubhouse and driving range. We dined after our round in the sit down restaurant and the food and service were excellent. Unfortunately the staging area can get really crowded when they are setting up play for three courses. For some inexplicable reason they located an outdoor bar right in the staging area where customers can drink or sit for a light meal. Initially I thought this was a cool idea but after seeing the foot and cart traffic trying to share the same space, had to reconsider. Barefoot also has a policy of trying to limit unnatural objects on the golf courses. That means no water coolers or trash cans. On this day, the weather was perfect but several years back, I had to quit from dehydration during a round on the Norman course. I would have loved to have had regular water stops available and that negative experience is etched in my psyche, so I brought extra water in my golf bag that I didn’t need. Still, the marshals brought coolers with water and beverage cart hit us up several times. There is one rest stop servicing the 10th and 13th tee with a bathroom and water fountain.
Customer Experience (3.75 out of 5.0)
The shuttle driver and bag drop guys were top notch, as was the lady running the beverage cart. Marshals were friendly and ready to assist. But the golf carts are equipped with GPS units that bombard you with adds. On every hole, you need to touch the screen to clear the adds and get back to the golf course map. Everyone in our group found this as an irritant. The rating here would have gone higher with time to practice my putting after hitting the range, but the shuttle time compressed everything. Once we hit the course we were in for an excellent relaxing experience.
Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)
Norman was a solid well maintained golf course and very fun to play. We played the black tees (one set up) at 6,374 yards and I carded an 8-over par 79.
This is the fifth and final installment of course reviews from our 2015 Myrtle Beach trip. We played Possum Trot in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Possum Trot was the first course on the Glens package that included Shaftesbury Glen, Glen Dornoch, and Heather Glen. The course has that muni look and feel and I would advise playing it first or last in your line-up depending on whether you like to ease into your week or finish on a soft note. We had it second behind Tidewater and definitely felt the drop in class. In retrospect, I probably would have scheduled Possum Trot last in a six day trip because the urge to replay at this course wasn’t that great, and after 11 rounds in six days, neither is your energy level.
The strength of Possum Trot is in the par threes. There are some beauties and the 13th (last photo below) is the best and brings back an awesome memory because I hit my best shot of the trip here (4-iron from 199 yards to one foot). The surfaces are all Bermuda and the greens were running smooth and medium slow except for #6, 7, and 8. This group is in a low area on the front nine and had been under stress. Aerated and chewed up, these three were barely playable and badly in need of better air circulation. Playing conditions on the rest of the course were decent, but the concrete on the cart paths was crumbling in several spots and was in need of some serious repair.
In our morning round, we played the white tees, If you are driving it well, it felt like you could overpower the course which I did, even though I’m not a big hitter. I had a lot of wedges into the par-4s and counted numerous scoring opportunities on my way to a 1-over 73. In the afternoon we replayed from the blue tees from 600+ yards back and got rained on a bit, and the course played considerably more difficult.
Value (3.0 out of 5.0)
Again, excellent value as part of the overall Glens package, but the conditions on this track were not up to snuff or at least to the other Glen courses standards. Also, when we checked in, the pro shop gave us three baskets of balls to share between six golfers, which I thought was odd since balls were included as part of the package. Couldn’t tell if this was a nickle and dime job or just an oversight.
Facilities (2.5 out of 5.0)
The course works from a no-frills very small clubhouse that’s essentially a pro-shop snack bar combo. The bag drop area was a little cramped and chaotic when we arrived because the morning men’s group was arriving as well, and they didn’t seem to have enough staff to unload cars and load carts. There is an all grass driving range and putting green with ample room to work on each, and a smaller putting green next to the first tee for those waiting in the queue. The overall rating is reflective of a mid to lower class facility, across-the-board.
Customer Experience (3.0 out of 5.0)
Once we were loaded, the starter was organized and got us off without issue. For those of us that replayed in the afternoon, we had our pick of tee times and the course emptied out fast after the men’s group had concluded play.
One of the guys in our group (Mike) is an ardent animal lover and was feeding a squirrel peanuts as we worked our way around the morning round. This little guy followed us to the clubhouse and observed the pocket that Mike stored his peanuts in and actually chewed a hole in his golf bag to get at the stash while we were breaking for lunch. We came out and Mike was not too pleased about the hole in his bag, and that one of the cart guys had witnessed the whole fiasco and not taken any steps to shoo the animal away, and was actually laughing with amusement. Well, this was probably half Mike’s fault, but he didn’t appreciate the non-assistance from the staff member.
We played the white tees at 6,343 yards and par of 72 with a course rating of 70.4/118. Possum Trot is best used as a warm-up course for your golf trip, or if you are into playing middle to top-tier courses, you could skip this one. It was a fun day, but I’d hesitate to return because of the conditioning issues with greens 6-8, and there are several better alternatives on the north end of the Strand.
We played the red, white, and blue target golf adventure that is Heather Glen, in Little River, SC on Saturday, June 13, 2015. This golf course is tight off the tee, and coming from the wide open expanses of Shaftesbury Glen the previous day, required an urgent push of the mental reset button. If you are wild with your driver, expect a long day. I mixed in enough 3WDs and was thinking well, and while I didn’t hit many greens, managed to keep it in play and out of trouble.
What we loved about Heather Glen is the total seclusion you enjoy on all three of the nines. There are no houses on the property and none of the holes impose upon each other so you feel comfortable and spaced, even with the tightness of the layout. I have played the White nine several years ago, but on this day we traversed the Red/Blue combination.
