MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Wicked Stick Golf Links has stayed true to its blue-collar appeal. In many ways, it's in the style of one of its co-creators, John Daly.
"I still think we keep up an image, so to say, for the classic golfer," said Head Professional John Thomas, who took over top duties in 2009. "But we also have the relaxed atmosphere. A lot of places today, it's about get you on, get you off, get you out of here.
"Here, you can come, drink and have a good time."
Located on the south end of Myrtle Beach just outside city limits, Wicked Stick attracts golfers of all skill levels. However, if you're looking for an upscale club complete with the white-glove treatment, this isn't the place for you.
Wicked Stick, which opened in 1995, is located adjacent to one of the area's most-used thoroughfares. And while traffic around the course can be hectic, pace of play and attitude on it are anything but.
The open design presents that relaxed environment. Regulars and first-timers alike find it one of Wicked Stick's biggest draws.
"I've played it a bunch of times this year. I haven't really had any times that were that long," said New York native and part-time Myrtle Beach resident Kevin McDermott, who recently finished a round in less than four hours. "I think my longest was four hours, 45 minutes. I was stuck behind a bad foursome that day."
The average golfer can use Wicked Stick for a quick tune up, or to break in a new driver.
Outside of the course's four par 3s, pulling out the big dog on just about every hole is not only possible, it's recommended. And that's without playing the custom "Daly" tees that bring the course length up to 6,913 yards. Taylor estimates maybe "3-4 percent" of players actually take on the Daly Challenge.
Simply having those gold tees present leaves some that play the Championship tees (which play at 6,500 yards) thinking they're hitting from the standard tee box (6,080 yards). For those who know better, it can shave off some significant distance.
"I could probably play 80 percent from the Daly tees, because some of the holes aren't that long," McDermott said. "But some of them, they are just too long. I don't hit the ball that far. There's just too much (going on) here. I can't carry it."
For those who can -- or just think they can -- the Daly tees offer that opportunity at minimal risk. The course is dotted with hazards, primarily sand traps and some water.
However, with extra-wide fairways, players often believe they've lost a ball, only to find it still sitting in a quality position that would be out of bounds on another course.
It adds a component of ease that most golfers could use, especially after some time off.
"It's one of those golf courses you know you can come play and knock some of the rust off," Taylor said. "If you're coming down from the North or haven't played in a while and don't want to get beat down, you can hit it anywhere and still have a decent round."
Said McDermott: "I think if you're a good golfer, if you shoot in the 70s, you might not like it unless you want to play from the (Daly) tees. But I think there's enough golf course here for everybody."
Wicked Stick features the "Long Ball Lounge," a full-service restaurant and snack bar with ample seating while a beverage cart runs nearly year round out on the course. The clubhouse also includes a pro shop with a large selection of golf equipment and apparel.
The grounds have a newly refurbished putting and chipping green close to the first tee. A partial driving range allows for players to warm up prior to their round.
Saturday group lessons and individual lessons are available throughout the week. Thomas is involved in all group and individual lessons.
Many of the Grand Strand's mid-range courses have been swallowed up by housing developments or awful bottom lines. That doesn't appear to be a path Wicked Stick is on.
The course has stayed true to its John Daly roots, providing an open links style with plenty of room for error. The motto of the course, after all, is "Grip It and Rip It."
Getting beat up isn't part of the equation.
"That's the nice thing about Wicked Stick. It doesn't matter how good you are or bad you are," Taylor said. "There's something for everyone."
February 22, 2012