Tag Archives: Myrtle Beach

Countdown To GolfaPalooza!

TigersI absolutely love this time of year.  Today is G-minus 30 days from the annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach and it’s time to start counting.  Maybe it’s the aha moment I discovered today with my golf swing, or maybe it’s the five sustained days of 80 degree temperatures we’ve got lined up, or maybe it’s the prospects of total immersion in the game I love (playing 216 holes the same week as the U.S. Open is contested at Pinehurst.)  Either way, the anticipation and lead-up to this trip is almost as good as the real thing.

Leopard’s Chase

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2014 MB lineup (36/day weather permitting).

June 9: Lion’ Paw

June 10: Panther’s Run

June 11: Tiger’s Eye

June 12:  Leopard’s Chase

June 13: True Blue

June 14: Surf Club

The best thing about playing Ocean Ridge Plantation (Four Big Cats) is an abundance of replay targets.  Often, you have the opportunity to play a different course in the morning and afternoon, and I’ll bet we come home with at least three rounds on Tiger’s Eye, which is one of my top five plays on the Grand Strand.

The best thing about playing True Blue is that it’s one of the finest public golf courses in the United States.  Everything about this Mike Strantz design is great.  We added it to the line-up and removed Tidewater after learning that the latter had lost their greens due to a fertilizing double bogey by the greenskeeper.  I’ll have three new course reviews coming for Lion’s Paw, Panther’s Run, and Surf Club.  Anyone with an early season report on course conditions for these six, please pass them along.

As readers of this space know, I’ve been in an early season ball striking slump.  It’s hard for the serious player not to let a slump affect the rest of his life, but we try (and usually fail), you know what I mean.  So today was huge.  I recalled Vet4golfing51‘s advice to review the fundamentals during my ball striking slump last year.  Darned if it wasn’t my grip again, and I validated with some swings on my patio driving range mat and then again with some PW shots off turf.  The fix feels great and it’s funny how the rest of your mood improves when you have better prospects with your golf game 🙂

I hope your season is off to a great start.  Mine is certainly looking up!

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The Great Course Management Experiment

ideaAdmittedly, I am one of those golfers who gains enjoyment from turning myself into a bit of a test laboratory on the golf course.  What fun it is to hypothesize on a mental or physical problem and go test it out using yourself as the guinea pig.  Vet4golfing51 seems very adept at this with his work on the mind-body connection, and I thought I’d give it a try.  I’ve been developing an idea for better scoring and I wanted to try it out on my readers before putting into play.

The experiment is in course management on par-5 holes.  Normally, the majority of alpha males step to the tee on a par-5 and immediately pull driver.  Summoning every ounce of  strength, their effort usually culminates in a massive blow with the ball traveling a long way but not necessarily in the direction desired.  My thought was to try like heck to stay out of trouble on the tee shots which should open up easy birdie opportunities and cut down on the big numbers.  When you hit a fairway bunker or put it in the woods or a hazard, you are most surly looking at bogey or double on the par-5 because of the remaining length you have to cover to make up.  And nothing feels worse than having to scramble on a par-5.

The experiment is to spend the entire week in early June on my Myrtle Beach trip hitting nothing but 3WD on every par-5 hole during the 216 hole golf-a-thon, then try to determine if stroke average improves as a result of keeping the ball in play.

The thought came to me after playing the par-5  17th at Northwest last Sunday.  I had been struggling with my ball striking through 11 holes and made the decision to bench the driver for the balance of the round.  #17 was playing 532 yards into a light breeze.  I made an aggressive pass with a 3WD off the tee and smartly placed one in the left side of the fairway.  Another solid 3WD had me at 109 yards where I hit a smooth pitching wedge pin high for a good look at birdie.  It seemed too easy, but easy is good!  Then I thought back to a 500 yard par-5 on my home course where I used to hit driver all the time and inevitably littered my scorecards with bogeys and doubles.  The last few years I always play it 3WD then 3-iron which leaves me about 100 yards and looking right down the throat of the flag stick.  Par or better is usually the result.

