CHARLOTTE, N.C. - I think I have finally found a golfing home, and it's Wilmington, North Carolina.
Myrtle Beach can be too geographically challenging. Is Pawleys Island Myrtle Beach or is it Pawleys Island? Besides, I like a city with some history and a downtown with charm and character, and God bless the Grand Stand, but Eagles Stores and water slides just don't do it for me.
Charleston is awesome, what with its 30 odd golf courses, Lowcountry setting and unrivaled historical prowess. But after a couple of days, the congested city streets and blocks of urban blight start to wear on you.
Hilton Head is full of great golf courses, looks cute with all its tastefully designed commercial developments, but ultimately smacks of a retirement home for the criminally Northern. What can I say? I am from the South, and every once in a while I like to run into someone with whom I can talk barbecue and SEC football.
From where I am sitting, Wilmington has the history of a Charleston, the Southern hospitality of a Gamecocks tailgating party, and the urban form of a miniature San Francisco.
It's not exactly bubbling over with great golf courses, but there are enough to get me by. Plus, the 28 courses of Brunswick County are just a good CD's drive south on U.S. 17.
Wilmington's history as a port of call and a major player in the Civil War rivals that of Charleston and Savannah, Ga. You just don't hear about it from public relations pundits.
And what a little downtown.
Many of the buildings date back to the 1800's, and an aggressive historical preservation program has ensured that they remain intact, and fully functional. These structures house numerous, important land uses such as pubs, boutiques, museums, and, did I mention pubs?
"Its amazing that this place has remained off of so many people's radar," says Patrick Crean, president of Magnolia Greens Plantation. "We get down here are a lot of couples, because they can play 18 holes and then go off and do something like go to a museum or take in a musical."
Crean should know. Once a police officer on Long Island, he used to vacation with his cop buddies down in Myrtle Beach. They did the typical "golf trip for guys who like golf trips:" 36 holes a day, cigars, beers with breakfast and the occasional gentlemen's club in the evening.
That is until he met his future wife on one of those extended Myrtle Beach golf trips.
"Now I can really appreciate this place and what it has to offer," he says of his adopted homeland.
But you don't have to have a significant other, or a family to appreciate Wilmington.
All you need is a sense of what makes a good city, the desire to play some good golf courses, and an exercise regimen that will keep you fit and thin while chowing down at the city's fine restaurants.
November 19, 2001