MURRELS INLET, S.C. - Looking out from the tee box of the par 3 11th hole at the International Club, all you can see is green. Green because the Grand Strand just received about six inches of rain over the past five days, and green because a behemoth, 10,000 square foot putting surface sits there just begging you to get on in regulation.
"They are the biggest greens I have seen anywhere down here," says International Club head professional Rick Taylor.
The USGA says that the average green size on U.S. golf courses is about 6600 square feet. Taylor says the smallest green at this Willard Byrd designed course in the scenic South Strand is 7000 square feet. Most players, Taylor adds, say the airplane hanger sized dance floors suit their games just fine.
"Most mid to high handicappers have a sense of comfort when they reach the green, because we can all sink a 60 foot putt every once in a while," says Taylor. "Your average golfer is scared to death looking at a small green from 180 yards away, and they'd rather have a long putt than a short chip."
The International Club, which opened in 2000, was one of the first courses at the beach to use the new TifEagle Bermuda grass on its greens. And the revolutionary turf is paying big dividends. All 18 surfaces are in prime condition, can be cut shorter than 419 and other older Bermuda grasses, and roll almost as true as bentgrass.
The rest of the course doesn't disappoint either, especially not for the diminutive $49 green and cart fee. Byrd routed the course around the wetlands of the Waccamaw River Basin and through some thick strands of pine trees and hardwoods. A number of small lakes are fed by underground springs, making for some crystal clear water hazards. International Club is not especially long, playing to 6790 yards from the back of the bus. However, a slew of long, tight par 4's on the back nine and two par 3's that play over 200 yards add considerable brawn to the layout.
"The back nine is strong all the way around, but I think the course plays plenty hard from the back tees so that low handicappers will enjoy it," Taylor says.
The course slides down to 6295 from the whites, and five sets of tees are available including a 5300-yard set of forward tees that can be a bit testy for the ladies. Bucking the Myrtle Beach trend of shoehorning as many patio homes and villas into the fairways and greens as possible, the International Club is "residence" free at this time. The course, however, is part of a 700-acre development project and a smattering of homes is sure to follow.
"We have eight holes with protected wetlands, so those holes will never have homes on them," Taylor says. "So no matter how the development shakes out, we'll still be able to offer golfers something they can't find on most courses."
The International Club was once part of the Links Group conglomerate of courses, but is now operated by the Classics Golf Group. The owners of Burning Ridge, the International Club, Indian Wells, Quail Creek and Sea Gull banded together to create the management group, and major improvement projects are underway at all five golf courses.
By far and away the newest of the Classic Group's courses, the International Club was one of the only tracks operated by the bankrupted Links Group that was not in need of major repairs. The clubhouse remains in mint condition and sports a well-stocked pro shop and a stately bar and dining area. The practice range is adequate, and in conveniently located smack dab between the first and 10th tees.
For September, $49 will get you 18 holes with a cart and for $25 you can grab an 18-hole replay, subject to availability. Rates will go up to $59 in October, and afternoon and twilight rates are available most days.
"We all like to think that we fill a niche, and I think we fill one for affordable golf in the South Strand," Taylor says.
The International Club
Head Pro: Rick Taylor
Beach Vacations, Inc. offers one, two and three bedroom golf villas at True Blue Golf Plantation, just 15 minutes south of the International Club. This Myrtle Beach stay and play mainstay will also fix you up with a custom golf package that includes a variety of courses around the Strand. Call 800.449.4005 for more information, or check them out online at www.beach-vacation.com.
The Litchfield Beach Fish House (843-237-3949), the little seafood joint on the east side of Highway 17 with the fish coming out of the roof, is a favorite among locals. Grouper, Snapper and Flounder are the house specialties, and Litchfield serves it up blackened, fried or broiled. Bob Mimms has owned the place for close to twenty years, and you can only imagine how much things have changed in his little sliver of Pawleys Island. One thing, however, has been as steady and stable as one of the large fishing boats that heads out from the Inlet each day - Mimms way of doing seafood.
The Original Hammock Shops (10880 Ocean Highway) are a Pawleys Island Institution, housing 22 shops ranging from women's fashions to Low Country goodies. The original hammock shop also claims to be the birthplace of - you guessed it - the hammock. The idea for the hammock came from native South Carolinian Joshua John Ward, a riverboat captain who ferried rice and supplies between the vast rice plantations and nearby Georgetown and Waverly Mills. Capt. Josh found the lumpy, grass-filled mattresses on his boat too hot for the sultry coastal summers, so he set about designing a soft, cool bed that would serve his purpose. The result was a hammock so strong and comfortable that its handmade design has endured for more than a century unchanged and unchallenged.
Conditions: 3 (out of 5)
Par 3's: 3.5
Par 4's: 3
Par 5's: 3
Practice Facilities: 2.5
Club House/Pro Shop: 3.5
Pace of Play: 2
Overall Rating: 3.0
September 9, 2002