When you think about it, if average par-5s are 500-530 yards, and you can cover 200-230 with a 3WD tee shot, that leaves you with essentially a 300 yard par-4 hole; and who wouldn’t want that?  A long iron second puts me at 100-110 yards, which is my wheelhouse and most course architects don’t leave fairway bunkers back around 100 yards.  Here’s the post with my scoring stats from last year’s trip.  I’m hypothesizing that the scoring average will come down, as will the double bogey total.  The birdie number is more or less dependent on how well I’m putting, so no guarantees there, but the experiment is to eliminate the big numbers.  Driver will still be in play on the par-4s because length is critical, especially on the long ones.

What do you think of this approach?

2014 Golf Resolutions

freezingI think the cabin fever is finally getting to me.  Either brought on the recent sub freezing temperatures in the east, or dramatic views from Torrey Pines on TV last week, or maybe that we’ve just booked our June golf trip to Myrtle Beach, or perhaps the Grateful Golfer’s recent post on Time For Golf really hit home.  I have been thinking more and more about the 2014 golf season and what to target for improvement, but right now, I don’t care about fixing anything, I just want to get out of the house!

Today, with the thermometer in the mid 40s, I got out the driving range mat and hit about 50 magnolia bombs in the back yard which felt great.  Tomorrow is supposed to be mid-50s and a trip to the range for some work with the nine-shot drill is certainly in order.  Couple that with a few hours of Phoenix Open golf coverage before the Super Bowl, and I think I’ll be alright for the next 36 hours.  The forecast for snow on Monday does not bode well.

I want to return to a point about reducing television viewing mentioned in the Grateful Golfer’s post and how that hits home.  Recently I’ve been guilty of feeding my addiction for televised Baltimore Oriole baseball games.  I probably watched 140 games last year end-to-end and many of these start at 7:00 p.m. which is right in the prime weekday post-work practice window (PWPWPW).  All this TV cannot be good for me.  My new job and commuting schedule has also cut into my morning fitness workout routine.  I’m struggling and need a plan for fitness and practice.  I’m thinking I’ve got to get some golf in one weekday evening before setting foot at home, and another two days of immediate workouts before dinner or watching any baseball.  This will be the toughest because as soon as I get home, my butt likes to hit the couch, and it’s all over.

East Potomac Golf Course has a practice facility and is located very close to my office near Reagan National Airport.  Anyone have a quality report on this course?  I think this may be part of the solution.  Also, any ideas on how to get motivated to practice and workout in the evenings if the mornings are not available – please share.  Thanks!

True Blue – Course Review

Summary

On the tee at True Blue
On the tee at True Blue

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.

Playing notes:

  • #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.
Clubhouse view from the 18th tee at True Blue
View of the clubhouse and 18th green from the tee at True Blue

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.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)

#3 green - True Blue
#3 green – True Blue

Rivers Edge – Course Review

Summary

On the 9th tee at Rivers Edge
On the 9th tee at Rivers Edge

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.

Playing notes:

  • #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.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

15th green looking back at the tee - Rivers Edge
15th green looking back at the tee – Rivers Edge

Kings North – Course Review

Summary

#12 green at Kings North
#12 green at Kings North

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.

On the tee at The Gambler
On the tee at The Gambler

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.

Front bunker protecting #5
Front bunker protecting #5

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.

Overall Rating (3.75 out of 5.0)

Most Golf Holes Played – Record Set!

On the 13th tee at Oyster Bay
On the 13th tee at Oyster Bay

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?

Key stats for the 216 holes:

  • 81.08 stroke average
  • 19 birdies
  • 96 pars
  • 74 bogeys
  • 23 double bogeys
  • 4 others

Individual rounds:

  • May 27, Kings North, 84
  • May 27, Kings North, 86
  • May 28, Heathland, 75
  • May 28, Parkland, 80
  • May 29, Parkland, 74
  • May 29, Oyster Bay 82
  • May 30, Moorland 82
  • May 30, Heritage, 81
  • May 31, Rivers Edge, 84
  • May 31, Rivers Edge, 83
  • June 1, True Blue, 81
  • June 1, True Blue, 81

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 Benefit of Replacing Practice With Play

Kings North
Kings North at Myrtle Beach National

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!

