Just returned from a week on the Grand Strand with my wife. This was a fabulous beach vacation and not a golf getaway, but the clubs are an essential accoutrement for any journey to South Carolina, and mine were in the SUV. We arrived to some beautiful weather on Saturday, September 12 and after four straight days planted in my beach chair, I was ready for some action. On Wednesday, I headed over to Barefoot for a couple hours of practice and was feeling pretty good about my game.
Hurricane Sally had come ashore in Alabama and was supposed to visit the area on Thursday so I set out to find a tee time for Friday. My only criteria; the course couldn’t be too far from our condo in North Myrtle Beach, and I didn’t want to spend over $100. So, I booked a 1:00 pm time at Myrtle Beach National – Kings North. This is an Arnold Palmer design and is one of my favorite tracks. The greens fee was $50 which is about the best value you’re going to find for a course of this caliber.
As scheduled, Sally ripped through the area on Thursday afternoon/evening and produced an awesome lightning show and tons of rain. On Friday, I drove to the course and found one of the nines on Kings North was under water and closed. They offered to let me play the open nine twice or rebook on South Creek. MBN has 54 holes and I had played Kings North about five times. I had replayed once on the West course and thought it rather ho-hum so I agreed to try South Creek. What a delight!
With all the rain, we were playing cart path only. This was a day where wedge shots were exploding foot long divots and caking your legs with mud. But I loved the track. South Creek plays about 6,400 from the blues but I moved up a set on the front nine because it was so wet. You need to drive it straight out here, and I did, but couldn’t get anything going with my irons or putter and shot a four-over 40. I was by myself and following a twosome and raced around the front in 1.5 hours. When I got to the 10th tee, I found the last of three threesomes the pro shop had sent out to start on the back. A little perturbed, I asked the starter what he recommend I do and he told me to skip 10 and 11 and start my back nine on 12. I rolled up to the tee and joined the twosome that had also received the same instructions.
These two were a father and son combination, with the boy playing a practice round for a 16-18 year-old junior tournament scheduled for South Creek over the next two days. Dad was playing the whites, but the son was playing the blues, and clearly had a lot of game, so I backed up and played the blues with him. This kid was busting it past me but for some reason, joining him elevated my concentration level and I carded an even par 36 on the back. What a weird phenomenon: some kind of focus switch engaged in my mind as I played with the better player. It reminded me a similar situation a couple years back when I was out for a round on my local muni and a couple young pros from the course joined me on the first hole. They were pounding it 50 yards past me off the tee, but that same switch went off and I elevated my concentration and played great. I wonder what causes this? Has this ever happened to you?
So, I finished my round playing 10 and 11 and after ending with a birdie, realized how much fun I just had. This was primarily because I was driving the ball so well, but I loved the golf course. I also realized how straight you have to be to score, and how penal it could get. The greens fee was $43 and I was tickled pink with the great value. I will definitely be back to play South Creek at the next opportunity. You should consider adding this course to your play list next time down.
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!
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.
Just returned from six days of golf in Myrtle Beach and have shattered my previous record of 198 holes played by a full 18. We needed perfect weather to play 36 on six straight days and the golfing gods cooperated with partly cloudy skies and temps around 80 every day. Powered by nine 200 mg Advil tablets per day, the pain and stiffness associated with 12-hour days at the course was kept at bay.
Normally, we’d arrive at the course around 7:00 a.m. and hit balls for 30 minutes and go. The early tee times allowed for a break for lunch before heading out around 2:30 p.m. for the afternoon round. Two of my traveling partners also managed the full 216 and the whole affair was exhausting but tremendous fun. I would not advise taking this on if you have any physical limitations or sense of reasonableness 🙂 .
Leading up to the trip, I had forsaken all practice time for play, mostly over nine hole rounds, in hopes that the added reps would allow me to adjust more easily in bad stretches. This worked incredibly well, especially when my ball striking took a downturn. Also we took video of our swings on the course and reviewed at night and I picked up a few nuggets that I put in play the following day. The added play early in the season clearly helped and the availability of video was like having a swing coach always nearby to assist. Here’s one of me on my best drive at The Legends Heathland course. I noticed my ball position was back quite a bit and I’m still trying to figure out what else I did right. See anything?
Kings North and Rivers Edge were new courses for me and I shot my highest scores on those venues, which was not unexpected. Most of the courses were in excellent shape and a delight to play. Full course reviews are coming for True Blue, Kings North, and Rivers Edge. Stay tuned!
The new play-practice paradigm I’ve put into place is ready to be battle tested in Myrtle Beach. We are on the tee at Kings North on Memorial Day to get the show started, and I am shooting for a personal best of 216 holes over six straight days.
Since April 20, I’ve played 12 times and only practiced twice; effectively replacing 90% of my dedicated practice time with time spent out on the course. About 2/3 of these sessions have been nine hole rounds and each has been followed by a short debrief around the practice green for 5-10 minutes.
The gains from this approach are clear. I don’t feel like I’m relearning any parts of the game due to infrequent play, and as I play I accumulate mini tips that I use and reuse to self correct on the course much more easily than if I were playing once every week or two. The frequent play has got me MUCH more comfortable with my new Cleveland CG16 wedges. Distance control on the full and partial shots is becoming second nature and my bunker play has stabilized. Haven’t seen any dreaded lateral hits or thin chips for several rounds and hopefully that’s gone for good.
With the reps from playing 36 a day for six days, short game is usually not an issue, but physical and mental fatigue is. The true test and ultimate goal is better and more consistent ball striking.
Clubs “check”, balls “check”, Advil “check”. Wish me luck!
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