During my 37 years on planet Earth, I have traveled to Myrtle Beach twelve times. I have been there for family vacations, trips with friends, and of course golf getaways. Myrtle Beach is the accurately appointed “Golf Capital of the World” as it boasts the most golf courses per square mile. At one time there were more than 100 tracks, but these days the number is closer to around 80 spanning the area between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intercoastal Waterway referred to as the Grand Strand. To say I have played a lot of golf, ate a lot of crab legs, and drank a lot of margaritas by the pool there is an understatement. So I thought I would compile a list or guide of where to play, stay, and eat. This is simply my opinion and guidance. My recommendations are not based on accolades or reviews, just my experiences and opinion.
Best Bargain: The Wizard, The Witch, Man O’ War The best “bang for your buck” courses in Myrtle are no doubt the properties under the Mystical Golf umbrella. The Wizard and Man O’ War are among just a handful of courses in the area that have bent grass greens. And even with all the play that those tracks get, they are usually lush and in tremendous shape. The trio is designed by famous southern architect Dan Maples, and while similar, each boasts their own unique personality. The Witch is a beautiful combination of wetlands and southern forest. The Wizard has a Scottish-highlands vibe to it with all the fescue, pot bunkers, and even a clubhouse that’s a castle. Man O’ War is essentially an “island golf course” as it was constructed out of a 100-acre lake. There are multiple island greens and fairways, making it visually spectacular but also placing a premium on accuracy. These three courses are all next to each other, so make a day out of it.
Must Play: Caledonia Golf & Fish Club Caledonia is a mainstay as a top-5 course in the state. As far as accolades go, it usually goes hand-in-hand with its sister-course, True Blue. I have yet to play True Blue but it’s on my list for the future. Caledonia is one of the most naturally routed courses I have ever played. Not one hole is forced and architect Mike Strantz used the natural lay of the land wonderfully. The gorgeous, southern antebellum clubhouse welcomes you to the south, and it’s the last structure you will see. There are no homes on the interior of the course. It is just you, the enormous greens, countless streams and lakes, and the local wildlife. Caledonia’s green fees are north of $100, and can climb close to $200 in the fall. But if you are looking for one course to really splurge on, this is it.
Best Secret: Farmstead Golf Links Just minutes from North Myrtle, across the border into Calabash, is Farmstead Golf Links. This William Byrd and David Johnson collaboration is fun and friendly for all handicaps and abilities. The closing hole is a par 6 playing 767 yards from the tips. You actually tee off in South Carolina, and putt out in North Carolina. There are trees on the property, but a lot of the holes are very wide open. That doesn’t mean you can spray the ball everywhere and not get penalized, as there is an abundant array of high native grasses and well placed bunkers. This also brings the wind in as a factor. The 8,000 sq ft clubhouse features a huge veranda overlooking the first tee and 18th green, making it a great spot for a post round club sandwich and an Arnold Palmer.
Put them in your lineup: King’s North I have a soft spot for Arnold Palmer, so I always try to play one of his designs when I can. King’s North is one the most played courses in Myrtle Beach, but it’s a well-oiled machine. There are plenty of cart guys, rangers, and starters to accommodate you and your day, and they are very hospitable. The actual club is called Myrtle Beach National, and they have a south and west course as well. But I’ve never played those. The King redesigned the North course in 1996, and so it is aptly named “King’s North.” It is a fun track with a good mixture of friendly and difficult holes. Like a lot of Palmer courses, many of the fairways are framed with mounds. Hit the wrong side of them and bounce into trouble. But the place does reward good shots, and I like that. The signature hole is the par-5 sixth. It is called “The Gambler” due to its risk-reward double fairway, one of which is an island. King’s North is also ranked as a top-100 course in America for female players.
Blackmoor Blackmoor is the only Gary Player design on The Grand Strand and is a fun, fair test for every type of player. The natural terrain and Waccamaw River create beautiful vistas that really add to your round. Being as world-traveled as Mr. Player is, Blackmoor really seems to have a bit of influence from all parts of the globe. Some holes are framed by tall southern pines, others feature pot bunkers and railroad ties. With the cheaper price tag, I refer to this course as “Caledonia light” as it too is naturally routed throughout the terrain and wildlife. It is no surprise to see a gator or two among your gallery during your round.
Legends Moorland The Legends family has 5 courses under their belt, and you can do a helluva golf package with just them. The Moorland course was designed by P.B. Dye, and the family’s trademarks are stamped all over the property. In the vast rolling fairways you will be faced with a lot of uneven, side-hill lies, and I don’t usually like that. But the Moorland course is so beautiful it’s hard to not enjoy yourself. It is very reminiscent of the famous PGA West Stadium Course, also a Dye family masterpiece. But on some of the holes you feel like you’re at the Bandon Dunes of the east, just not on a cliff. The extraordinary undulations, natural grasses, water, and waste areas make for a very tricky, target-style course. You are going to have to think a little and not bust driver off every tee box.