The playing surfaces are Bermuda through the green, and the greens were in good condition albeit rolling smooth and medium slow. Big deep bunkers with good course sand adorn much of the course and since the greens are so small, unless you can thread it like Jim Furyk, you will be hitting your share of bunker shots and assorted wedges. The green-side sand texture was similar to the courses we play in Maryland and I had a good comfortable feel in them and played my sand shots with excellent spin and distance control.
When you arrive at the course, they set you up with range balls and you traverse the one-man wide wooden bridge out to the grass range. Some of the lies were a little bare on the range and a few of the fairways were a bit scratchy, but the course was in good condition overall.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
Playing on the Glens package with complimentary cart fees, lunch, range balls and replays was great. We thought we’d get out on the White nine for the afternoon round but didn’t/couldn’t and the value rating would go a bit higher if we could have played all 27 in one day.
Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)
Heather Glen has an older modest sized club house, similar in size and stature to Glen Dornoch. The driving range can handle 15 golfers comfortably, but the practice chipping green (shown above in the first photo) is a single flag in a small area where the grass is allowed to grow. I’d like them to move this or redesign to something more inviting and accommodating. As it is now, it’s too close to the pathway to the range and you feel squeezed. The putting green is large and in good condition, and is located close to the staging area as well. On the course, we found an ample supply of drinking water every third hole, which was great considering how oppressive the summer heat was.
Customer Experience (2.25 out of 5.0)
The cart guy was helpful and very hard working and was there from dawn to dusk. We were visited by the beverage cart with great frequency which was appreciated, but where Heather Glen came up short is at the starter shack. There was no issue with our morning round but when I checked into the pro shop for our afternoon round, one of my playing partners confirmed with the starter outside that we could play the White nine and then switch to the Red or Blue at the turn. Excited at the prospect of playing all 27 holes, we drove to the 1st tee five minutes later only to find a group already waiting, and they were stuck behind a twosome waiting in the fairway. The starter was nowhere to be found and had made the critical mistake of losing control of his tee. With 27 holes and groups crossing over and replaying, the starter needed to be out in front controlling traffic and he wasn’t. After a brief dialog with the group on the tee, they said they would let us go first but we were both still waiting for the twosome in the fairway. We noticed the 1st tee was open on the Blue nine and elected to shoot over there and tee off. 10 minutes later, we noticed the twosome that was in front of us on the White, behind us on the Blue! They had gotten frustrated by the pace of play, quit the White and restarted on Blue as well.
On this day, we played the Red/Blue combination from the blue tees which measured 6,773 yards with a par of 72 and a course rating of 73.3/138. I shot a 79. Heather Glen is a quality play and is worth the trip but they need to manage the tee more proactively.
We played Glen Dornoch Golf Links in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Thursday, June 11, 2015. This was our second of four rounds on the Glens package which is one of the best value plays in the area. Every visitor to the Grand Strand should make it a point to play Glen Dornoch because the layout is unique, the party-like atmosphere along the Intracoastal Waterway is very entertaining, and the course has an outstanding set of finishing holes.
We arrived for our 8:00 a.m. starting time and there weren’t six cars in the parking lot. As we warmed up on the all grass driving range, we completely had the course to ourselves and did not feel rushed at all. I believe we were the first two groups off, and didn’t see another set of golfers until our replay round after lunch. As it turned out, this was a hot and humid day and Glen Dornoch was playing wet and long. One of the big challenges on this trip was playing on different conditions at a new course every day and Glen Dornoch fit the bill, especially after playing in the wind and hard fast surfaces at Pawleys the day before. We immediately noticed our approaches making huge ball marks and felt we could attack the flags without hesitation.
The course opens up with four fairly easy holes to let you ease into your game and then hits you upside the head with a 560 yard par-5 and it’s game on! As you move through the front, you come to #8 which is a brutal dogleg right par-5 that plays 540 yards into the wind coming off the waterway (photo below of the approach shot). It’s followed by the long par-4 ninth, that parallels the waterway and demands power and accuracy.
The entire course is about placement off the tee, but requires that you drive it solid to get in the correct positions. #16, 17, and 18 are some of the toughest finishing holes on The Strand. #16 is a downhill par-4 of 413 yards with ample room to land your drive. The yardage book says favor the right but the left is a better spot. Wherever you play from, when you arrive at your ball, you are faced with an approach to a target about the size of a gnat’s rear end – good luck! #17 is a 182 yard par-3 that plays into the wind with trouble everywhere, and #18 is a par-4 of 427 yards with a split fairway that dares you to hit it about 230 yards on the left route to clear the marsh and get a shorter shot in. I played the bailout (chicken) route twice but managed to par it both times using my lob wedge, which was the highlight of my afternoon. If you can play the last three holes in 2-over par, you are doing fine.
Value (4.5 out of 5.0)
The Glens package (see Shaftesbury Glen review) is an incredible deal. For golf nuts and enthusiasts who are crazy enough to play 36 per day for six straight days, the prospect of free golf in the afternoons is tempting. The state of the national golf economy is in general decline but there are some deals to be had in Myrtle Beach, and this is probably the best package we’ve ever played on.
Facilities (3.25 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse at Glen Dornoch is of modest size and has a decent grill to get your food. Complimentary lunch on the package was a sandwich or hotdog, soda and chips. The choices didn’t vary much from course to course, although they did offer pizza at Shaftesbury Glen. You can eat inside or take it on the porch and enjoy watching the players finishing on #9, or just hang out and enjoy all the sightseeing boats and jet skis flying up and down on the Intracoastal Waterway. The boat horns, occasional music, and jovial atmosphere make play along the finishing holes entertaining and unique.
