MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- As far as Roland Russell was concerned, he wasn't far enough along in his golf game to take a beating.
The decision to play the PineHills course at Myrtlewood Golf Club turned out to be a wise decision for Russell and his two travel partners from Leominster, Mass. What they found was a golf course that would make them want to play more, not give up the game altogether.
"I think it is very golfer friendly," Russell said. "Based upon your handicap, I think it has its own challenges ... I think there are advantages for each type of player."
At any point during a round, two or three consecutive great shots can be the difference in five or six strokes on the card. Manipulating this course, however, is a start-to-finish affair. The slightest slip-up can affect your overall feel of just how well -- or poorly -- the day went.
"My game is to play bogey golf," said Russell, a 25 handicap. "So, for me, to get bogey is a great thing. To get par, it's another range. To get birdie, it's another range. I think this golf course definitely has opportunities for every person who wants to play it, depending on your skills."
For most, those skills better include accuracy.
The average player on the PineHills course at Myrtlewood Golf Club doesn't have the knowledge it took Denny Watson roughly a year to figure out.
For as tempting as it is to want to hammer the driver off the tee, you're better leaving it in the bag on some of the longer holes.
"I hit a 3-wood all last year," said Watson, a Myrtle Beach resident and Myrtlewood regular with a 15 handicap. "Playing last year, I realized I didn't need a driver on those holes, if not the whole course. I didn't even play with a driver the last two years."
It's a message the course regularly hands out.
"You don't need to hit a driver a lot of the times," said Keith Bloom, assistant general manager at Myrtlewood Golf Club. "You just need to keep it in the fairway. We try to warn them. The average golfer, they get on the tee box -- it doesn't matter if it's a par 4 or par 5 -- they have the driver in their hand. You need to hit it a little straighter, more position golf."
A handful of holes fit that bill.
Doglegs on Nos. 1, 3, 7, 8, 13 and 15 neutralize much of the distance of the 6,112-yard course (from the whites; it's 6,640 from the tips and 4,906 from the women's tees). Those holes level the playing field for the not-so-big hitters.
The golf course's last major renovation came in 2003, when it was switched to Bermuda grass from bent grass. It brought a much more consistent year-round feel.
The primary selling point of PineHills, though, hasn't changed since a redesign in the early 1990s.
"It's not a long golf course," Bloom said. "But it's a target-oriented course ... Most people say it's the tougher of the two, even though it's rated the easier of the two (vs. neighboring Palmetto) in course and slope. That has to do with the length. PineHills will not beat you up by being too long for the average player."
Myrtlewood Golf Club offers full-service individual instruction, split among three teaching professionals, a large driving range, and putting and chipping greens located steps from the pro shop.
Unlike the Palmetto course at Myrtlewood Golf Club, PineHills has a more traditional feel to its turn, with the pro shop and restaurant coming between No. 9 and 10. There are also four self-standing restrooms located along the course and a readily appearing beverage cart.
One of the advantages of playing the PineHills course at Myrtlewood Golf Club -- located blocks from the Atlantic Ocean -- is that a lack of elevation variants makes it easier to judge distance, club, etc. Once on the green, players will find some extremely true surfaces.
Added together, it gives PineHills an easier slope and rating than Palmetto, even though Bloom admits it may be the more difficult of the two Myrtlewood courses. For the most part, repeat golfers tend to agree.
"It's challenging without being impossible, in terms of the approach to the green, the open fairways and large greens," Watson said. "I'm a fan of those."
April 12, 2011