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Myrtle Beach's True Blue Golf Plantation settles into its niche

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
True Blue: Mike Strantz design
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True Blue has gotten easier over the years, but its expansive waste bunkers can be intimidating to those with high handicaps. (Brandon Tucker/GolfPublisher.com)

True Blue Golf Plantation in Myrtle Beach had a reputation of being one hard golf course. But one of the Grand Strand's most controversial golf courses has softened up a little in recent years, and now the marketing behind True Blue has shifted to tout the golf course's positives -- and there are many. But True Blue still has some bite.

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- The old saying goes something like: "Love me or hate me, at least you know of me."

Such had become the case with True Blue Golf Plantation in Pawleys Island. It seemed everyone had strong opinions on one of the Strand's most controversial courses.

Designer Mike Strantz was given few restrictions by management after his universal success at sister course Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. He built a brute. In the course's first two years of existence, it was marketed as "Golf's Heaven and Hell," designed to be hard, catering especially to low-handicappers. It was a bold strategy, considering 80 percent of golfers who come to the Myrtle Beach have handicaps in the high teens or higher. It garnered a lot of frustration and little replay rounds from the duffer folk.

Since 2000, the course has been softened, and the marketing strategy has shifted to accentuate the course's positives: some of the area's widest fairways, great conditions and an innovative design. The polarized opinions seem to be a thing of the past.

"In the last three years, I've read very few comments from golfers saying 'I don't like this golf course, it's too tough,'" True Blue Head Professional Bob Seganti says.

Today you really can't even consider True Blue to be among the Myrtle Beach's toughest golf courses, at least to low-handicappers playing from the back tees. That might be more reserved for courses like Pawleys Plantation and Prestwick. But huge waste areas prevalent on almost every hole mean really bad golfers could still be in for a long day.

"If you have a fear of sand of any kind, it's intimidating," Seganti says. "Even though there is a lot of turf here, you have to have basic knowledge of how to strike a ball out of the waste area."

There are easy aspects to True Blue. There are five par-5s and par-3s, adding to birdie opportunities. Fairways are very wide; you don't have to be precise off the tee. There are also more greens that let you run shots up compared to its "nicer" sister.

It's hard to find similarities between Caledonia and True Blue. Unlike Caledonia, which blends seamlessly into the marshy, heavily forested environment, True Blue has a more "designed" look. There are holes, like the island green on the par-3 third, where the shape takes on a purposely unnatural look, with a jagged bunker in front and a long, multitiered green. The par-3 16th has a bunker with a lip that juts sharply above the green.

The five par-5s here are very creative, bending and contouring heavily. On the par-5 fourth, the fairway plays around a pond so drastically that it wraps back towards the tee box.

The finisher at True Blue is similar to Caledonia, only it's mirrored. It's a risky par-4 with water down the left side played to a green that is guarded by water and sand, sitting just in front of the clubhouse's patio.

True Blue: The verdict

True Blue's prettier sister, Caledonia, receives almost universal acclaim, but True Blue is no slouch itself. If your mindset coming into the round is that it's a course that will beat you up, it probably will. The first four and last four holes also feature the tougher holes, so your first and last impressions of the course will be of carnage. But, in reality, there are plenty of holes here that are very manageable and fairways don't get much wider than at True Blue.

It's an upscale course with green fees that can reach as high as $150, but the service, conditions and many memorable holes make it worth that.

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Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Beautiful

    Brandon Volley wrote on: Mar 5, 2009

    This continues to be my favorite course to play in Myrtle Beach. Its a unique track that is both beautiful and punishing. You are rewarded for being straight but off target shots are penalized severely. The course appears to the eye as it was destined for this property. Nothing seems contrived or out of place and the natural beauty is one of a kind.

    Reply

  • 5 Hour Plus Rounds

    Tom Phillips wrote on: Jun 9, 2008

    This is one of my favorite courses at Myrtle Beach but they make no effort to speed up play. It makes me think they are putting too many people on the course.

    Reply

  • Great course

    Nick Fogelson wrote on: Jan 7, 2008

    Awesome course. Great holes. I agree it has gotten easier. It used to be tough, but not so much anymore.

    Reply