There was the same minor issue with non-inclusion of sand mix on the golf carts, as was the case at all the other Glens courses. Again, if you are playing on Bermuda fairways, you should be filling your divots.
Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)
We paced ourselves easily in the morning round and played in a little over four hours. Again, we had the course to ourselves except for frequent visits from the beverage cart, which was appreciated because of the heat and the need to stay hydrated. There was a good supply of cold water coolers around the course at regular intervals.
It was definitely a slow day at the course, but the small cloth bags for range balls that we had used in the morning were still littered about the range as we teed off for our afternoon round. While very minor, the staff should have cleaned up the range area and kept it looking sharp. We actually ran into a couple groups in the afternoon round, but we were playing as a twosome and decided to pace ourselves a bit and give them room.
On this day, we played the blue tees at 6,446 yards which played to a par of 72 and a course rating of 71.2/137. I carded an 83. Glen Dornoch was a great place to spend 10 hours on a hot lazy Thursday afternoon. I will be back!
My travel group played Shaftesbury Glen in Conway, SC on Friday, June 12, 2015. This was the third of four courses in our Glens summer golf package which was a tremendous value. Shaftesbury is unique in the Glens group because it’s the only course with A-1 Bent grass greens. The rest are Bermuda, and golfers from the north and Mid-Atlantic areas who are used to playing on Bent will find Shaftesbury’s surfaces a welcome respite from the grainy tough to read Bermuda that is prevalent in the Myrtle Beach area. The issue with Bent in this climate is maintainability during hot weather. It was hot when we played and we found the greens smooth, a bit slow, very firm, and difficult to hold approach shots. I loved the surfaces after playing all week on Bermuda and adapted quickly in my morning round, taking only 28 putts.
Shaftesbury is a straight forward course with no surprises. Located several miles inland, you don’t get the benefit of the persistent on-shore breeze that the courses closer to the coast are accustomed to, and as a result, the course doesn’t dissipate moisture well and can get and stay wet in the summer humidity.
Architected by Clyde Johnson, you’ll find the sight-lines off the tee very pleasing to your eye which should allow you to drive the ball well. There’s ample room to miss on most tee shots and the bunkering is beautifully done and precisely frames many of the holes. The layout is very flat but many of the greens are raised about six to 10 feet above the fairway and are protected by deep bunkers with good quality hard coarse sand. You need to add about 1/2 club on the approaches to handle these benign elevation changes.
Value (4.5 out of 5.0)
Our round was part of The Glens package, which included golf, carts, lodging, free range balls, lunch, and complimentary replays on the four Glens courses (we added rounds at Tidewater and Pawleys) for a total price of $550. You simply cannot beat this value for your golfing dollar. I didn’t think to ask about the regular replay rate, but there is a nominal fee for range balls (I believe $3.00) for non-package players. Again, with the all-inclusive rate, we had nothing to focus on except playing our best golf and enjoying ourselves.
Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)
Conditioning of the course, all-grass driving range, and practice putting green was very good. There were ample supplies of good cool drinking water at regular intervals around the course, which was important because of the unyielding heat.
What’s odd about Shaftesbury is the staging area configuration. The bag drop is right next to the clubhouse but the driving range and putting green are at the other end of the parking lot and while there are plenty of cart parking spots next to the range, they do not let you ride to the range. So you’re left with the option of hauling your bag the length of the parking lot and hauling it back to put it on a cart before play. This was the case several years ago when I first played the course and oddly remains the practice. I suppose they feel they may lose a measure of control if they let golfers ride to the range, but I would advise they open up and try it.
Another commonality with the course and the three other Glen courses is the lack of sand mix on the golf carts. Most courses with Bermuda fairways provide a bottle of sand mix to fill in fairway divots, but there was none. Not sure if the greens crew repaired divots around the course every evening, but taking a chunk of the course out with your irons and not repairing felt awkward. This should be the responsibility of the golfers and the mix should be provided.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
Service from the clubhouse staff was excellent, especially the very nice lady staffing the grill. She went out of her way on the little things like refilling our water bottles from the soda fountain, providing free refills on soft drinks, to busing our tables. We noticed and a shout out goes to her.
There were five of us who wanted to replay in the afternoon. Certainly an awkward number, so we asked the starter if we could play as a fivesome. He said we needed to tee off as a threesome and a twosome and if nobody pressed us after we were out on the course, to join up. We played the last 15 holes in the afternoon round as a fivesome and had a delightful time.
On this day, I shot a 76 from the white tees which measured 6,445 yards and played to a par of 72 with a course rating of 71.5/135. Shaftesbury Glen is a fun play and will be on my course rotation for future trips to Myrtle Beach.
We played Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club in Pawleys Island, SC on Wednesday June 10, 2015. As you enter the grounds and approach the stately clubhouse of this Jack Nicklaus design, you can’t help but sense the architect’s love of Augusta National, and the impact the club had on the way he laid out this project. Tanglewood Drive is lined with large beautiful live oaks dangling Spanish moss, and immaculately landscaped touches adorn every pathway and corner. It has been at least since 2006 when I last played Pawleys, and the course has grown in immensely, and in a great way.
