There may not be a ton of ocean golf courses in Myrtle Beach, but with popular plays such as Tidewater Golf Club and Oyster Bay Golf Links - both marsh courses - there's plenty of water to be had in the Grand Strand.
For a land-locked Northerner, there's nothing quite like springtime in the Carolinas, teeing it up on a coastal golf course where the saltwater fills the air.
Sure, not every course in the Grand Strand has this feature, but this asset is a big reason why a lot of us book trips to the Southeast during the spring.
The Grand Strand doesn't have any bonafide "ocean" courses like, say, Kiawah Island to the south. But there are a collection of saltwater golf courses thanks to the Shallotte River, Waccamaw River and Intracoastal Waterway among some others.
Here are five of the best marsh golf courses Myrtle Beach ...
Just north of Myrtle Beach, Tidewater Golf Club is not only one of the Grand Strand's most scenic Intracoastal Waterway golf courses, it's considered to be one of the toughest, too, with a layout playing more than 7,100 yards from the championship tees.
Some holes play tightly through residential developments, but for each one of those, there's a swampy hole just around the corner on each nine. Half of them are a result of the man-made Intracoastal Waterway, which cuts through Little River; the other half is a wild saltwater marsh that flows into the Atlantic.
Calabash is one of the South's great little fishing villages, so it makes sense it would have one of the top marsh courses to play before your seafood dinner. Oyster Bay Golf Links offers plenty of reminders you're just a chip shot off the coast, and at certain points, you're in view of the beachfront houses.
Part of the Legends Group, Oyster Bay features water at every turn, including plenty of forced carries, including two par-3 shots on the back nine that play to island greens. The sloping greens do their best to steal your attention, but golfers play Oyster Bay for the water-heavy views.
Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links not only has some of the most Intracoastal Waterway frontage of any course in the Grand Strand (and a lot of boat traffic, near Little River's docks), it also has more natural elevation change than almost anywhere, too.
This comes into play most brilliantly on the par-5 eighth hole, which tumbles all the way downhill towards the green at the foot of the waterway. Then again, the similar downhill par-4 16th hole - with a green guarded on three sides by the marsh - is among one of Myrtle's toughest par 4s.
The course doesn't close any easier, with a tough par-3 17th hole that requires a shot over a tree, followed by the 18th, which plays at about a 90-degree angle from a tee box right on the water, back inland, then back out to the coast.
The front nine of Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club plays mostly through Lowcountry trees and residential development, but the back nine delivers in a big way. No. 13 is one of Myrtle Beach's most iconic holes: a tiny island green that sits in the middle of the marsh and is connected to the similarly dramatically placed 16th hole
In golf-rich Pawleys Island, Pawleys Planation brings you closest to the ocean coast and saltwater marsh just a sniff off the ocean. The back nine brings it especially into play, climaxing with the delicate par-3 13th hole - a shot of just 127 yards to a putting surface smaller than the island green at TPC Sawgrass' Stadium course.
If you miss there, you'll get another shot at the 17th, played from the same teeing ground on a sliver of grass jutting into the marsh to the opposite direction - all carry to the green.
River's Edge Golf Club's setting finally has greens to match its ideal location on the Shallotte River, thanks to a summer reseeding of its bent grass greens to seadwarf paspalum.
Part of the bent grass greens' struggles were in part to the course's location next to the saltwater river, which compromised water supply. With paspalum, now the river is only a positive impact. The Arnold Palmer design features as much marsh-front property as anywhere, and both nines close dramatically along the water.
The par-5 ninth hole hugs the water the entire way, and the green is just a narrow sliver that juts out into the marsh. On your first visit to this hole, play it conservatively.
February 8, 2010