The Magical Healing Power of The Masters

The MastersWas wondering last weekend what had motivated me to spread 30 bags of mulch with a bad elbow – yep, Masters Week.  Ever notice when commercials come on for “The Masters” how you get a strange sense of well-being, and then while watching actual tournament play an endorphin rush takes over your body?  It hit me yesterday after enjoying three hours of tournament coverage and I’m super pumped to go work on my game today.  I’ve also experienced the same feeling from attending professional tournaments in person and in both cases I seem to be able to leverage the euphoria into short bursts of excellent play.

Some more good news.  I made great progress with new practice and warm-up routines that I’m going to test today and again tomorrow and will report back on.  Early sneak peak:  I’ve been able to identify a way to prepare myself for play without overtaxing myself physically, and to simulate enough game conditions to get into the flow on the first tee instead of slogging through four holes.

Also finalized the line-up for next month’s Myrtle Beach golfapalooza.  Two new courses are on the docket.  Kings North at Myrtle Beach National and Rivers Edge.  Anyone with playing tips on either of these, please share.  We’re also scheduled for return trips to The Legends (Heathland, Moorland, Parkland) and to one of my all time favorites, True Blue.  Full course reviews are coming on Kings North, Rivers Edge, and True Blue.

Looking forward to a great Masters weekend.  Who are your predictions to win with this star-studded leader board?  The 50+ year old in me is pulling hard for Freddy, but I’m still liking Tiger’s form.

Need help with my golf swing! Any takers?

I developed a push-cut with my golf swing on my recent Myrtle Beach golf trip.  Here’s two videos of me face on and down the line with the driver (post-trip).  I’m willing to try something new and give the readers of this blog a crack at providing suggestions for my improvement so please add a comment on what you think is the source of the push-cut and / or provide any drills or swing changes you think might help.  Thanks for your willingness to participate; let’s get at it!

Driver Face On:

Driver Down The Line:

Tidewater – Course Review

Summary

Clubhouse at Tidewater

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.

On the first tee at Tidewater

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.

Playing Tips:

  • 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.

    Tee shot on the par-3 twelfth hole at Tidewater
  • 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.

    On the tee at the par-3 third hole at Tidewater

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.

Overall Rating (3.5 out of 5.0)

Another look from #12 tee.

Tiger’s Eye – Course Review

Summary

18th green at Tiger’s Eye

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.

Clubhouse and 9th green at Tiger’s Eye

Playing tips:

  • #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.

    #15 Tiger’s Eye
    Photo by Mike DeOrio
  • 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)

Friendly cold-blooded lizard by the 18th green at Tiger’s Eye
Photo by Mike DeOrio

Leopard’s Chase – Course Review

Summary

Approach on #18 at Leopard’s Chase

Leopard’s Chase, is considered the premium play for the four Big Cats courses at the Ocean Ridge Plantation located in Sunset Beach, NC.    My travel group played here on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, and the experience was decidedly different from when we played this Tim Cate design in 2009.  Unfortunately, the change was not for the better and course conditions were the issue.  As we did three years ago, we enjoyed the same great routing and hole variety, especially on the back nine,  but the excellence ended there.  The L-93 bentgrass greens had just been treated for a fungicide and were colored aqua-blue and were rolling extremely slow.  Most bentgrass greens get hammered in late summer from the persistent heat in the Southeast U.S. and it seemed a bit early to see greens on a course of this caliber stressed.  Also, general maintenance had clearly slipped.  Last time out, the course was pristine with lightning fast greens.  This time we noticed a few bare spots on the approaches, the landing surface on the practice pitching green was literally covered in weeds, and there was grass growing in several fairway bunkers.  You got the feeling that a general level of malaise had set in regarding pride of ownership.  Interestingly enough, this was not evident when we played Tigers Eye later in the afternoon (another Big Cat course) which was in beautiful condition and is under the same management.  Leopard’s Chase was still quite playable and we had a good time, but were surprised at the shape.

Our group on the range at Leopard’s Chase

A few playing notes:  There is a lot of sand.  You will hit into greenside and fairway bunkers so bring you’re A-bunker game.  Also the back nine is more challenging than the front and features the par-5 11th, which requires three precision shots to get home, and the scenic par-4 18th ,with the lovely approach over the stone configuration and waterfall.  I enjoyed one of my better ball striking days on our trip, but was continually frustrated at my inability to get short birdie putts to the hole because of the shaggy putting surfaces.  Others in our group felt the same.