Value (3.75 out of 5.0)
We added Pawleys as a last minute substitute for Barefoot Love because of poor conditions at Barefoot, and were glad we did. Our package price actually dropped $10 per man and the playing experience at Pawleys tops Barefoot. Last time down I recall a very expensive replay rate at Pawleys and the afternoon tee sheet was booked, so we weren’t sure we’d get back on for a second round. Imagine our surprise when they hit us with a minimal $30 replay fee and any tee time we wanted. Value gets a 4.0 rating except they charge for range balls ($4.00) and everything should be included at this class of course.
Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)
Pawleys clubhouse is beautiful and as you enter the pro shop, you see Jack’s framed even-par 72 scorecard proudly displayed behind the front desk. His was the first round played here when the course opened in 1988.
The practice grass driving range is in excellent condition. There’s a practice putting green of ample size right next to the range and the starter drives out to conveniently announce the next group on the tee which is located close by. Everything is laid out perfectly, as you would expect someone of Jack Nicklaus’ detail oriented nature to construct.
The playing surfaces are all Bermuda and the greens were rolling smooth and at medium speed. A couple of the fairways had some scratchy lies but they were easy to play from. Many of the tee shots were framed with large oak trees either on the side or on occasion in the fairway’s line of sight. It should come as no surprise but Nicklaus wants you to think on every tee shot, as he would have. Interestingly, there was a mix of doglegs left and not the predominant favoring of the right, as has been the case with so many other Nicklaus designs.
The front nine meanders through a beautiful neighborhood of ponds and superbly landscaped luxury homes, but you don’t feel the neighbors are imposing on your round. Watch out for the huge alligator that lives in the lake next to the par-3 third hole! The back nine is drop-dead gorgeous; especially the par three complex of #13 and #17 which both play out on the marsh. #13 is especially difficult because you’re playing into what is effectively a peninsula with very little bailout area and into the prevailing wind. The mindset seemed similar to #17 at THE PLAYERS. We were playing the blue tees, which measure only 115 yards and I flushed an 8-iron which reached in the morning round and had to add a club for the afternoon. As you can see in the photo, you cannot miss the surface.
Customer Experience (4.25 out of 5.0)
The minute we arrived, the cart guys had our clubs out of the car and provided snappy accurate service all day. The proshop staff were friendly and very professional, and made our replay experience the best. Lastly, the chicken salad wrap and potato salad I had in the pub was superb. Definitely stop by for some delicious eats between rounds.
Pawleys measures 6,549 yards from the blue tees with a 73.7/144 course rating. I shot an 82. This is a top-10 play in the Myrtle Beach area, do not miss it on your next time down!
We played Surf Club in North Myrtle Beach, SC on Saturday, June 14, 2014. This George Cobb design was built in 1960 and is nestled neatly into a neighborhood one block from the ocean. Surf is a very old style private club with good conditioning and traditional parkland style routing and if you like doglegs, you are going to love this golf course. Only about four of the longer holes do not have some kind of bend and an absolute premium is placed on solid ball striking off the tee. Surf’s Bentgrass greens have a reputation for being among the fastest on the beach but we played them about three weeks after their aeration. They were almost full recovered and were rolling at medium speed. On a previous visit, I recall the course playing firm and fast with the the greens running lightening quick.
I’m not an arborist, but the type of trees that frame most of the holes are unlike most you’ll see on Myrtle Beach courses and certainly not the tall Carolina pines you are accustomed to. Normally, you can play out of the trees but not at Surf. Trying to hit low recoveries almost always caught bark and was usually the natural predecessor to a double-bogey on the scorecard. You’re best advice is to drive it straight or punch out sideways.
We played from the back tees and there are three holes that play like a beast. The par-4, 7th at 442 yards bends to the right and if it’s playing into the wind, is virtually like a short par-5. You turn right around on the par-4, 8th which plays 430 yards and you hope the wind is favoring your direction.
Finally, the par-3, 18th is one of the finest finishing holes in Myrtle Beach. At 217 yards, you are faced with a forced carry over water, and we played it straight into a two club wind coming in off the ocean. Thank goodness for the front flag position, as my fully struck 3WD barely covered the 200 yards needed from tee to pin.
Value (3.75 out of 5.0)
Surf was an upscale addition to our golf package but to our very pleasant surprise, the afternoon replay rate was only $27. This is a very affordable, high quality golf experience. Driving range privileges are included and the free tees in the pro shop were one of those nice little touches.
Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse and grill were on the smallish side and the pro shop displays were nicely detailed, but a little limited in scope. The grill served very basic golf course food and had walk up service only. We dined on hot dogs, wings, and chips after our morning round.
The 15-station driving range had good turf to hit off and high quality balls, and the practice green was medium sized and adequate for a warm-up. I did not observe a separate chipping/pitching green and was unsure if short game work was permitted.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
I’m not sure who the amiable professional on duty was but he made you feel very welcome and at home. He was very accommodating when we inquired about working us into the afternoon tee sheet for a replay and went out of his way to ensure that we had everything we needed to enjoy ourselves. The rating goes even higher except for the staff at the bag drop were nowhere to be found when we arrived at the course around 7:30 a.m. It was clear that we were one of the first groups at the course, but we didn’t expect to haul our bags in from the parking lot. Anyway, they found our equipment and had us loaded in time for play.
Surf Club was a good value and a fun day. We played the blue tees at 6,842 yards (par-72) I shot rounds of 87 and 81. It was difficult but I loved it and will be back for more on future golf trips. Don’t miss this one.
My travel group played Lion’s Paw on Monday, June 8, 2014 and Panther’s Run the day after on a recent trip to Myrtle Beach. These are two of the four Big Cat courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation in Ocean Isle Beach, NC. We’ll review them together because they are sister courses and play out of the same clubhouse. Tiger’s Eye is the top play of the Big Cats group and is run from a separate clubhouse across the street, but as we learned, the golf operations are distinctly different.
