MURRELLS INLET, S.C. - The ad in the local paper makes it sound like a one-time thing: Blackmoor Golf Course is celebrating its 15th anniversary on the 15th of the month with free food and discount tee times.
Better mark the date, you think. Anniversaries don't come every day.
That's true. But at Blackmoor, they did come every month. To celebrate its 15th, the golf course held a party for golfers on the 15th of every month of 2006.
Not that the locals were surprised. That's just how this reasonable course down the street from TPC Myrtle Beach rolls.
"If we last another five years maybe we'll have the 20th on the 20th of every month," assistant professional Steve Franczi said.
There's no pretence at Blackmoor. They'll even make gallows jokes about the volatility of the Myrtle Beach golf scene. But the course has stuck around long enough to celebrate anniversaries for good reason. It's a very playable Gary Player design that doesn't try to be what it's not and focuses on what golfers care about.
Like greens that are as consistent as Cal Ripken.
"We get a lot of comments on our greens," Franczi said. "Right now they're putting between 10 and a half and 11 on stimpmeter. We take a lot of pride in our greens. We like to say, 'Friends don't let friends putt on bad greens.'"
They also apparently don't let you hit straight, boring golf shots. Player filled Blackmoor with doglegs. There are so many left-to-rights your body might start to list to one side.
Player is anything but showy at Blackmoor, but he does display some outside-the-box thinking - say, starting off with two par 3s in the first four holes. It's refreshing to not begin with a par-4 marathon like at so many courses.
Then there's No. 8. This par 4 has alternate fairways. You can go left for an easier but longer (371 yards) route to the green or right for a 290-yard straight shot at the flag, over a waste area and into a narrow, tree-lined landing window.
You wanted risk/reward? The only thing missing is the models in short skirts holding steel suitcases and Howie Mandel screaming, "Deal or no deal?"
"This is my favorite hole," local golfer Rita Lardner said. "It's like two golf holes with the different ways you can play it." (And she's committed to learning all No. 8's tricks, sneaking back to the course after the pros left this day to play it a few more times.)
Secluded in low-country marshland it's not. Several holes run right behind a big condo building, others weave through a subdivision.
No. 2, an enjoyable par 3 with bunkers all around a hill green, is a short putt away from someone's backyard grill. Families watching TV could catch your golf reality show from their living room instead.
That said, Blackmoor is extremely walkable. There seems to be an almost leisurely pace about the place. Even if there are signs declaring Slow play no way. It's not a race, but speed matters.
You may want to linger a little on the closing stretch. Nos. 14 and 16 are nice, sharp doglegs around water, the former offering a view of most of the course. The short par-5 finisher has more water, and a big tree, near the green; this is the most scenic part of Blackmoor.
"After No. 13 is the strength of the course," Franczi said.
Actually, the strength of Blackmoor is its relaxed atmosphere, its appreciation for a good party and free food once a month. A cooler would seem anything but out of place.
Blackmoor is not a course you plan a Myrtle Beach golf trip itinerary around. It's not a course you're going to brag about having played. But it is a course that can improve your trip.
Slot Blackmoor as one of your budget rounds between showcase tracks such as Barefoot Resort Fazio and you'll have a strong week indeed. Technically this might be a celebrity design (although Player doesn't set golfers' hearts aflutter like Nicklaus, Fazio or Dye), but it's far from celebrity-priced.
The course conditions aren't spectacular. During an early-winter play there was plenty of dormant brown grass on the edges of fairways and around bunkers. The muted green is strikingly different from what you'll see over at TPC Myrtle Beach.
But then, so are the prices. You can get on Blackmoor for $32.45 in down times, and rates max out at $97 during Myrtle Beach's high season (mid-March to early April).
Myrtle Beach has tons of hotels but not many of the upscale ones many seasoned travelers expect. If you lean that way, the Marriott Grand Dunes is the class of the field, but the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center is in the same league (minus the ocean access) and often much cheaper.
When a famous athlete goes into food - especially pricey chain-restaurant food - you expect the worst. But Greg Norman's Australian Grille (843-361-0000) delivers surprisingly tasty selections. The salmon salad is particularly good. The prices are more reasonable at lunch, and the patio views over the water are better then too.
Blackmoor's web site, www.blackmoor.com, has live web-cam views of the 18th green.
May 10, 2007