NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The Surf Golf and Beach Club is one of those old-timey golf courses located in a classic beach neighborhood, near the home of the shag, the 1950s dance that has been celebrated in cinema.
The neighborhood is old and filled with stately shade trees, like the golf course that winds its way through it. The golf club has a settled, relaxed country club feel to it, and in those areas free of tidy, middle-class homes, ducks glide noiselessly in the ponds, lakes and ancient cypress swamps.
It's a lovely setting, north of busy Myrtle Beach and several blocks off Highway 17, where the distant roar of traffic can scarcely be heard.
The club itself is private and the course is semi-private, open to public play before 9:30 a.m. and after 1:30 p.m.
The Surf Club has been a staple of Myrtle Beach golf for more than 40 years, conceived by friends Tom Roberts and Roy Harrelson back in the late '50s.
Once they picked a suitable spot, they brought in architect George Cobb, a well known designer in the Southern latitudes.
Cobb is from the old school, and the older generation of golf architects knew how to get the most out of limited space. In this case, Cobb was given only 200 acres, and he made the most of it by designing a course short by today's standards - 6,842 yards from the back tees - but heavy on the more subtle aspects of the game.
He did it by putting in a lot of doglegs - some of them with some very enticing risk/reward options - well-placed bunkers and smallish, multi-tiered greens with drop-offs that make getting up and down difficult at times.
But, it is the greens that are the star of the Surf Golf and Beach Club.
John LeFoy renovated them in 1992, and officials converted them to bentgrass, the velvet-smooth putting surface, in '96. They're in excellent shape, which is a good thing because the multiple layers and undulation make the flat blade very important here.
"It's a putter's course," said starter Chuck Eddy. "We've had pro tournaments here, and one pro had 43 putts."
That must have been an exceptionally bad day, but there's no doubt that in order to score well here, you'll need your putter under control. With the slope, distance control is essential and staying below the hole is advised; downhill putts can slide excruciatingly far past the cup.
Beware, the approaches are no picnic either, with most of the pins inevitably tucked behind bunkers or mounds.
If you have a decent relationship with your driver, playing the Surf Club from the back tees is a joy, like hearkening back to the old days of golf.
It's a parkland layout, with tree-lined fairways, and many of those doglegs can be negotiated, setting up birdie opportunities.
The par-5 tenth hole, a sharp dogleg left, is a good example. There are two ponds to the left, and the safe play is down the middle, setting up a long approach. But, if you can carry the two ponds, you'll be looking at a mid-iron in.
The dogleg at the short par-5 first hole can also be easily solved, as can several others.
The course also has an excellent collection of par-3s over water, especially the 217-yard closing hole. It's over a pond to a green that slopes from back to front, so you can see it all. It's beautifully framed by the clubhouse behind.
The course has hosted the Carolinas Open and has dining facilities, as well as swimming, tennis and an exercise room.
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 a 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.
January 29, 2008