Crow Creek Also just north of Myrtle, in Calabash, is Crow Creek. Designed by Nicklaus Design disciple, Rick Robbins, Crow Creek is one of the most immaculately conditioned courses in the area. It’s a fun, fair test; especially if you’re hitting it well. It’s not excruciatingly long, but just like all the other courses in Myrtle, it has a fine mix of water and waste areas. The only negative about Crow Creek is that there is housing and condos on the course. Most of the holes it is a non-issue, but on some the homes are very close just off the fairway.
Barefoot Landing Resort Just like the Legends group, you can do a package just through Barefoot Landing and have a spectacular week. There are four courses at the resort, and each has its own clubhouse and is named after its famed architect; Love, Norman, Dye, and Fazio. While none of the four are easy, I’d say the Love is the friendliest. With that being said, the Dye is an absolute monster with a plethora of forced carries and tricky tee shots that contain more than enough looming danger. The Norman course allows the player to run up a lot of shots to the greens and encourages you to play more bump-and-runs. The Fazio, while not a links course by any stretch, does have a European feel as the ninth hole ends nowhere near the clubhouse; so you actually go out, make the turn, and play in.
Restaurants: I am not a restaurant reviewer, but I want to include a list of where I enjoy eating while in town. There are so many restaurants it can be difficult and overwhelming when trying to decide where to unwind and enjoy a good meal. Seafood buffets are a plenty, and most of them are pretty good with a lot of the same items. You can’t go wrong there. I always try to get a taste of home and find a good Italian place whenever I travel, at least one night. Here is where I try and make a point to dine whenever I visit Myrtle.
Pier 14 (spectacular atmosphere and menu on the pier)
Captain’s Table (fine beachfront dining)
Captain George’s (largest buffet in Myrtle consisting of seafood and American fare)
Giant Crab Buffet (seafood buffet)
Miyabi Kyoto (sushi, hibachi)
Angelo’s (Italian buffet and great steaks)
Where to stay: Double Tree Resort Many golf course groups have their own on-site accommodations, like Barefoot Landing or the Legends, but if you want to stay on the beach, the Double Tree resort is where you want to be. Formerly known as the rundown Springmade Resort, Hilton took over the property and did a complete renovation a few years ago. It’s really the only resort-style hotel on the beach in Myrtle. It is located on the south end, which is usually known for being a little busier and noisier than North Myrtle. But this resort is an exception as it sits by itself on a forked road off of Ocean Blvd. Every inch of the place has been updated and remodeled, so it is clean and upscale. The breakfast is phenomenal and you are on a private beach with no public access. It is pet friendly, so along with your clubs, bring your pooch. Only negative I could think of is that it’s near the airport and incoming and departing jets fly right over your head. But it didn’t bother us. Sadly the Springmade Pier was wiped away by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Like previously mentioned, there are many ways to book your trip. You can book through a third party agency and do a straight stay & play golf package, or you could do the same thing through a company that owns and operates multiple courses under their brand, like Barefoot or Legends. If you choose to book your accommodations first, many of the hotels in Myrtle have golf concierges. They can book all your tee times from the hotel, which usually leads to a better rate. Booking your tee times separately on your own will without question be the most expensive way, unless you have some coupons, promo codes, or use a discount site like Golfnow.com. I do not recommend using Golfnow however, as they are no longer a great ally of the golf course. Many times the course you are booking never sees a dime from the rate you paid. I’d rather pay the course directly and ensure my money goes towards keeping the place around, in good shape, and golf pros in business. Fall is peak season, so expect the highest green fees from September thru November. But there are deals to be had at all times of the year. Just do your due diligence and search a bit. In the summer months you can play a course that peaks at $150 during prime season for $42.
CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Picks
My picks for last week’s Houston Open didn’t fair to well. Only one played the weekend, and one pick didn’t play at all. Pat Perez pulled out with a wrist injury and Jhonattan Vegas missed the cut. Beau Hossler played well and just missed a top-10 finish shooting 9 under par for the week. We now head to Asia for a few weeks and begin with the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges.
Winner: Justin Thomas He won here in 2017 and he’d like to head towards the President’s Cup with guns blazing. He plays well in all parts of the world on all types of courses. Will contend: Brooks Koepka I’m done going against this guy, plus he’s the defending champ. He too would like some momentum heading into the President’s Cup. Sleeper: Kiradech Aphibarnrat Not a household name, but you know him if you follow golf. He comes to play in big events, especially on the worldwide stage when the field consists of players from all over the globe.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay, Head Golf Professional
Published by Craig Walton