Checking yardage on the par-3, 6th at Leopard’s Chase

Value (2.0 out of 5.0)

Morning greens fees for the summer run at $83.00 which seems high for the current conditions.  Range balls are included in the greens fee and you are given a very small bag of about 20 balls to warm up with.  I do recall a much higher greens fee back in 2009 and a very steep replay rate of about $80.  Clearly, rates have come down, but with our prior replay rate experience, we played the afternoon at Tigers Eye for $45 and were happy we did.

Facilities (2.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop is little more than a double wide trailer with a decent retail area with some clothes and limited equipment for sale.  There was a very small snack bar and a restroom but nothing else.  The practice putting green was modest sized and the all-grass driving range while limited to about 15 hitting stations was in pretty good shape.  I already mentioned the dreadful shape of the pitching green.

Customer Experience (3.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop staff were courteous and helpful getting our replay time set up over at Tigers Eye when we checked in.  The bag drop was staffed by one gentleman who was a bit slow unloading us (we essentially did it ourselves) and the course was basically empty when we got there.  We warmed up and teed off when we were ready.  It struck me as a bit unusual that the place was so empty on a Wednesday morning, as all other courses we played mid-week had plenty of players.  Perhaps word got out regarding the conditions.  For visitors planning on playing at Ocean Ridge Plantation, spend your money at Tiger’s Eye and bypass this one until the conditions improve.  For the record, I played the blue tees at 6,645 yards and shot a four-over par 76.

Overall Rating (2.5 out of 5.0)

Tee shot on the par-3, 4th at Leopard’s Chase

Grand Dunes Resort Course – Course Review

Summary

View from the clubhouse at Grand Dunes Resort Course

Grand Dunes Resort Course, located off Rt. 17 in Myrtle Beach, SC is one of the finest golf courses you can play on the Grand Strand.  Our travel group played here on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 and found the golf course in excellent condition and the service and amenities top notch.  Right from your arrival at the bag drop you are treated with country club level service that sets the tone for a great day of golf.  Grand Dunes boasts some of the best playing conditions from tee to green, as well as on all their practice facilities.  It was hard to find a blade of grass out of place and it was a treat to play on such pristine surfaces.  Depending on the set of tees you play, the layout can be very tough with a premium being placed on solid ball striking.  Hit it close, or you’re going to three-putt a lot of these very large and contoured greens.  Also, bring plenty of balls, as water comes into play on several holes.  The course boasts a string of holes (8-10) that run along the scenic Intracoastal Waterway that can play brutally tough if the wind is blowing.  The downhill par-3, 14th is the course’s most scenic hole and requires a precise tee shot to keep it out of the Intracoastal on the right.

Par 3, #14 at Grand Dunes Resort Course

Value (3.5 out of 5.0)

This is a premium course and the prices reflect the conditions and superb level of service.  Green fees can run well over $100 and while our first round was built into the price of our package, we replayed for a fairly expensive $55 rate.  You get what you pay for at this course and it’s worth the extra money to get the conditioning and level of service we received.

Facilities (4.5 out of 5.0)

Course conditions were excellent with the greens running smooth and medium-fast.  Grand Dunes has a 15-station grass driving range that was in excellent condition and balls were included in the greens fee.  The range was conveniently located next to the first tee.  Three practice greens (one for putting and two for short game) were also nearby.  Get to the course early to take advantage of these excellent practice facilities.

The clubhouse boasted a fully stocked pro-shop and a nice snack bar and full service grill.  The food was good and the service prompt.

Customer Experience (4.5 out of 5.0)

The pro-shop, starters, cart attendants and beverage service staff were all very professional and attentive to our every need.  Carts are fully equipped with GPS, coolers with ice, and as many free bottles of water as you want.  We were especially pleased that the afternoon professional on duty allowed us to replay as a fivesome.  His only contingency was for us not to hold anyone up, and we didn’t.  It makes a big difference when you can play with your friends and not have to split up into groups of two and three players.  We had an awesome day at Grand Dunes and I highly recommend this play to visitors in Myrtle Beach.  For the record, I played twice and shot 83 both times which was 11-over par.  We played from the blue tees which measured 6,737 yards.

