OCEAN ISLE BEACH, N.C. - Leopard's Chase is the fourth and newest golf course at the sprawling Ocean Ridge Plantation, and some say it's even better than Tiger's Eye, this Myrtle Beach-area facility's other marquee layout.
However, those who swear Tiger's Eye is better, Leopard's Chase officials whisper, are only saying that because the older course is easier.
It is. The Tiger's Eye Course has wider fairways, for example. Leopard's Chase was designed to make you think, especially when you're standing on the tee box.
It is there, with your driver limp in your hands, that you see the difference. Still, architect Tim Cate, who also did Tiger's Eye as well as Panther's Run, penciled in some interesting, visual deceptions.
Most of the fairways are squeezed by various hazards -- wetlands, bunkers and waste areas -- but if you choose the right tee, you'll find that what looks so intimidating off the tee really isn't. The landing areas are much more generous than they look at first glance.
"Tim designed the golf course with landing envelopes off certain distances," said Head Professional Phillipe Bureau. "If you land in that area, you see there's a lot of room. If you're short or long, you're going to run into hazards."
True enough, this is a course where, more so than other courses, you have to pick your target on the fairway and hit it. If you try to man-up from the back tees and don't have the hair for it, it's going to be a long day. Conversely, if you're a blue-tee man playing the white tees, you'll hit over your safe area.
There are some forced carries over wetlands, but none that will strike fear into the heart of a golfer with a decent driver.
The greens, too, are interesting. Cate designed them in three sections. The slope and undulation in any one section are moderate; it is only when you're putting through two or more sections that you may see two and three breaks.
Many of the well-guarded greens also have some rather steep drop-offs, making accuracy with your irons a big plus. If not, your short game will be tested.
It may not be as generous off the tee as Tiger's Eye, but Leopard's Chase is a very playable course if you can hit the shots you see in your head.
Leopard's Chase is a pretty golf course in this relatively rural part of southeast North Carolina, at the northern reach of the Grand Strand.
It is mostly open, with scattered pines, and Cate did a masterful job of using the many bunkers on the course together with the many waste areas, which also serve as cart paths and give the course a more natural look.
The love grass is a nice touch, waving in the Atlantic breezes, and the wetlands harbor all sorts of wildlife. In my case, an eagle put on quite a show as I was standing on the No. 11 tee box. Wood bridges take you over wetlands, and some of the water is fronted with very nice stonework.
Leopard's Chase isn't as built up yet as the plantation's other courses, and the lots that are marked out for future development are a good distance away from the playing fields.
It's well conditioned and, as at all the other Ocean Ridge courses, the service is excellent.
The Island Vista is where you want to be, if you love the sound of waves crashing on the beach right outside your room. The property has been in Myrtle Beach since the 1980s under various names, its newest incarnation opening last year.
It's right smack dab on the beach, in a quiet, affluent neighborhood - no loud honking on Highway 17 to interrupt your beauty sleep.
"We're very fortunate to have such a location," said Island Vista Controller Julia Singleton. "It's a residential neighborhood, and even in the summer, the beach is never really crowded."
All of the more than 500 units are individually owned and most are available for rental. The Island Vista has one, two, three and four bedroom suites, perfect for families or golf groups.
All of the units have their own private balconies and all have ocean views. There is daily maid service, something that can't always be counted on with condos of this sort. The larger units have granite countertops, full kitchens and jacuzzis. Each bedroom has private bathrooms and TV. The units also have high-speed Internet access.
The property caters to golfers with an on-site golf director, and has a meeting room that can hold up to 160 people, decorated with antique flourishes.
There is an excellent restaurant, the Cypress Room, which serves breakfast and dinner. Lunch options are available on the patio and pool bar during summer months.
The Island Vista has a large, indoor/outdoor pool, including a "lazy river," and over 500 feet of beach. There are children's activities and a small fitness room.
December 20, 2007