The label of first golf course in Myrtle Beach is a burden; the distinction of being the site where Sports Illustrated was founded in the early 1950s is nearly heraldic. Pine Lakes Country Club holds both distinctions, making it the target of a bit of envy along the grand strand. Not content to rest any longer on those laurels, The Grandaddy, as the club is known, underwent a restoration in the late 2000s and brought the golf course to a new standard of architecture and conditioning.
After one plays enough courses in the coastal South Carolina region, it becomes apparent that regions and types of courses may be connected. Southern courses, northern courses, in-town courses and western courses are a few of the distinctions. Pine Lakes is an in-town central Myrtle Beach course, one that is bordered by houses, businesses and thoroughfares. With so many neighbors, it can be difficult to preserve one’s solitude and identity. Pine Lakes does just fine, thanks to a solid course routing and exquisite conditioning. The Robert White layout occupies an essentially-flat property, yet finds a way to elevate enough greens to add yardage to approach shots. Once on the green, perimeter and internal contouring conspire to tempt and test the finest of putters.
The course begins with a manageable par four, then shows its teeth with a long par three over water, followed by one of the most beguiling holes along the Grand Strand. The 463-yard (from the tips) par four plays to a wide fairway, then into a green protected on the left by a slope and on the right by a pond. No other hole more invokes Augusta National than this one. The solitude of the setting and the danger of the approach make the third at Pine Lakes memorable. The remainder of the front nine traverses consistent land, rarely offering a simple solution. Whether holes move left or right, or proceed straight from tee to green, an appropriate side/angle off the tee and into the green become apparent.
The back nine begins in a benign way, with a downhill par five and a pitch-shot par three. Then the fun returns. Holes twelve through fourteen, all two-shot affairs, progress from intermediate to advanced to expert in terms of difficulty. Water increasingly comes into play, first as a border near the 12th green, then as a carry hazard off the tee of #13 (and also as a right-side border) until finally bisecting the 14th fairway, a beast of a hole if ever there was one. after a one-shot challenge, the course closes with three interesting and challenging par fours. Pine Lakes doesn’t make the claim, as many area courses do, that its closing triumvirate are the toughest, the best or the most challenging; it doesn’t have to.
You might hear someone in the know comment that Pine Lakes is a nice course but nothing special. Depending on your perspective, it could be mighty special. It is a necessary tee time during a stay in the Myrtle Beach area and provides an unending series of challenges. The course is accommodating off the tee, although (as mentioned) a proper side of the fairway is always in evidence. If you can bring one aspect of your game to count on, though, make sure it’s your putter.