Overall Rating (4.0 out of 5.0)

On the green at #14

2012 Myrtle Beach Trip Report and Golf Improvement Plan

Just got back from the golf trip of the decade to Myrtle Beach and have trip details and good news to share.

Our group before the June 23rd round on Moorland.

Summary:

We enjoyed 11 fabulous rounds over six days in sunny mid-80 degree weather.  With these temperatures, we played 36 holes every day except for Thursday when our first round was scheduled in the afternoon.  Normally after this trip, my body feels like I’ve been through an NFL game with the rigorous physical demands of playing so much golf, but the conditioning work I’ve been focusing on since January has increased my strength and stamina, and I feel as fresh as I did on Day One.  Let’s play another 11 rounds right now!

The swing speed work and exercises designed to strengthen my back clearly helped my iron game and I was hitting it flush and more consistently with all clubs.  I was particularly pleased with the ability to attack flags inside of 120 yards instead of fighting a push, as I had in years past.

My driving was a mixed bag, as the additional length I was enjoying early in the season was neutralized by a fade that developed early in the trip and was hard to control at times.  A big push reared its ugly head on occasion which is my standard miss with the driver, but rather than fight the push/fade, I just played for it.

My short game was not as sharp as I would have liked, especially with the chips and pitches you need from tight Bermuda lies just off the greens, however my bunker play was solid, and you need to play well from the sand as frequent visits are common on these resort courses.  I never worry too much about putting because of the difference in surfaces from course to course.  I rolled it okay but you can go nuts if you let the changing green speeds affect your approach.  The better iron play made up for my substandard short game and allowed me to score better.

#3 green at Moorland with #6 green in the foreground.

KPIs:

  • Handicap index went DOWN!  Pre-trip was 5.2, post-trip is 4.4 and six of the 11 rounds were handicap rounds.  Very pleased with this.
  • 2012 trip scoring average was 78.81, down from 80.70 in 2011 and 82.50 in 2010.  Again, attributed to better iron play.
  • Set a new personal best of playing 54 straight holes without a swing thought 🙂  Started thinking “target only” after a particularly rough stretch with the driver and this worked great to steady me.

Rounds / Results:

  • June 18, Oyster Bay – 75
  • June 18, Oyster Bay – 78
  • June 19, Grand Dunes Resort – 83
  • June 19, Grand Dunes Resort – 83
  • June 20, Leopards Chase – 76
  • June 20, Tigers Eye – 77
  • June 21, Tidewater – 80
  • June 22, Heathland – 81
  • June 22, Heathland – 72
  • June 23, Moorland – 86
  • June 23, Heathland – 76

Full reviews of Grand Dunes, Leopards Chase, Tigers Eye, and Tidewater are coming.

A couple of quick notes:

  • Playing this many holes, you inevitably hit hot and cold streaks.  One minute you make back-to-back birdies and are on fire, and the next you wonder what you are doing out there and think you need a full swing lesson.  You need to ride out the bad streaks, understand they will happen and not panic.  Fixing your swing on the course is an exercise in futility.  Just ride it out and have fun.
  • If you book rounds at The Legends (Heathland, Moorland, Parkland) it’s best to avoid the weekend.  Our morning round on Saturday at Moorland took 6 hours and we had to quit after 15 to leave time to eat lunch and re-tee for our afternoon round.  We actually finished the last three holes after the afternoon round was complete which was a little odd but allowed us to get the full 36 in.  The double teeing in the morning and our late (9:00 a.m.) tee time was the culprit.  If you need to play the weekend and want a replay, try to get one of the times before 8:00 a.m.  Better yet, play mid-week at this golf factory.  We did speak to the staff about the slow pace of play.  To their credit, they made it right by giving us a free replay for the afternoon.
  • Call each course one week before you travel and inquire about green aeration plans.  I moved us off Heritage and onto Oyster Bay because of aeration at Heritage right before we arrived.

If you have any questions or comments about any of these courses or just want to talk Myrtle Beach golf, send them along, thanks!


Golf Improvement Plan – The Big Test

It’s June 1 and I’m two weeks out from the final exam for the 2012 Improvement Plan.  Yes, end-stage preparations have begun for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (Myrtle Beach) and a quick review of my 2012 KPIs vs. 2011 and some anecdotal observations are in order.