On Monday, we arrived at Lion’s Paw as they were preparing for a ladies tournament on the front nine. Our two foursomes were scheduled to go off #10 and we were thankful for that. The bag drop and staging area is rather small and was extremely congested and chaotic. Play for both courses is launched from the same constricted space.
Due to an airline luggage snafu, four guys in our group were playing with rental clubs, which the golf staff had hastily assembled. They charged $40 per set for the rentals which were a mediocre mishmash of late year model irons and metal woods. Nobody in our group was impressed with the offerings and the guys renting actually played several shots using clubs from the rest of our bags which was a little disruptive for everyone. Given the short notice, I was thankful that the staff could even assemble the sets to allow us to play together.
Both courses share a medium size driving range with Tiger’s Eye , and the range is located at the far side of the parking lot across the road. Unfortunately you aren’t allowed to ride your cart to the range from Lion’s/Panthers, but you are from Tiger’s. Also, the shop charged $3.00 for balls from Lion’s/Panthers, but Tiger’s extended complimentary range privileges. We thought this was strange given the courses were under the same management company. There is a small pitching green with one flag and a practice bunker next to the range and two putting greens next to the Lion’s / Panther’s clubhouse. I felt it would have been beneficial to have a chipping green that allowed your shots to run out, but clearly there was no space for one. There was good turf to hit off at the range but the quality of the balls was suspect.
On the course, we found Lion’s Paw to be in good condition, with the Bermuda greens rolling medium fast and smooth. A couple of the tee boxes were crowned which was a bit odd but didn’t affect playability. The course is fairly open off the tee and weaves its way through a residential area with several nice homes nearby, but you don’t have a lot of privacy.
A couple of the par-3 holes were memorable for the contouring, water carries, and bordering with oyster shells, but you weren’t struck by anything overtly beautiful or difficult. Lion’s Paw is just a solid, well maintained nondescript golf course. The biggest appeal for the enthusiast is the ample opportunities for afternoon replay. With the four Big Cats in close proximity, we chose Tiger’s Eye for the afternoon and at $45, found it a tremendous value and a tremendous golfing experience. The replay rate at Lion’s and Panther’s is $35 and we actually were given the $35 rate to replay Tiger’s later in the week after they had started fairway aeration. For the record, at Lion’s Paw, I had a 7-over par 79 from the white tees which were playing 6,457 yards.
Tuesday we played Panther’s Run and had a decidedly different experience. There was no tournament, the course was fairly empty, and everything seemed more organized and less rushed. Everyone in our group was now playing with their own equipment and the day was more enjoyable. Panther’s Run is more of a traditional parkland style course that meanders through tall trees with the holes being better framed than Lion’s Paw. I preferred this layout, although the greens were putting a bit slower, a few tee boxes were a little chewed up, and the fairways were starting to brown out. Again, nothing affected playability as overall conditioning was pretty good. Of note are the back to front sloping greens. Several of the pins were cut in the back along ridges that dropped down at the rear of the greens. Long two putts were difficult because if you charged these back flags the drop offs would roll out significantly. I took 36 putts and thee-jacked three times. Playing for the middle of the greens with back flags was the way to go. I shot a 9-over 81 from the blue tees which were playing at 6,706 yards.
A couple of nitpicking notes: When we played the par-3 11th, one of the rangers was sitting in a cart just behind the tee box talking on a cellphone and seemed completely unaware of his surroundings or that people were playing golf nearby. It would have been considerate if he could have held down the chatter. Also one of our group was perturbed by an experience in the pro shop while in line making a purchase. The person behind the counter was interrupted by a club member with an inquiry about another matter and immediately discontinued their service on the transaction at hand to cater to the member’s request. Otherwise, we had a fairly positive golfing experience at Panther’s Run.
If you are traveling to the Myrtle Beach area and want to play the Big Cats, Tiger’s Eye is your course if you only have time for one round. Lion’s and Panther’s are enjoyable plays as well.
We played True Blue in Pawleys Island, SC on Saturday, June 1, 2013. Every time I visit this Mike Strantz design I enjoy it more and more and our 36 hole adventure lived up to the advanced billing. We found the course in impeccable condition from tee to green, as it has always been. True Blue is known for it’s huge expansive fairways and natural waste bunkers that do double duty as cart paths. I always seem to drive the ball well here and believe it’s because the wide fairways tend to relax me, and the holes have abundant targets that fit my eye quite well. We were playing the blue tees at 6,812 yards and the course played long and tough with a moderate wind blowing and showed most of its teeth on the par five holes. #1 is a monster at 600 yards and was playing into the wind. I’m not used to hitting driver, 3WD, 3WD on most par fives but did in round #1. The greens were rolling smooth and medium fast and were a delight to putt on after playing on some slower surfaces earlier in the week.
#2 is a short par-4 at 342 yards and you must play your drive as far left as possible. The approach to the green is guarded by a canopy of trees that seemed to catch most of the approaches we hit from all but the proper angle.
#4 is a horseshoe par-5 that hooks around a large lake. You may be tempted to get as close to the water on your tee shot and go for the full 200+ yard carry, but don’t. I tried and rinsed two in my morning round. The conservative play over land will give you a good shot at par.
#8 is a medium length par-4 at 363 yards. Hit 3WD over the bunker on the right side of this blind tee shot for a good look at the green with a short iron or wedge.
