Pawleys Island, SC – The Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand area is a 60 mile stretch of coast line that is home to almost 100 top-ranked courses so choosing a handful to play can be a tough decision. On this trip we ventured to the very south end of the Grand Strand to explore the Pawleys Island region, best known for its’ “low country-style” layouts. These are courses built on former rice plantation lined with moss-draped hardwoods and surrounded by an abundance of marshlands. The flatter landscape and quiet serenity contributes to Pawleys Island’s reputation for being considerably more laid back than central or northern Myrtle, but don’t be lulled by the calm environment as you will be challenged to ‘bring your best game.’
Unfortunately we could only linger long enough to play two golf courses in the area. Each one put us through our paces so here are the highlights to help you decide where to play when you head to the Myrtle Beach area this off season.
True Blue Plantation and sister course, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club are the only two companion courses by the same designer to make Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses”. Both courses are “must plays” by designer Mike Strantz, the creator of another fabled course, the unique and sometimes controversial Tobacco Road in NC.
Built in 1994, Caledonia was rated the 5th “Best New Public Course in America” by Golf Digest. With a 4 ½* rating, Caledonia has often been compared to Augusta National for its floral beauty and exquisite styling. Time only permitted that we play one course on this stay so we opted for True Blue and were not disappointed but I definitely want to come back to tempt my fate on Caledonia.
True Blue was built on a Colonial indigo and rice plantation that is lined with tall pines and live oaks offering surprising elevation changes for the area. Completed four years after Caledonia, it was immediately recognized as one of the “Top 10 Best New Public Courses” by Golf Digest and is still ranked as one of the best public courses in the Myrtle Beach Area”. True Blue has wide fairways, rolling terrain, large greens with water on seven holes and more sand than the “Sahara Desert”. This course is a true test of skills. There are five sets of tees from 4995 to 7126 yards so pick the right yardage to suit your game. You may think you can ‘overpower’ this course but be forewarned that the par five are all three shot holes.
To prove my theory, from the tips the first hole is a 624 yard dogleg left that punishes you for being too aggressive. Not only is there a waste bunker all the way down the left side, there is a large bunker on the right side. Once you have run this gauntlet, there is the green side water and series of bunkers that guard this enormous green. Need I say more?
Hole #3 has been billed as one the greatest holes along the Grand Strand. This spectacular par three is surrounded by a lake and a beach of sand, made more complicated by a sliver of a green to work with. Good luck!
True Blue will keep you honest but also serves up great rewards both on and off the course. If you need a little ‘sustenance’ after you round, let us suggest you drop by the clubhouse for an outstanding bowl of chef, David Elliot’s New England style clam chowder. The best I’ve every tasted and just like the course it will leave you wanting more! For more information check out their website at www.truebluegolf.com
The next day we played the Founders Club, a relatively new kid on the block, nicknamed “Baby Blue” in reference to the neighboring True Blue, but a lot tighter. When it reopened in Feb 2008, the Founder Club was the first new course to open in the Grand Strand area in over seven years. More than $7 million has been spent revamping the 7,007 yard layout and in my humble opinion, it was worth every penny! The site of the old Sea Gull Golf Club that was originally built in 1966 is virtually unrecognizable. It has been thoroughly modernized with five sets of tees for all levels and golf carts are equipped with the newest GPS system for speed of play.
Target golf as its’ finest! With sand on every hole it made us feel like we were on the movie set for “Laurence of Arabia”. You have to aim away from the waste bunkers here unless you like hitting off hard-pan since they are used as cart paths.
The first hole will give you a very good appreciation for what’s to come on your round today. It’s a spectacular short par four where a hybrid is the preferred club to position you away from the fairway bunker. Here accuracy is decidedly more important than distance but on your approach shot make sure you use plenty of club since, as with most of the holes at Founders, trouble usually lies short of the green. The greens are large, very challenging and will test your flat stick abilities. For more information visit their website at www.classicgolfgroup.com/foundersclub.html
Hopefully you can spend more time than we could as there are two more courses in Pawleys Island to play including the Jack Nicklaus designed Pawley’s Plantation Golf & Country Club, one of the top 20 courses in South Carolina according to Golf Magazine, and the Heritage Club ranked among the “50 Best Public Golf Courses in America” by Golf Digest.
If you’re looking for world-class golf and a more laid back ambiance you absolutely must consider Pawleys Island for your next golf getaway. Call 1-800-833-8798 or visit www.GolfHoliday.com for the most up-to-date information on these and other Grand Strand golf courses and packages for the avid golfer.
For more golf travel stories visit www.golftravelandleisure.com
By Dave Finn (dave @ golfinn.com)