CONWAY, S.C. -- Myrtle Beach golfers who make the trek to Wild Wing Plantation are more than likely to experience their first round on the nine-hole Hummingbird Course, whether they know it or not.
Wild Wing is spending the summer of 2011 on a major greens renovation on the neighboring Avocet Course, so it's going to use the Hummingbird to substitute first the front nine at Avocet and then the back. And, for a course that often goes unnoticed, that will be a very good thing.
But to understand exactly what the Hummingbird truly is, golfers must understand its roots.
Starting in 2006, the development company that took over the then-72-hole Wild Wing Plantation decided to close down two of the courses, the Wood Stork and the Hummingbird. Then, in 2007, the group did the same with the 18-hole Falcon Course. The ultimate goal was to create more room for houses and condo units. For a short time, it left only the Avocet.
That's no longer the case.
The management company took holes from the Wood Stork and Hummingbird courses to former the new Hummingbird Nine. And after only a couple years of open play, the course is starting to promote itself as a great addition to Avocet.
And as Wild Wing Director of Operations Tom Van Hoogen said, convincing people that the Hummingbird is not an "executive course" is taking some time. He's developed a spiel for callers.
"We have that down," Van Hoogen said. "That reassures people that it's not an executive course. You're not going to go out there and have seven par 3s and two par 4s.
"The locals who know about it love it. There's only a select few, but once they know about it, they love it. It's like their own little golf course. To have a golf course by yourself, it's priceless."
That won't be the case this summer, as Wild Wing visitors have no choice but to play the Hummingbird. The long-term effects, management hopes, will be increased players, be it afternoon golfers or those just looking to extend that day on the course by 90 minutes.
"I think this summer is going to provide a lot of people to play the course who haven't in the past," Van Hoogen said. "They'll know what the course layout is and get them familiar with it."
The first two holes of Wild Wing's Hummingbird nine came from the old Wood Stork course. From there, players see the first noticeable difference about this course.
A longer-than-normal cart ride takes players to No. 3, a par 3 and the first of the seven holes taken from the original Hummingbird 18. But regardless of the parent course of the remaining nine holes, one thing remains the same.
"It is certainly a challenging nine holes," said Myrtle Beach resident John Gray, a 7 handicap. "I thought it played real tough at times, causing you to really think out each shot before you hit it."
The scorecard doesn't necessarily tell the whole story regarding Hummingbird, either. Although the nine holes are counted off as a par 34 -- ranging from 3,046 yards from the tips to 2,264 from the women's tees -- there is actually an added bonus for those either needing a bit more of a challenge or simply those searching for the smallest of differences from the last time they played.
The par-4 sixth hole includes a second tee box approximately 100 yards deeper, so players can turn it into a par 5. The longer of the two takes players over a short pond and requires them to bend the drive around a line of trees down the right side.
"Wow, was it long," Gray said. "I thought it was a beautiful hole with a wicked green that takes a great second shot or you are looking at a long putt. Overall, I thought it was a beautiful and quite challenging hole."
Van Hoogen said he has heard limited chatter over the hole, primarily from people who double up on the Hummingbird -- and usually play it as a par 4 once and a par 5 once.
"You can vary the holes and have a different feel," he said. "Even though it's not on the scorecard, that option is there."
Wild Wing has discussed changing future scorecards to reflect that option. And whether or not the paperwork is ever done, a quick heads up from the clubhouse is all it takes to realize it's there.
From there, players finish up the half round with a mid-range par 4 (No. 7) and two par 3s (Nos. 8 and 9). That last hole drops you near the clubhouse.
Wild Wing Plantation has a large clubhouse, complete with a pro shop, full grill and banquet area for larger parties of up to 200 people.
As far as prep work, Wild Wing also has a driving range, chipping range and putting green within steps of the clubhouse. The course does not have a full-time pro. Instead, it refers requests to a handful of off-site instructors.
No question the summer of 2011 will be good for the Hummingbird. It a matter of weeks, it will go from a relatively unpopulated course to one with a full tee sheet.
That forced exposure could be the difference between a quiet future and golfers taking advantage of an additional Wild Wing course that has received the same care as the Avocet.
"I think once the locals get out there and play it, there will be more people," Van Hoogen said. "It's just going to take time for people to realize it."
August 1, 2011