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TPC of Myrtle Beach finally finding its own niche among Grand Strand golf courses

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
TPC Myrtle Beach - Carolina Golf Course - Tom Fazio design - Par 3 No. 5
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TPC Myrtle Beach boasts dramatic par 3s with water, including No. 5. (Chris Baldwin/GolfPublisher.com)

The Myrtle Beach TPC is not an official PGA Tour TPC facility, but it keeps in close touch with the Tour, and remains one of the finer golf courses along the Grand Strand.

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. - The Tournament Players Club brand name is supposed to reflect the stability and stolid nature of the PGA Tour and its corporate way of doing business.

Yet, the TPC of Myrtle Beach has a history that is hardly stable - indeed, it could be called chaotic - though it finally seems to have settled into its own niche.

First off, it's not even in the Tour's official TPC stable. It lost that designation a couple of years ago, along with what was then known as the Senior Tour Championship. It's now in the hands of private ownership, though the PGA Tour allowed it to retain its TPC brand.

Of course, the Tour people check in regularly, as in weekly, to make sure the course is upholding Tour-like standards.

No problem there, as far as service, facilities and the golf course itself. Service remains impeccable at the course, now nearly eight years old, The facilities, especially the clubhouse and practice areas, are top-notch, and the course is often mentioned as being among the top-10 along the Grand Strand.

Players who gripe about the course usually are referring to the TPC's green fees, which are among the highest on the Grand Strand, in the $155 range, even if they throw in free yardage books.

The high-end, daily fee course was ravaged by a tropical storm shortly after opening, and then went through a very rough period last summer with its bentgrass greens, so fragile in hot weather.

Betwixt and between all this, the course was still garnering praise from most of the top golf publications. Until the debacle with the greens last year.

The course closed for nearly two and a half months this summer, and didn't open until the end of August, when club officials were sure they had things right.

"We didn't want to open with any excuses," said head pro Andy Edwards.

The TPC crew dug four inches under the bentgrass, laid down sand and peat moss and sprigged with mini-verde, the same turf the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra switched to.

The result is a course that drains as well as Sawgrass, the Tour's marquee TPC course. That was obvious after playing the course after an unusually violent, mid-September thunderstorm.

"I was shocked," Edwards said. "There was standing water on the greens, and by late afternoon, you could play on them."

TPC officials used the shutdown to make other improvements: They refurbished all the greenside bunkers and cut away quite a few trees, allowing for more sunlight and circulation. They also put on a "full-court press" in re-doing the tee boxes, according to Edwards.

The greens are, as of this writing, too firm to hold long irons, or even mid-irons, but course officials expect them to soften up. Rolling about a 9 on the stimpmeter, Edward said he expected them to be rolling a more TPC-like 10 or 10.5 by peak season.

There were some subtle changes to the contours of the greens during the refurbishment, and they added some collection areas while trying to stay true to Tom Fazio's original design.

"The only people who might notice are the ones who play here a lot," said Edwards.

With the greens back in shape, low-handicappers will once again enjoy playing here, as the TPC remains one of the more difficult courses along the Grand Strand. The layout is toned-down Fazio, but he seems to have saved most of his tricks for the green complexes. The course picks up movement as you approach the greens, in the forms of dips, hollows, swales, water and bunkers.

"Club selection is real important here," Edwards said. "Obviously, you have to know where to miss your shots around the greens."

There are some nasty carries from the back tees, but the length, a shade under 7,000 yards from the back tees, isn't as imposing as some. Still, that slope rating of 145 gives an indication of how tough the course can be if you want to hit it where the PGA pros would play it, if they ever played here.

TPC of Myrtle Beach: The Verdict

There is water on 10 holes, as the layout winds through the wetlands and the conditioning is immaculate. There is a lushness and a well-ordered feel to it. In fact, the only problem I had with the layout was a kind of sameness to the holes, especially the par-3s.

Having said that, it is still a very picturesque track, with not that many homes to mar the views, and with birds galore, including egrets, Great Blue Herons and even swans. The course is one of only a few along the Strand to earn the status of a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

"To me, it's a pretty undulating, tree-lined track, somewhat of a parkland, Pinehurst layout," Edwards said. "It's Southeastern golf with a coastal climate."

Stay and play

The Caravelle Resort Hotel and Villas is a great place to stay, if you like beach walks, sunsets and watching surfers. The hotel overlooks the Atlantic and also caters to golfers, throwing what it calls the "biggest golf party on the Grand Strand" Thursday nights in its 2001 night club.

It has nine different types of accommodation in different buildings, including the hotel, Harborside Condos, Carolina Dunes and the St. Johns Inn.

The resort also has 4,000 square feet of meeting space including a private dining room, banquet facility and hospitality room. There's an indoor pool, several outdoor pools, a "lazy river, whirlpools ice cream shop, on-site restaurant and fitness center.

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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

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