#17 is a very long par-4 and at 426 yards was playing into a stiff wind. Both times I crushed a driver and needed a full three-iron over water to get home and barely made it. If your drive is a little bit off, play it like a short par-5.
#18 is a dogleg left and requires a tee shot over water, and depending on where they put the flag, the second shot as well. The best play here is to aim just right of the green and short as the approach is a good area to chip from and takes the water and a big number out of play.
Value (3.75 out of 5.0)
True Blue was the premium play on our golf package. Morning times are $94 and afternoon $74 in this time slot. The replay cost of $60 was well worth the price. Range balls were complimentary. The grill provided a large menu of food options with good sized portions at reasonable prices. For $15 I had a Cajun Chicken Club, coleslaw, iced tea, and tip.
Facilities (4.50 out of 5.0)
The course has some of the best facilities starting with the conditioning and routing which were top notch. Everyone in my group loved the layout because it’s simply one of the best in Myrtle Beach. The driving range is all grass and was in excellent condition, as was the short game practice area and putting green, and they are adjacent to the cart staging area which made set up and go very easy. The pro shop is of ample size and the grill is a nice area to enjoy food and drink after play. The clubhouse has an excellent outside deck suitable for watching golfers plunk their approaches into the pond guarding #18. The only peculiarity we noticed was that our starter told us to treat all bunkers (even those green-side and with rakes) as waste areas. Normally, if it has a rake, you treat it as a hazard. As a result, there were some unraked footprints in the green-side bunkers but it was pretty inconsequential.
Customer Experience (3.75 out of 5.0)
The bag drop attendants were very organized, punctual, and friendly. It’s always great to have your first interaction be a positive one. The staff in the pro shop indicated it would not be a problem to replay, but didn’t allow us to reserve a time until after we finished our morning round. The thought was that they wanted to reserve the high priced tee times for full paying customers. It worried us a bit because their sister course (Caledonia) was closed for a tournament and the thought of not having a time on a Saturday afternoon was a possibility. Nevertheless, they got us out after lunch and we were not rushed, as there were no groups before or after us. We asked to play as a fivesome but were told to go off as as a twosome and threesome. We joined up and played the round as five and broke apart as we played holes that neared the clubhouse. I’m sure this behavior was frowned upon, but we would have ceased if we were holding anyone up.
On this day we played from the blue tees for both rounds and I carded an 81 on both tries. True Blue is an awesome play and is in my top five, if not right at the top of all courses at Myrtle Beach. Don’t miss it on your next trip.
We visited this Arnold Palmer design in Shallotte, NC on Thursday, May 27 and played 36 holes on a very challenging layout. From the back tees, this course is rated at 74.7/149 and thankfully we played them one set up. At 6,440 yards, Rivers Edge is not that long, but the firm fairways and windy conditions put solid ball striking at a premium and tested every ounce of our patience. Several of the holes are very scenic and run along the Shallotte River and when the tide is out, the site of thousands of golf balls donated in the mud flats gave even the best players in our group cause for hesitation.
Conditions were somewhat of a mixed bag, with several of the bentgrass greens infiltrated with spotty brown patches, which were either dormant grass (unlikely) or some type of disease. They were rolling fairly slow but were dry and bouncing hard, especially on the down wind shots. The tee boxes were a little scratchy in spots and the fairways hard and dry. The series of exposed holes by the river were reminiscent of conditions at a British Open.
#9 is a 90 degree dogleg left par-5 that played into the wind on the first two shots and as you made the dogleg, were forced to contend with a strong right to left wind and a fairway and green that sloped hard right to left. Trying to keep the ball on the putting surface was almost comical. I made bogey in both rounds and felt I had conquered the world. Favor the right side of the fairway off the tee because a drive left of center will catch the hard turf and roll down into the marsh.
#10 is a 330 yard par-4 that has more landing room than it looks like from the tee. I laid up with a 3-iron but could have easily hit 3WD and gained a shorter approach.
#16 is a 386 yard par-4 that you must favor the left side on your tee shot or risk a hard bounce right and a lost ball in the river. Take your tee shot over the middle of the left fairway bunker for the best line in.
#17 is a par-5 with an awkward approach because of the positioning of a tree right in front of the green. Only a left pin placement is actually accessible and seemed a bit unfair to us.
#18 is a 360 yard par-4 where you have to decide how much marsh to carry on the tee shot. I found a well struck 3WD at the gazebo in the distance is a good line and left about a 100 yard shot in. My playing partner buried a driver in a bunker about 60 yards from the green (video below). Your choice.
Value (3.5 out of 5.0)
Greens fees are $100 to play at this time which seemed a bit high for the summer. Of course, ours was included in our package but we found the replay rate of $25 low in comparison to other courses of this caliber, and a very pleasant surprise. Range balls were complimentary. We ate lunch in the clubhouse and the entries were delicious and very reasonably priced. Treat yourself to the blackened fish sandwich if you are inclined. It was excellent.
Facilities (3.0 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse and grill were good sized with a medium to small pro shop. The driving range was in very good condition and you hit from all grass stations. The putting green was medium sized but you weren’t allowed to chip and I couldn’t find an alternate chipping / pitching area. The practice area was clearly meant for resort players who want a quick bucket to warm up before their game and not for protracted practice. My rating here would go higher with top notch course conditions because the layout of some of these holes is outstanding.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
The bag drop off / cart attendant was very friendly and provided an excellent first face. He had your clubs loaded, your range balls in hand, and directions to wherever you wanted to go. The pro in the shop was very friendly and accommodating and I believe discounted us $10 off the normal replay rate, which was much appreciated. They got us off when we wanted to play in the afternoon without issue. The servers in the grill area were very friendly and brought our food and drinks promptly.
