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Myrtle Beach golf resorts: The best way to avoid the car during a Grand Strand vacation

Tim McDonaldBy Tim McDonald,
Love Course at Barefoot Resort
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The Davis Love III course is a major reason why Barefoot wins tops honors among Grand Strand golf resorts. (Courtesy photo)

Staying at one of Myrtle Beach's multi-course golf resorts is the best way to avoid spending half your Myrtle Beach golf vacation in the car. Remember, the Grand Strand is 50 miles long, with more than 100 golf courses, and traffic, especially during the peak season, is a problem.

If you come to Myrtle Beach prepared to play golf but unprepared with any sort of rational itinerary, be prepared to reset the odometer on your car.

The Grand Strand is more than 50 miles long and is dotted with more than 100 courses. Driving to and from the golf, especially in the area's increasingly frustrating traffic, can wreak havoc on your patience, which can in turn affect your game.

One way to ease back on the throttle is to stay at one of the area's multi-course golf resorts. True, you can find cheaper digs, but if you've got money to spend, you can set yourself up to stroll to the first tee and avoid the road rage.

Myrtle Beach's resort scene is suffering along with the rest of the golf industry there - Bay Tree Plantation and its three courses closed last year, as did two of Wild Wing's four courses.

But the Strand still boasts some ace resorts. Here's a list of the best of them.

Great Myrtle Beach golf resorts

1) Barefoot Resort and Golf, North Myrtle Beach: Barefoot Resort wins top honors by virtue of the sheer quality of its golf courses. There are four, three of them exceptional: the Davis Love III, Tom Fazio and Pete Dye courses. Fourth wheel Greg Norman is no slouch either, but this is tough competition.

The sprawling resort takes up 2,300 acres close to the beach (though not on it), and resort officials say there are plans to build a hotel. For now Barefoot offers one-, two- and three-bedroom golf villas for rent, from moderately priced to deluxe. Some are privately owned.

There are two clubhouse eateries and a new restaurant/sports bar, and Norman's Australian Grille is a short walk away.

2) Legends Resort, Myrtle Beach: Legends has three courses, Heathland, Moorland and Parkland. The resort also has affiliations with 10 other courses, the latest addition being TPC Myrtle Beach, and it is a co-owner of Barefoot, so those tracks are available as well.

Legends has two-bedroom, two-bath golf villas that aim for a "Scottish village" feel running along the Parkland course. Abetting the theme is the Ailsa Pub, inspired by the pub of same name at Turnberry. There's a lighted practice facility and plans in the works for a new conference center and health club.

3) Sea Trail Plantation, Sunset Beach, N.C.: Another three-course complex, Sea Trail's Dan Maples, Rees Jones and Willard Byrd designs are all classic resort tracks: all are, to use the industry euphemism, "player friendly."

You won't be cursing Pete Dye here, you'll just be cruising along on some easy, scenic courses in a pretty part of the Grand Strand where it inches into North Carolina.

Sea Trail has two clubhouses, lounges and restaurants, and a lighted driving range. One- to four-bedroom villas, all privately owned, are available along the Maples and Byrd courses. It's a family-style resort offering numerous non-golf activities (tennis, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, sauna, an exercise room) and plenty of outdoor recreational activities.

4) St. James Plantation, Southport, N.C.: This is actually a master-planned residential golf community, but it does have one- and two-bedroom condos and houses for rent, though the houses are unfurnished and available only for long-term visitors. There are also condos for rent at the marina.

St. James has four courses, including the Founders (formerly the Gauntlet), one of the toughest tracks on the Strand.

5) Brunswick Plantation Golf Resort, Calabash, N.C.: Brunswick's 1,400 acres offer indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center and the 19th Hole Restaurant, among other amenities. There are efficiencies and one- and two-bedroom condos for rent. The Magnolia, Azalea and Dogwood nines were all renovated last summer.

6) Myrtlewood Golf Club, Myrtle Beach: It's on the lower end of the resort pecking order, but there are many who enjoy the open fairways and little rough of Myrtlewood's Palmetto and Pinehills courses. This conveniently located resort offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas and has outdoor swimming pools and barbecue grills.

7) Wild Wing Plantation, Myrtle Beach: Wild Wing would rank much higher had it not been gutted by the developers. There used to be four courses here; only the Avocet remains in its entirety. The back halves of the Falcon and Wood Stork tracks have been combined into a second 18.

The resort has golf villas for rent, but it's too soon to tell what Wild Wing will look like in the future.

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Rees Jones' CourseHeathland

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.

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