MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Chuck Bateson knows he won't necessarily have an easy day when he hits up the Heathland Course at Legends Golf and Resort.
Yet, the Myrtle Beach area resident keeps coming back, leaving the course he actually lives on to drive up to Legends.
"The course is always in great condition," said Bateson, who plays Heathland at least a couple times a month. "[It's a] very interesting layout. And then, as a senior, with the breakfast and lunch and two beers, well, I hate to say it's the best deal on the beach -- because they'll raise the price."
With those rates, Bateson isn't the only person who believes he's getting a steal every time he heads to Heathland. And much of that is the old-time feel the golf course provides.
Patterned off a number of British Isle courses, Heathland has everything from open fairways to bunkers located smack in the middle to the lush rough areas sometimes located just feet from ideal playing surfaces.
"Heathland has always been coined the true links-style course," Head Professional Matt Biddington said. "It's got a lot more of the heather grass out there. It's got a lot of untreated areas, which kinds of adds to that rugged feel over across the pond."
When Tom Doak's design came to fruition in the early 1990s, it was apparent Heathland was also going to have an added something to think about.
The par-71 course ranges from 6,800 yards from the tips down to 4,904 yards from the women's tees. From any distance, what appears to be built-in wind tunnels come into play across many of those wide-open fairways. It's something regulars such as Bateson came to grips with long ago.
He embraces the extra challenge, and it doesn't keep him from rattling off his favorite holes, starting with the 323-yard, par-4 second.
"It's one of my favorites," said Bateson, an 18 handicap. "I like all the par 3s -- 3, 8 and 12. Not 17, it's uphill," Bateson said. "No. 4, it's a dogleg and there's a shelf that falls off into the rough. You can play the hole shorter. You get a testy lie. I have a real chance to get a birdie."
Many of the holes on the course have scoring opportunities for the average golfer. On top of that, the open feel to the course usually helps the pace of play, to an extent.
The third hole on each side -- No. 3 and No. 12 -- are both par 3s that tend to bottleneck somewhat. Part of that issue is that most golfers can cruise through the two previous holes.
When you get to No. 3, a 187-yarder from the average tees, the pace slows to a crawl for one hole.
Legends can't do much about that, but what the staff has been able to do is keep the rest of the round from playing the same way.
"They have rangers out here who do their job," Bateson said.
When stacking up against the numerous golf courses in Myrtle Beach, the Legends site may have one of the better all-around venues to spice up the golf experience.
Included in the list of perks is a 30-plus acre driving range, a 1 1/4-acre putting green, a separate building to house the Classic Swing Golf School and the clubhouse/pro shop, and the aforementioned Scottish-style castle complete with a better-than-average pub that has plenty of food and drink specials year-round.
"In the spring, there's a lot of days when it's tough to get a spot over there," Biddington said of the pub. "It's been a great change with [the economy] being down. It's great to have people coming through the doors."
Part of that added experience is the contributions of chef Ryan Coffindaffer. That's right, the Legends facility has a dine-in restaurant that includes dishes from sushi to more standard pub food.
Outside, both the driving range and the putting green are lit well into the evening, another added benefit for golfers.
It's hard to compare the Legends Heathland Course to any of the other four courses in the same network. And that alone is part of the draw.
And with the extra amenities, having something completely different from the other four brings a different feel for players who decide to pile up on all of them on successive days.
That's the advantage Century Golf Partners hoped would continue when they took over management of the properties in early 2011.
"I know the ownership has change, but we haven't felt anything," Bateson said. "The people are always very courteous. It's a pleasure to come out here and hit the ball."
All of that makes Biddington's responsibilities that much easier.
"The conditioning of the course since I've been here, the last five years, it really assists in my job to know you've got the product out there," Biddington said. "All I've got to do it make sure the customer service is there."
May 10, 2011