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Myrtle Beach can't shake its Wal-Mart reputation

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Alternative rock band Jane's Addiction was way ahead of its time when proclaiming that "Nothing's Shocking." But when Golf Digest made mention of Myrtle Beach in a travel feature buried in its February 2004 edition, the shock value was fairly high.

Granted, TravelGolf.com pays an inordinate amount of attention to the Grand Strand via its MyrtleBeachGolf.com publication. But the major glossy golf magazines rarely give the "Golf Capital of the World" much ink, figuring,perhaps, that their readers have been there and done that.

Back to the article. The piece compared three drastically different golf destinations in terms of their ability to produce a memorable golf trip on a$2,000 budget. The destinations were the Oregon Coast, Las Vegas, and Myrtle Beach.

If you're Myrtle Beach, the Oregon Coast and Las Vegas are pretty darn good company. The "OC" is home to Bandon Dunes Resort, one of the purist links golf experiences in the U.S. Sin City's cup runneth over with glitzy resorts and snazzy desert layouts that command $250 plus green fees in the peak season.

Was Myrtle Beach finally getting its due? Yeah, right. Come to find out Myrtle Beach was merely standing in as the goat.

Of the three golf destinations evaluated, it was the one waiting to be dunked in the water by the freckle-faced boy with the guilty smirk and dead-eye aim. After the obligatory, watered down compliment, "there's no denying a weekend in Myrtle Beach is a good value," the article goes on to rip the Grand Strand a new one.

The laundry list of infractions ranged from, Myrtle Beach is a "derivative" golf destination and "imitation is mostly what you get in Myrtle," to "the one thing you see so little of in Myrtle is anything Carolinian; it's almost like the city fathers are ashamed to be Southern."

The author of the article, like any other writer or red-blooded American, has the right to his opinion.

But what exactly does Myrtle have to do to shake its reputation as the Wal-Mart of the golfing world?

Look how hard it's tried over the past decade:

Three of the best public access courses in the United States are located in the Grand Strand: the Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, Tidewater Golf Club and the Dunes Golf Club. And that doesn't even include Grande Dunes, which Golf Magazine rated as one of the 10 best courses to open in 2000.

Moving on. Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach may be the only property in the world that has both a Pete Dye and a Tom Fazio designed course on site. And the Davis Love III Course at Barefoot, King's North at Myrtle Beach National and True Blue Plantation are all top 20 in the state according to (drum roll) Golf Digest.

In between are dozens of mid-level daily-fee tracks and "value" oriented courses. These are the properties that have, for better or worse, defined Myrtle's existence over the past 20 years. No matter how many Tidewaters, Caledonias or Grande Dunes open around here, it appears the song will remain the same in the pages of America's golf glossies: Myrtle Beach, full of value; devoid of authenticity.

This rant isn't intended to be an across the board damnation of national golf travel magazines and national golf travel writers. Sometimes it takes a fresh eye from out of town to wake the natives to a few harsh realities. But those realities need to be balanced with a good dose of local knowledge.

Case in point, the author of the Myrtle yarn was shocked when none of the locals could point him toward some authentic Lowcountry cuisine. The prevailing style of seafood for 99 percent of the Grand Strand is Calabash (from Calabash, N.C.) and anyone who's spent any amount of time here knows that. The Lowcountry begins, in earnest, just south of Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet. If you can't find a bowl of She Crab Soup in the Inlet, you just aren't trying.

And likewise, if you can't find an original, upscale golf experience in Myrtle Beach, you aren't trying either.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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