MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Exactly what is it about the Grand Strand that lures millions of golfers to its shores every year?
Certainly, there is no underestimating the region's climate. Summers are hot, but bearable because of the ocean. Spring and fall are close to perfect, and winter is a walk in the park for those from the Midwest or the Northeast.
Nor can you discount that phenomenon otherwise known as the golf package. Myrtle Beach may be the only golf destination in the world that places an endless network of golf courses next to an infinite matrix of hotels, motels, and golf villas and produces discounted golf vacations.
Imagine for moment, though, if some golfers actually wanted to develop a Myrtle Beach golfing itinerary based on scenery. Not the kind you find at the Masters or the Crazy Horse, but good old fashion natural surroundings like water, earth, trees and sky.
There are over 110 golf courses in the Grand Strand, and the vast majority of them are located on unremarkable pieces of inland property. Then, there are a select few that have addresses that today's developers would kill for.
Here's our Top Ten List of Scenic Myrtle Beach Golf Courses, just in case a new form of golf package emerges this fall.
No. 10 Winyah Bay - This little track down in Georgetown doesn't pop into most people's heads as one of the more scenic plays along the Strand. Probably because most people have never been there! The finishing stretch at Winyah affords players some killer views of the bay, and the topography also makes for some of the most interesting holes at the beach. Winyah may have a muni-style clubhouse, but how many golf courses have front porches that look out onto the Atlantic Ocean?
No. 9 Pawleys Plantation - When players first get underway at Pawleys Plantation, many wonder what all the fuss is about. "One of the must-plays of the South Strand?" they think to themselves. "Well show me the money!". And that is just what PP does ... on the back nine. A slew of holes play right out into the coastal marshland, and the par 3, 13th, with its tee shot to an island green has to be one of the most memorable holes in the entire Strand.
No. 8 The Heritage Club and Caledonia (tie) - These plantation courses don't play out to the beach (a la the Dunes) or along dramatic Intracoastal Waterway outcroppings (Tidewater), but they do meander through some terrific Low Country geography. Caledonia's 18th hole carries most of this ranking, with its tee shot down the left side of the marsh and its approach shot to a peninsular green. Heritage's 13th hole picks up the slack over there, seeing as how its one of the most scenic par 3's at the beach.
No. 7 Brick Landing - This little known course up in Brunswick County snuck into the Top Ten with its stellar views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the South Brunswick Islands. Truth is, Bricklanding is a pretty good golf course, to boot. A couple of holes have been labeled "weak" by a number of golfers, but "the Brick" is a scenic track that challenges low handicappers.
No. 6 Glen Dornoch - Ah yes, a wee bit of scenery to take in up at this fine Clyde Johnston designed course. It's a wonder that more players don't list GD on their top ten lists inside Myrtle Beach golf chat rooms and message boards. Live Oaks punctuate the corners of doglegs, fairways run along the Intracoastal, talk about scenic! Somehow, Johnston and friends even manage to sneak in 35 feet of elevation change. Doesn't sound like much if you are from Colorado, but at the beach, its huge.
No. 5 Oyster Bay - Oyster Bay, Marsh Harbor ... take your pick. Dan Maples designed them both, and each plays out into the Brunswick County marshlands. Oyster Bay (pictured, below) does have two island green par 3's and more lakes than you can shake a putter at, but for sheer draaaama, we'll take Marsh Harbor.
No. 4 Marsh Harbor - The setting is just crazy. The 17th hole has to be one of the best in the Carolinas, and beats King's North's Gambler hole at its own game. It is all too much to overlook, and really, this Dan Maples designed course could make a good case for No. 1. The drivable, par 4 18th located right on the water pushes Marsh Harbor to the front of the pack.
No. 3 Rivers Edge - Or, more like the back nine and No.'s 8 and 9 at Rivers Edge. How was this piece of land available as late as 1999? The first seven holes are solid, but unremarkable in terms of scenery. The remaining eleven play out along the Shallotte River, and are simply breathtaking.
No. 2 Tidewater - No surprise here. Nature took the keys to this piece of property, swallowed them, and they aren't coming back. Tidewater's Intracoastal Waterway holes are the most dramatic on the beach. Oh, and the other holes aren't bad either! But once Ken Tomlinson's masterpiece takes a turn for the drink, there are few courses that can compare.
No. 1 Dunes Club - Robert Trent Jones, Sr. probably didn't know how good he had it back in 1948 when this legendary course by the sea opened its doors. Or maybe he did, snickering all the way home with the knowledge that only a handful of golf courses in Myrtle Beach would ever be able to lay claim to a piece of property like this. Tidewater and Rivers Edge have the inland waterways, but the Dunes Club is the only Grand Strand Course that really snuggles up to Mother Ocean and lives to tell about it.
January 12, 2002