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|It's clear that Tom Fazio carefully designed and executed every mound, contour and swale at TPC Myrtle Beach. (Courtesy of TPC Myrtle Beach)|
MURRELLS INLET, S.C. -- TPC Myrtle Beach, the Tournament Players Club, lives up to its billing. The golf course conditions are stellar, the design challenging thanks to architect Tom Fazio, and the layout through a pine forest is beautiful.
The golf course opened in 1999 and has acquired accolades along the way: Golf Digest's 5-star ranking, the top 10 golf courses in South Carolina, and the top 20 new courses in America from Golf Magazine. It hosted the Senior Tour Championship in 2000.
It's clear every mound, contour and swale was carefully designed and executed. As a player, the goal is to use them to your advantage and shake off the times they give you a bad bounce, sending your ball into an astonishingly deep bunker or into thick Bermuda rough.
From the bag drop on, you can tell this course runs like a Swiss watch. Staff awaits your arrival, cheerfully greets you in the pro shop and gently shepherds you to the tee at your appointed time so you can begin to enjoy the meticulous work of the grounds crew.
Right at the start, it's clear this course is three-dimensional, with mounds, rises and plateaus on the fairways and leading to the green. Staying on the level Fazio intended is key. Otherwise, you'll roll into the grabby, dense Bermuda rough or into one of those hideous bunkers that require a short iron to escape.
The first hole also reminds you that there are trees to contend with, especially if you drift right. On the left is a bunker-floored valley below the fairway.
The par-5 second hole includes an interlude to the fairway fronted with a nasty bunker complex on the left side and more trees on the right. The green is a 46-yard monster that is severely sloped back to front.
"It doesn't matter what tee box you play, there's an obstacle out there, whether it's sand or water," said Mel McKay, a 15-handicap golfer who has been a TPC Myrtle Beach member for four years. "Reading the greens is tough. After playing here for four years, I still have trouble."
The five tees range in length from 6,950 yards at the tips to 5,118 from the front. The rating is 74 with a 145 slope from the back.
The par-3 fifth hole is a descending blow to a large green fronted by water. From the tips, it's a frontal attack, with nothing but water between tee and green. The other tees provide a side angle, taking the intimidation down a notch.
On a few holes, Fazio separated some tees from the rest, adding more dimension to the course. An example is the par-5 sixth hole. The tees alternate, front tee on the right, the next on the left, two mid tees right again and the tips left. From the left side, it's a narrow entry over marsh. The tees on the right have a more direct approach and enjoy terra firma the entire distance. But everyone's approach shot has to navigate over huge bunker complexes to get to an elevated green that, compared to other greens on the course, is "only" 26 yards deep.
"The short game is difficult if you miss the green," Assistant Professional Mike Reeck said. "It's definitely not an easy course."
On TPC Myrtle Beach's 10th hole, the fairway drops off on the right side, but that helps add length to some shots. From there, you have to avoid water that cozies up to the green on the right side, with huge bunkers left. The 11th hole hems drives in between water that extends much farther out than it should on the left and trees on the right. From there, it's a balancing act to feed your shot to the green without falling off to the right again.
Fazio separated tees again on the par-5 14th hole, giving a foursome very different holes if one is playing the front tees, where he eliminated most of the marsh carry. Everyone else has to place their drives carefully to avoid ramming into the side of the elevated fairway or the huge bunker also on the left. There are a few more bunkers on the way to the green, which has an elevated path to the green. If you fall off the path, you have a touchy pitch shot up to the green.
For some reason, the 15th hole seems to play tricks on you when teeing off. Yes, there is marsh on the left side, not really too much in play, but for some reason, you'll push it right. All three people in our group did it. From there, you have to extract yourself from the trees to get to the elevated green that's 39 yards deep.
Reeck says the golf course reserves its key holes for the end, starting with the seemingly innocuous par-3 17th, which is longer than it appears. It's guarded on the left side by a bunker in which it's questionable whether daylight can reach the bottom. If you are over-exuberant in extracting a shot from it, you'll probably end up in the water because the green sharply slopes that way. Makes shots on the green bogey possibilities, too. It's a wicked little hole.
The 18th is a great par 5 that requires keeping your ball a whisker left of center to avoid a stream on the right side that then swoops across the fairway about 200 yards out. If you clear that successfully, you're faced with an offset green slammed right up against the water. Drift left on your approach shot, it's wet. Right, it's sandy.
TPC Myrtle Beach is a top-notch course that won't let you down in any respect. Not the service, not the course conditions, not the design. Carved through a pine forest with lots of elevation changes and plenty of water, you'll feel like you're in the middle of the wilderness, just you, your golf partners and a little white ball.
November 16, 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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