PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Litchfield Country Club is old school, from the longtime staffers who address regulars by name to the stellar conditions of its hazards.
There are no gimmicks. It's just pure golf, a walk in the woods while trying to navigate a small, white ball through natural obstacles. This is how golf in America flourished -- country clubs in perfect condition with traditional challenges, punishing rough and fast, sloped greens.
It helps that Litchfield C.C. was designed by the master of classic golf courses, Willard Byrd. It opened in 1966.
"It's an accuracy course, not a distance course," said Buck Grim, a 20-year member. "It's not tricky. It's fairly open, and it's got a few doglegs.”
And it's one of the oldest venues among the Myrtle Beach golf scene.
"The original layout has been maintained, and many people enjoy the traditional aspects of the experience," Head Professional Christa Bodensteiner said. "Many doglegs require good course management and will cause most golfers to use every club in their bag."
Gary Rowals of Asheville, N.C., a 10-handicapper, recently played the golf course for the first time in years. He loved it.
"It's a very stately, traditional-type course," Rowals said. "It's fair. You get what you see from the tee."
Lenny Stadler of Charlotte, N.C., and Pawleys Island plays the golf course often. A 14-handicap, he likes Litchfield because it's not overly difficult or tight.
Most of the holes are similar, and that's the golf course's charm. Each hole is a classic -- not to say Litchfield C.C. is easy.
The greens are crowned, so be good at reading breaks. The rough is rough, so avoid it at all costs. Otherwise, you'll lose a lot of distance on the escape and need an especially stressful chip and putt to make par.
This is golf like your grandfather used to play. Litchfield Country Club returns to the roots of a gentleman's game, a game of inches, strategy and execution -- not just luck of a bounce that defies physics.
At Litchfield, pay attention to the subtleties like overhanging trees or the placement of a solitary bunker. Notice where the fairway ends and the rough begins, a difference discernible only by a single shade variance in the bermuda grass.
Byrd subtly altered the width of fairways to keep us alert and accurate. For example, on the sixth hole, a shaped shot might not rank as the the best option; instead, try a shorter club to keep it in the middle at the turn.
Another frequent element: matching bunkers that flank the center of the approach area near the green. It's a feature appreciated by women and older players who don't fly the ball well.
No. 15 is a notable exception, placing water in front of the green.
If you're a fan of traditional golf courses that rely on subtlety and the natural elements of turf, trees, sand and water, Litchfield is your place. It's instantly comfortable and immediately challenging. The golf course remains in top shape, and the service is outstanding. Go play it, enjoy your round and think of your grandfather.
September 3, 2010