On this day, we played the black tees at 6,440 yards and I carded an 84 and an 83. Rivers Edge is a great layout and we had a lot of fun. I’d like to replay it when conditions are at their peak.
On May 27, 2013, I got my first look at Kings North at Myrtle Beach National Golf Club and I loved what I saw. Kings North is one of three Arnold Palmer designs at MBN and is the high end play. SouthCreek and The West Course are the other two and we opted for a replay on Kings after our scheduled 18 because we enjoyed it so much. Kings was built in 1973 and fully refurbished in 1996.
We found Kings in excellent condition from tee to green with the Crenshaw bentgrass surfaces rolling medium-slow but very smooth. When you play Kings, several holes stick out in your mind which is an indicator of an excellent playing experience. #6 is their signature hole known as The Gambler and is a par-5 with an island fairway left off the tee. When this hole is playing into the wind, don’t gamble on the island route because you need to hit it deep enough into the island to get a shorter iron to go for it in two. The green, which sits on a peninsula, is a water carry from either the island rout or the conventional fairway on the right and the gamble on the tee shot is just not worth it.
The par three 12th hole (pictured earlier) is a drop dead beautiful island green that plays to 129 yards from the gold tees and is somewhat reminiscent of #17 at TPC at Sawgrass with regard to the length and size of landing area. If the pin is cut middle right and you are left, the downhill putt breaks much harder to the left than it looks and is fast.
#5 pictured below is a lovely short par-4 with a massive bunker fronting the green that you do not want to be in. It’s 220 yards to clear the left fairway bunker which is the best play off the tee and will leave you with a wedge shot in. Long is safer on this hole.
What’s great about this course is that #1 and #10 are benign par-5 holes that allow the golfer to get off to a good start and that’s appreciated on this tough but beautiful track.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
Our greens fees were included in the golf package but normally run $72 in the morning and $50 after 12:00 noon. We opted for that $50 afternoon rate and were told that was the replay rate. You can book an afternoon time for $50 so there really is no replay rate. In any case, we elected to replay Kings North in-lieu of the $30 replay at either of the sister courses, as Kings was just too good to pass up another play on. Range balls were $4.00 for a small basket and the balls were of good quality.
Facilities (3.75 out of 5.0)
The clubhouse and pro shop were large and well appointed. There were two medium-large practice putting greens adjacent to the clubhouse but chipping was discouraged there. The driving range had about 20-25 all grass hitting stations that were in good condition. The bag drop-off and cart staging area was right out front and were easy to access from the parking lot, clubhouse, and driving range.
Customer Experience (3.25 out of 5.0)
We were one of the first groups to arrive at the course but were running a little short on time for a warm-up. The guys at the bag drop were a bit slow to load our bags on carts for the short trip to the driving range, but the delay was only for a few minutes. Still, you expected a little snappier service from a club of this caliber. The proshop staff were businesslike but not overly friendly. We were visited regularly on the course by the food and beverage cart which was appreciated.
On this day, I shot an 84 and an 86 from the gold tees which measured 6,481 yards (71.4/130). Overall, this was a very delightful experience and I would highly recommend Kings North.
On Thursday, June 21, 2012, our travel group played Tidewater on a scheduled afternoon starting time. Located in North Myrtle Beach, SC, we found Tidewater to be a rather ordinary course with a dozen almost unforgettable holes mixed in with six that are absolutely breathtaking and run along the Intracoastal Waterway, and at the end of the day, form a distinct and lasting impression. This course is highly touted, and admittedly, when I recall my experience, I think of those great holes and the natural beauty of the area. At the conclusion of your round you feel as if you’ve played two separate courses.
We found the course in excellent condition from tee to green with the putting surfaces running smooth and medium-fast. Unfortunately, they had just began their summer aeration and were working incrementally. There were four holes (two front and back) punched and top-dressed, but even the putts on these four rolled reasonably true, which was a bit of a consolation.
The par-3, 12this one of the most difficult and beautiful holes I’ve played in Myrtle Beach. Be precise with your club selection. With a stiff wind blowing in off the ocean and across the Intracoastal Waterway, three of the four players in our group actually hit this green and managed two-putt pars, which was the highlight of our day.
There are two great par-5s (#8 and #16) that run along the waterway that are difficult to manage for the first time player. I figured most course architects don’t leave trouble at 100 yards from the green on a par-5 and this strategy worked well on these holes. However, the fairway bunker on #8 runs out at about 110 yards from the green so take enough club to clear it on your second.
#9 is a medium length par-3 that played into the wind and about two clubs longer than you’d think. With marsh left and no bail-out right, the place to miss is short and in the closely mown approach. Beware of a big right to left slope on this green.
#10 is a medium length dog leg right par-4 with ample room on the left side of the fairway. Use it. I drove it behind a bush in the right rough and had enough room to clear it and go for the green, but I wrestled with a forced carry over water and took too much club, ending up in the hazard behind the green. You need a clear shot to this green so favor the left.
#18, when playing into the wind is a brutally tough par-4. I hit driver-3WD pin high and left which presented a very tough pitch that I could not get close because the green sloped away from me. Bogey is not a bad score here so don’t be a hero.
