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Hardest golf courses in Myrtle Beach: A grand challenge on the Grand Strand

Ian GuerinBy Ian Guerin,
Long Bay Golf Club - 10th hole
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Long Bay Golf Club: One of the Myrtle Beach area's toughest courses. (Courtesy of Long Bay G.C.)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- What most golf booking agents won't tell players making their way to South Carolina's golf mecca is that course cost has little to do with overall difficulty.

Makes sense, really. Spending $180 for a four-hour round only to feel like you've beaten yourself over the head with a six-iron isn't much fun.

As beautiful as some of the upper-echelon golf courses in Myrtle Beach are, many are considered downright easy. However, if you've got the guts and want to push yourself, we've got you covered.

Try these area courses of varying price tags, and put your game to the test:

Parkland Course at Legends Golf and Resort

Of the three on-site courses at Legends, players go back and forth between which one is more difficult between the Moorland and Parkland Courses.

For our money, we'll take the latter.

Tom Doak instituted plenty of deep bunkers -- there are at least two in play on every hole -- at Parkland. All that sand only magnifies the other major challenge.

It is more than 300 yards longer than sister courses, Moorland or Heathland, despite having just three total holes chiming in at more than 500 yards. That means the added distance is steady throughout.

Just look at the Parkland's "short" holes here. The par 3s alone average out to 209 yards each from the back tees and a cool 191 from the whites.

TPC Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet, S.C.

It would be silly to think any of the TPC public properties in the United States would be easy.

TPC Myrtle Beach follows through on that belief.

But unlike courses that sprinkle in the tough holes here and there, this course crescendos toward the end of the round, making sure players can't cruise during "crunch time." It actually starts on no. 9, the hardest handicap of the bunch. The 457-yard par 4 is long while also following a slaloming fairway around trees, water and a large bunker.

Consider it preparation for the back nine.

On no. 10 -- the fourth-hardest hole -- the tee shot must simultaneously avoid a de facto fairway bunker and a large pond. A few holes later, it's on to no. 14, and it's native grasses, off-set landing area and near-90-degree dogleg left.

Having fun yet? Good, because the second handicap awaits on no. 18.

Pawleys Plantation Golf and C.C. in Pawleys Island, S.C.

Jack Nicklaus threw so many caveats into his design at Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club that players can be tricked up at virtually any point of the round.

What it's done is create an environment in which good shots don't necessarily breed more. The peaks and valleys at the score card-handicap listing show just how up and down the 18 holes on this 7,031-yard (from the back tees) course can play.

Much of that same hit-and-miss style applies front to back, as well.

Should you somehow get through the first nine or so holes with a clean scorecard, it can still go downhill in a hurry on the back. The par-4 10th includes a massive bunker on the top right of the fairway, followed by water that runs the width of the hole and two more smaller traps around the green.

No. 13 -- known as the "shortest par 5 on the Grand Strand" -- is actually a wind-driven par 3 that plays as short as 40 yards and no longer than 145. The following hole includes an overgrown tree in the middle of the fairway and marshland on the right.

After all that, the dogleg on no. 15 and the linear, greened par 3 on no. 17 are almost laughable.

Long Bay Golf Club in Longs, S.C.

Off the beaten path a bit, Long Bay Golf Club is maybe best known for its overhead shot of no. 10 -- complete with its tuning fork-shaped bunker surrounding the fairway.

That visually stunning hole, though, is simply a fraction of one of the area's toughest courses.

Elevation changes, pot bunkers, waste bunkers and shallow greens dictate club selection throughout, and -- as many first- and even second-time players have discovered -- frequent increases in the score card. Ten handicaps often shoot in the high 80s and low 90s here.

Also a Nicklaus design, Long Bay utilizes a number of tools to add to the mystique.

There's the "J" fairway on no. 1 and left-side water on four of the final five holes on the front nine. No. 13 includes a pure island green. The next one features a fairway/green/bunker combination that mimics a dragon's head, even from the ground level. The day closes out with the waste bunker-heavy 16, a long par 3 on 17, and the finisher includes a dogleg right over water and around a fairway tree.

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Pawleys Plantation golf course - 16thTPC Myrtle Beach golf courseLegends golf resort - Parkland Course - 6th hole

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.

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