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|The par-3 12th at Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation is a gorgeous hole with a lot of trouble amid many distractions. (Lisa Allen/TravelGolf)|
NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation earns its label as a "wow" golf course -- so much so that it's often difficult to stay on your game because of the scenery.
It's wise to concentrate, though, because the golf course ranks as a design marvel.
Ken Tomlinson designed it in 1990 to attract attention, notably from PGA Tour or USGA events. Tomlinson went big with his bunkers, many large enough to accommodate a house. But the sand is light and fluffy and behaves well.
Tidewater Golf Club begins with a par 5, featuring a minefield of bunkers that starts about 120 yards from the green and marches forward. Avoid the sand on the far left, and plenty of the 35-yard-deep green remains with which to work. No. 2, a par-4 dogleg right, includes lots of bunkers at the corner.
You many soon forget the first two holes, thanks to the third. Right against a vast tidal marsh, the par-3 test overlooks the back side of oceanfront Myrtle Beach. A valley separates the tee from the green, but on the far side of that valley sits a wall of gigantic bunkers, accompanied by a smaller bunker to the left of the green and two more on the right. Wind, ladies and gentlemen, factors on this hole, perhaps to the tune of two or three clubs. The green itself is enormous, so a two-putt runs against the odds. This great hole leaves you breathless, no matter how you play it.
Next comes a par 4 -- still along the marsh and still in the wind. It requires a leap of faith to place your drive out of sight down a hill on the left side. From there, it's uphill to an acutely elevated green steeped in bunkers. Along the left, a sharp drop-off beckons with a sandy trough at the bottom.
Trying to return the ball to the green from that spot provides a thrill, even if it takes a few tries. Yes, I speak from experience. If you send the golf ball too far, bunkers on the right side catch it. My double-bogey on No. 4 felt like a birdie on any other.
The seventh green rests atop a small mountain with a ring of bunkers that forms a wall in front. If you miscalculate, more bunkers at the back of the green await.
The eighth hole, a very short par 5, presents a formidable challenge in getting to the green, with the marsh tight against the left side and rear and bunkers everywhere else.
Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation's 10th hole is all about course management. Don't get too long with your drive, or you'll land in a pond that juts from the right.
Like holes three and four, Nos. 12 and 13 provide another punch of back-to-back beauty that makes it difficult to focus on the little white ball.
The all-carry, par-3, 12th, offers another stunning view. The hole carries the marsh, with live oaks draped over the cart path on the left.
On No. 13, I envy those who play from the tips, because the tee box hangs over the marsh to create breathtaking views in every direction. From there, drives must avoid arching oak trees to a narrow landing area.
Up at the green, there's another drop-off with another sand trough at the bottom. You guessed it, I found it again. I'm sure I can nail those shots now after all that "practice."
The golf course doesn't let up, with a fierce water carry on No. 14, another carry to the overhead green on 15 and a long par 3 at No. 17. Things finish with a brilliant hole that requires calculus-like considerations of wind, placement and distance.
Tomlinson wanted to make sure you remember his work. And you certainly will.
David Bruce and his young son, Tanner, of Evansville, Ind., said they liked the marsh views on the golf course. David, a 2-handicap, played from the tips. "You have to shape the ball," he said. "It's a good test."
They found help from the golf-cart GPS. The one flaw? Much of the cart path runs along the property line, so on par 3s, the cart -- and thus, the GPS -- sit far from the tee box. You won't have an accurate distance to the green. Pick up the yardage book to get an idea of Tomlinson's philosophy and strategy for each hole.
The greens slope when they aren't undulating, but the TifEagle turf gives you an accurate roll.
Ranked in Golfweek's 2007 list of the best golf courses you can play, it also recently made Golf Magazine's similar top-100 listing. To this day, Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation remains the only layout ever named as best new course by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine.
Visit, and you'll see why.
July 14, 2010
Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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