Value (3.0 out of 5.0)
The course is considered a premium play and we did not entertain a replay, hence the afternoon starting time. Greens fees are $94 in the height of the summer and $144 in the high season. Despite the lofty amount, everyone traveling to Myrtle Beach should play Tidewater at least once. The natural beauty of the featured holes somewhat justifies the cost.
Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)
The drive into Tidewater feels exclusive and there is fairly tight security at the entrance gate. Once inside, Tidewater has a nice large clubhouse with a pro-shop and full service grill. The driving range is all-grass and of modest size (about 15 hitting stations). Adjacent is the practice putting green where they appear to allow chipping (we did), but they did not appear to have a designated short game area for pitching and bunker practice. The highlight here is the course itself and the stunning memorable holes.
Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)
The customer experience was a mixed bag. The pro-shop staff were friendly and we felt unrushed because nobody was scheduled around us during our afternoon time. They charge $5.00 for range balls which is unnecessary for a premium facility like Tidewater where everything should be included. Golf carts were equipped with GPS but there was no cooler with ice, and the only drinking water on the course was at the restroom water fountains. The driving range staff was professional and after mishandling (accidentally dropping) one of our golf bags, gave us some free range balls as an apology. There is significant distance from green to subsequent teeing area on a lot of holes and directions on the cart paths were clearly marked, but we found it odd that there were no signs at the individual tee boxes denoting which hole you were playing.
For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,771 yards and carded an eight-over par 80. If you come to Myrtle Beach, make sure you make it out at least once to Tidewater and enjoy half a dozen of the best holes at the beach.
Updated from a round played Monday, June 8, 2015: The course has rebuilt their greens. They are Bermuda, running fast, and very hard. It was difficult to put a ball mark in and hold because the root structure hasn’t fully taken hold, but they look good. The customer service has improved as well and the range balls are now complimentary. Apparently the bad reputation Tidewater got from the problem with their greens over the last couple of years has spurred needed improvements. I was impressed.
My travel group played Tiger’s Eye on Wednesday, June 20, 2012 as an afternoon replay from a morning round at the premium course (Leopard’s Chase) at Ocean Ridge Plantation. Located in Ocean Isle Beach, NC, if you are playing the Big Cats, make Tiger’s Eye your first and foremost destination. It’s the number one course at Ocean Ridge and is in my top five in the Myrtle Beach area. I played the course three times in 2009 and our return trip this year did not disappoint. The course is a fabulous layout that combines large natural waste areas with some well placed bunkering and forced carries over water, and interjects a mix of very drivable wide open landing areas with careful meandrous routing among the tall pines. No two holes are alike and you’ll be struck by the natural beauty of the landscaping and the unique challenge of some of the greatest holes in Myrtle Beach. The bentgrass greens were rolling a little slow as the course was trying to keep them from getting stressed in the hot weather, but otherwise, our playing experience was perfect.
#1 is a short and seemingly benign dog leg right par-4. Do not miss your tee shot right because the woods and fairway bunkers can turn this into a struggle. There is plenty of room left in the fairway.
The par-3 second hole plays uphill and long so take one to 1 ½ extra clubs; it’s all carry.
#4 is a beautiful par-4 with a split fairway. You’ll need about 220 yards to carry the water if you choose the left (shorter) fairway. Otherwise, play to the right but avoid the approach from the large waste bunker in the middle; it makes the hole needlessly difficult.
The par-5 seventh has room beyond the right fairway bunker on the tee shot, so pound the driver and get as much distance as you can. Good scoring opportunity here.
The par-4 ninth has a forced approach over water. Avoid the right side on the tee shot because if you hit the fairway bunker, clearing the hazard on the second is difficult.
On the back-nine, #15 is one of the best par-5s in Myrtle Beach. Your second shot here is the key and must be placed on dry land. When playing into the wind, this hole can be as brutal as it is beautiful.
On the par-3 17th, take the middle of the green which is a great play for any pin position.
The green on the par-5 18th is very undulating. Two precision shots are required to give you the best chance to get it close. If you don’t a three putt is very likely.
Value (4.0 out of 5.0)
We played in the afternoon on a $45 replay rate which was an excellent value considering the quality of course. The regular summer greens fee is $72 is also an excellent value. High season rates go over $100 but for summer golf, you cannot beat Tiger’s Eye.
Facilities (4.0 out of 5.0)
Tiger’s Eye boasts a huge and fully stocked clubhouse, pro-shop, and full service grill. There is a practice putting green adjacent to the cart staging area which is ample enough for warm-up but they do not allow chipping. There is a separate pitching area and driving range that is shared with Lion’s Paw and Panther’s Run that is accessible by cart. The clubhouse is dedicated to Tiger’s Eye, as Lion’s and Panther’s share a separate facility. We ate lunch on the clubhouse veranda overlooking the 9th and 18th greens. The food was good, the service a bit slow, and the panoramic view excellent. Oddly enough, the view was obscured a bit for those sitting at the tables by the large top railing, but in the grand scheme of things, this was inconsequential.
Customer Experience (4.0 out of 5.0)
Scheduling replays from any of the Ocean Ridge Plantation Courses at any of the others was a breeze. We had 3:00 p.m. reserved at Tiger’s and when we arrived, they were cognizant of our standing and had us set up and ready to go on time after we ate lunch. The pro-shop staff, starter, and beverage service attendants as well as the ladies working in the grill were friendly and accommodating. We had the course to ourselves all afternoon and thoroughly enjoyed our day.
For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,628 yards and shot a five-over par 77. For summer time golf in Myrtle Beach, Tiger’s Eye has my highest recommendation.
Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)
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