LONGS, S.C. -- There is a reason Long Bay Club -- a Jack Nicklaus course near Myrtle Beach -- is considered one of the most difficult on the Grand Strand.
Frankly, it doesn't seem to matter much what happens off the tee. In most cases, one is greeted by a wide expanse when teeing it up. It's that blasted second shot, either to the green or precisely placed to give you a remote chance of getting to the putting surface on the third shot.
It's a long, perilous golf course, so there will be times that you'll be going to the green in three on a par-4 hole, no matter how long you hit them.
Long Bay lays out a variety of hazards that can derail your game. Maybe it's the crazy undulations in the fairway, the seemingly two-story bunkers that are absolutely everywhere or the insane contours of the greens -- some more like table-drop leaves than anything vaguely level.
Rarely is there an overt run-up opportunity to the green. Your ball is going to have to fly there, land and stop. Upon studying the course, you'll discover that often there is a safe passage to the green, but it's often small and requires a lengthy detour.
"This course tends to beat people up," said Jim Fellner, Long Bay Club's head golf professional and manager. "Course management is key. You have to think where the pin is. It's a second-shot course."
Besides its brainy side, what sets the golf course apart, Fellner said, is that all 18 holes are different. "It's architecturally sound. There are no gimmicky holes. It's pretty straight forward," adding that everything is visible from the tee. "A good shot isn't punished."
Well, except for a few on the green that could roll off into a collection area.
There is good reason Golf Digest lauded Long Bay Club as a 4-and-a-half star course.
Often times from the tee, you'll be lulled into a false sense of security. This doesn't look so tough.
From the tees, it isn't. Most holes enjoy wide fairways. From there on in, though, it's a different story, in a different book, in a different language. Between you and the elusive pin can be enough bunkers to rival South Beach and mounds big enough to interest Vail.
When nearing the green, there are two scenarios you must contemplate. One, you'll make the shot and land on the green, hopefully in same solar system as the pin. Two, you'll miss the shot.
That's the possibility you must contemplate before drawing back your club. OK, if I miss, what's the worst that can happen. That seems to be where Jack likes to dwell, setting up "what's the worst that could happen." Then he makes the "worst" possible.
Short, you can be in a deep bunker. Long, you might have a blind pitch to the green. Even on the green you could be far, far away or facing a double or triple break to the hole. Two putts? Jack thinks not.
The second hole sums up Long Bay Club. It's a par 5 with some trouble on the left off the tee and more closer to the green, partly in the form of about 100 yards of waste bunker leading to the putting surface with a couple more bunkers in back.
Long Bay Club's signature hole, No. 10, is a peninsula fairway surrounded by a waste bunker. From the fairway, it's up to the elevated green.
"I liked No. 10, the signature hole. I thought it was pretty neat, especially since I parred it," said Brook Warren, of Lexington, Ky.
The 14th hole stood out because of the green that T-bones the fairway. It's shallow but very wide, requiring a deft touch to keep the ball on the green.
Nicklaus saved some of his best work for last, a par-4 No. 18 with a single tree left for hooks and water right for slices. Approaching the tiered green is intimidating, with water and sand right and large mounds left. It's a beautiful hole.
"It's a difficult course," said Warren. "There is a lot of sand and small greens. The fairways are wide but narrow for the approach. You have to notice the pin placements."
A par -- even a bogey on many holes -- at Long Bay Club is a job well done. Beat Jack Nicklaus at his own game, and you've accomplished something.
The first time you play this course, it likely will eat your lunch. But the memory of this course won't go quietly into the night. You'll want to play this course again and master it. You never will, and you know it, but you can't stop trying.
Long Bay Club is a course for the cerebral types, the determined sorts and the strong willed.
August 11, 2010