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|The P.B. Dye-designed Moorland Course at Legends Golf and Resort is among the toughest in Myrtle Beach. (Ian Guerin/TravelGolf)|
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Al Fiore was looking for a last-minute brush-up before his friends around the country joined him in Myrtle Beach for a five-day golf excursion.
The one handicap from Huntsville, Ala., needed a challenge, and after a few phone calls, he went with the Moorland Course at Legends Golf and Resort and decided to start off the round from all the way back.
"If I play the back tees, it's harder for me, because I'm hitting longer irons into the green," said Fiore, a member of one of Alabama's esteemed Robert Trent Jones courses. "It wouldn't be much of a challenge if I was hitting short irons and wedges. Now I'm hitting medium irons and long irons."
While that may be true on just about any course, what Fiore found was the type of round that would better prepare him for some of the most difficult courses on the Grand Strand. He had success during his first visit to the course -- including an eagle on the short, par-4 16th -- but he also had some frustrations, shooting several strokes above his average.
That in itself started off what has long become a great debate among those who have played the two hardest Legends golf courses, Moorland and Parkland.
"It's mixed. A lot of people coming from out of town; they'll say Moorland is the toughest," Matt Biddington, head golf professional, said. "But if you ask my members, they'll definitely tell you Parkland.
"Moorland gets all the notoriety for being tough. It was rated the 37th-toughest, most-difficult course in the country a few years ago. So it made that top-50 list, which is fun to have that recognition. Moorland, it's fairly forgiving off the tee. But the green complexes are so challenging. So for that high handicapper, that's where that difficulty creeps in."
And, as Fiore found out, some of the low handicappers, too.
Moorland's renovated TifEagle Bermuda greens add to some of the issues first-time players face.
But that grass is only the beginning.
"Ten and 11, if you can believe it, were actually more undulated and more severe than they are now," Biddington said, referring to a simple 2004 renovation. "If anything, they flattened out a little bit. As you can see, in my opinion, 10 and 11 are two of the hardest greens to hole."
Few, if any, of the greens at Moorland could be considered "flat."
They bank, dip and roll time after time, meaning the most problematic part of the 6,200-yard course (from the white tees) is the last few feet of every hole.
"The speed of the greens are slow for a course like this," Fiore said. "But I like the tightness of the golf course. There's not room for error, so you have to be very accurate. It's a player's course."
The P.B. Dye design wraps fairways around some water, but the more intimidating aspect comes from waste areas, and the elevation differences throughout. Blind shots are readily in play, especially for those who don't either know or have the ability to put the ball in prime locations off the tee.
The advantage for regular players stems from the lack of change on the course.
"Pretty much what you see out there is how it was when it opened up back in (1990)," Biddington said. "Some of those railroad ties and some of the bunk heads, they had to do some repair. There was some bridgework done. But as far as the layout and the design, it's the same."
When stacking up against the numerous golf courses on the Grand Strand, the Legends site may have one of the better all-around venues to spice up the golf experience.
Included in the list of perks is a 30-plus-acre driving range, a 1.25-acre putting green, a separate building to house the Classic Swing Golf School and the clubhouse/pro shop -- the aforementioned Scottish-style castle -- complete with a better-than-average pub with plenty of food and drink specials year-round.
"In the spring, there's a lot of days when it's tough to get a spot over there," Biddington said of the pub. "It's been a great change with (the economy) being down. It's great to have people coming through the doors."
Part of that added experience is the contributions of chef Ryan Coffindaffer. That's right, the Legends facility has a dine-in restaurant that includes dishes from sushi to more standard pub food.
Outside, both the driving range and the putting green are lit well into the evening, another added benefit for golfers.
Moorland can chew up the best of golfers if they're not prepared. But the scoring opportunities leave players wanting another crack at it.
As with the other two courses on site at Legends' primary facility, the course is better manicured than most in the vicinity. It proves to be a favorable experience for first timers and regulars alike.
"I think this is better than most," Fiore said. "It's not like (some of the top-shelf golf courses in the area). But it's right there next to them. I'd play it again. We'll be back here in October or November. We'll come back."
May 16, 2011
Ian Guerin is a freelance writer and DJ living in Myrtle Beach, S.C. He's decent with the driver and putter; it's everything else in the bag that gives him trouble. Follow Ian on Twitter at @iguerin.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
Referred to by its hosts as a "hidden gem," the greens alone at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, Calif. make this a stone worth turning over. Located an hour northwest of L.A., it's a pleasing, quiet and generally engaging round that will appease players of all levels.
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