Positive trends:

  • Scoring average has dropped from 79.17 (six rounds) to 77.80 (10 rounds).
  • GIR average has increased from 8.83 to 9.20 with 7 out of 10 rounds at or above 10 GIRs.
  • Putts per round has decreased from 32.66 to 31.90.
  • More play.  Number of rounds up from six last year to 10 in 2012 with two or three more scheduled prior to MB.
  • Number of practice sessions has been reduced from 20 to 13 for the same time period.  Intent was to be more efficient by playing more and practicing less.

Negative trends:

  • Short game is not as sharp, especially with greenside SW shots
  • Tendency to pull hook the occasional mid-iron off the tee on par-3 holes

General observations:

My focus has been on improving core conditioning in hopes that the changes would result in more consistent ball striking.  This has worked and I’m enjoying more length off the tee and better accuracy with my three wedges inside of 120 yards.  My GIR stats are skewed down a bit by an early round where I hit only two greens but actually struck the ball decent.  That day the course was playing hard and fast with the greens impossible to hold.   It’s clear that ball striking has seen the best improvements.  Along those lines,  I’ve been resisting the temptation to work on my swing and finally succumbed last weekend, but the key here is that I continued to focus on my single most prevalent weaknesses (not maintaining spine angle).  My Saturday range work helped result in 12 GIRs during Sunday’s round.

Adjustments:

Players of this game all know that just when you think you have it, you don’t, and that golf requires constant adjustments.  I didn’t want to work on my swing but started to see some familiar misses that were not evident early in the season.  Now that I think I’ve got that fixed, it’s off to work on the greenside pitches.  I’m not too worried because these are clearly a problem with technique and lack of reps.   I changed short game approach over the winter and have not practiced it enough to get comfortable.  With my focus on conditioning, the short game suffered.  The good news is that it usually takes only one or two dedicated sessions around the green to get comfortable.

So a little short game work, a round this weekend and next, a few last minute adjustments for whatever else pops up, and I’ll be ready to go.  Wish me luck!

Feeling pressure to tinker with my swing

Suffering a short-term hangover from playing in the Jess Carson Foundation charity tournament at Queenstown Harbor last week.  While the team did well and shot 11-under, which was good for 2nd place, I’m starting to feel the urge to do swing analysis, probably brought on by the scramble style format.  To get ready for one of these tournaments, you are afforded the luxury of not having to work on your full game and focus only on driving and putting.  Leading up to the tournament, I mentally prepared myself to optimize distance by making the most powerful and technically correct move possible.  I struck the ball well in the tournament but missed a few shots and felt the sudden urge to work on my swing.

With a certain major milestone only one month out, I think it best to resist.  Yes, Myrtle Beach is 30 days away and every year faced with the proposition of playing 180 holes in six days, I haul down a minivan full of swing thoughts that inevitably twist me into a swing pretzel.  While my short game usually sharpens from the reps, the carnage of bad shots I leave is not pretty.  Why the constant need to over-prepare for this venture?

To date, I’ve let the off season conditioning plan drive my swing performance and have yet to film swing or hit balls all spring, except to warm-up before a round.  With a clear head and a relaxed demeanor on the course, I’ve made more good swings than I have in years so why am I feeling the urge to tinker?

Between now and Myrtle, I’m thinking I’ll try what Bob Rotella advocates:  Commit to only two things on the golf course -try your hardest on every shot and have fun.  Think it will last?

G – minus 137 days to Myrtle Beach!

#1tee Dye Course at Barefoot

Dateline – February 10, Rockville, MD.  Cabin fever has officially set in and is killing me.  Thoughts of summer golf in Myrtle Beach are exacerbating the symptoms and we just booked our trip from June 17 – 24.   We’re staying at The Legends with their outstanding accommodations, practice facilities, and service.  Trip details:

Day 1Oyster Bay.  Just swapped in this awesome play along the coast in Sunset Beach, NC for Heritage, as the latter has scheduled summer aeration one week in advance of our arrival.

Day 2Grand Dunes Resort Club.  I’ve never played there but have heard great things.  Anyone with playing tips, please send them along.  Full course review coming.

