PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club, on the southern tip of the Grand Strand, is a Jack Nicklaus golf course, which means it's long (7,026 yards from the tips), has lots of bunkers on the second half of holes and plenty of room off the tee.
You'll notice on most holes that everything is wine and roses up until the last 150 yards of so, where you'll find trees where they shouldn't be, ponds with no go-arounds or long bunkers flowing toward the green on one side or the other.
On No. 1, you get a whiff of what Nicklaus has in store for you with the large bunker (not a waste bunker, mind you) that starts 142 yards out on the right side of the par-5 hole and bumps into the green, taking a bite of the front right side.
There's more work once on the green. All have either large swales or sharp slopes that one assumes will influence their putt. But laid atop the overt structure are minute breaks that will defy logic and send your putt careening left when you would have bet your wife's wedding ring (providing she's not present) that it would have rolled right.
Every hole has something that stands out. For example, the par-5 fourth is sort of a free-form affair, with bunkers in the middle of the fairway. Long hitters will save themselves by flying over the bunkers and landing on the right. Short, accurate hitters will shave distance going left but face another bunker taking up the left half of the approach to a bowl-shaped green that funnels shots to the middle.
After Nicklaus has his fun on solid ground on the front nine, he shows his creative genius on the marshy back.
As you near Pawleys Plantation's 12th green, you won't believe your eyes. Stretching 500 yards across the marsh is a dike with its top shared in equal part with a cart path and elevated tees to the marsh-carry, par-3 holes of 13 and 17. It was madness to build it, genius to have thought of it and when it was built in 1988, permissible.
When on the 13th tee atop the dike, you'll have to create a shot, because you've never been confronted with anything like it: a 69-yard pitch shot from the whites, 40 yards from the front, over water. If you fall short, you'll see at low tide that your sad little ball has dozens and dozens of friends, the pluff mud nearly solid with little white orbs. As one player deemed the hole, "that's a head trip."
For the par-5 14th, you can let the tiger out of the bag again, but only if he'll go straight. It's a narrow window between little trees stuck along the left rough to provide visual disturbances and the marsh right. Oh, and a tree in the middle. Good times.
Once you're done with the par-4 16th, which places the nearly sand-surrounded green higher than you think, it's back to the dike for the normal length 17th hole, ranging from 201 yards at the tips to 117 at the front. It does, thankfully, provide some real estate short of the hole, so it's not an all-or-nothing endeavor.
A group of eight from Nova Scotia was golfing its way through Myrtle Beach, playing seven golf courses in seven days, finishing up at Pawleys Plantation.
Chris Kingwell, a beginner golfer, liked the course, especially hitting over the marsh on 17. Most of the players in the group put the course in the top two or three of the seven they played.
"I played terrible, but I had a lot of fun," Don Craig said. "I didn't find it all that tough, but there are a lot of trees."
But mention No. 13 and Craig just shakes his head from side to side. He'll never forget that one.
The golf course is the best of two worlds: A beautiful piece of land along marsh and a designer who knows what to do with it. It's a rare combination that results in a challenging course in a stunning setting.
November 29, 2010