Day 3Leopard’s Chase.  Played it once a few years ago when my group was looking for an afternoon replay.  Loved it.  We had the whole course to ourselves and had one of the most enjoyable relaxing rounds of golf ever.  Full course review coming.

Day 4:  Tidewater.  Afternoon round only at our highest end course.  Awesome looking track adjacent to the Intracoastal Waterway.  Again, never played this one; send tips!  Full course review coming.

Day 5The Legends – Heathland.  Great links style course and right on location.  Will try to grab an afternoon replay at Parkland to cover the main three courses.

Day 6The Legends – Moorland.  Rough and tumble P.B. Dye design and probably the hardest course at the Rt. 501 trifecta; just a great play.  Kicked my butt last year but I’m game for a rematch.

Next Saturday is supposed to be showery and 58 degrees in the DC area and is looking pretty good right about now!  Anyone want to play?

My All Time Top Five

Let’s try a fun exercise.  Think of the top five lists for all the golf courses you’ve ever played.  Here’s mine, what are yours?

Top Five Courses:

  1. Port Royal Golf Course, Southampton, Bermuda.  The most scenic, greatest ocean-side course I’ve ever played.
  2. Congressional Country Club, Blue Course, Bethesda, Maryland.  Site of the 1964, 1997, and 2011 U.S. Open.  Also hosted the 1976 PGA Championship.  Just a great old-fashioned superb test of golf.
  3. Carnousti Golf Links, Championship Course, Carnousti, Scotland.  Home to seven British Open Championships and 7,421 of the most brutal yards of links style golf.
  4. Columbia Country Club, Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Quiet oasis inside a major metropolitan area.  Very challenging and has some great holes with significant changes in elevation.  Hosted the 1921 U.S. Open.
  5. Burning Tree Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland.  Along with Augusta National, probably one of the one or two most exclusive old-style private clubs in the country.  Take a caddy and tee it up where all the big shot presidents were members.  Doesn’t even have a website!
#16 at Port Royal, Bermuda

Five Most Fun Holes

  1. Par-3, #16 at Port Royal in Bermuda.  235 yards of the most breathtaking golf shot you will ever see.
  2. Par-4, #18 at True Blue in Myrtle Beach, SC.  437 yards of dog leg left with a forced carry over water and water framing the entire hole down the left side.  Great finishing hole.
  3. Par-5, #7 at Eagles Landing in Ocean City, MD.  Three shot par-5 measuring 528 yards that doglegs 90 degrees and finishes with a shot to the green set out in the marsh adjacent to the Sinepuxent Bay.
  4. Par-5, #9 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.  Measures 602 yards from the tips and the third shot has to carry a large ravine to an elevated green.  Super hole requiring three great shots to get home.
  5. Par-4, #9 at The Legends, ParklandCourse in Myrtle Beach, SC.  At 311 yards this is a brutally tough risk-reward play with the green high on an unprotected hill.  When the wind blows you can put up some big numbers on this little daredevil.
    #18 True Blue, Myrtle Beach, SC

Top 5 Courses in Myrtle Beach

  1. True Blue
  2. Heritage
  3. Leopards Chase
  4. Tigers Eye
  5. TPC Myrtle Beach

Top 5 Public Courses in the Mid-Atlantic

  1. Eagles Landing, Ocean City, Maryland
  2. Whiskey Creek, Ijamsville, Maryland
  3. Rasberry Falls, Leesburg, Virginia
  4. Blue Mash, Laytonsville, Maryland
  5. Swan Point, Swan Point, Maryland

Top 5 Practice Facilities

  1. Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst, North Carolina
  2. The Legends, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  3. Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
  4. Blue Mash, Laytonsville, Maryland
  5. Little Bennett, Clarksburg, Maryland

Destination Pinehurst Number Two!

Just booked a trip over Labor Day weekend to play Pinehurst #2 along with rounds on #4 and #8 – can’t wait!  #2 is on my bucket list, and as with any golf vacation I will try to peak my game for the effort.  When I travel annually to Myrtle Beach, I’m pretty familiar with what types of greens I’ll be putting and what type of short shots will be required but I’ve never been to Pinehurst and am looking for advice and or playing tips for any of the courses so please send your comments!

Of course, detailed course reviews and an evaluation of the entire Pinehurst travel operation are coming so stay tuned!