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Myrtle Beach golf by design: Play the Grand Strand's biggest names

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
King's North at Myrtle Beach National
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Arnold Palmer has his own facility at Myrtle Beach National, highlighted by the striking King's North. (Brandon Tucker/WorldGolf.com)

Most big-name golf course architects have at least one course in Myrtle Beach. Here's a look at the Grand Strand's biggest names in design, including Nicklaus, Palmer, Dye, Fazio and more.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Golf architecture aficionados - or simple name-droppers - are sure to find their fill of celebrity-designed golf courses in Myrtle Beach.

As a golf destination, the Grand Strand came to fruition long after the golden age of Donald Ross and Alister Mackenzie courses, but as of the late 1980s, design icons like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio have all contributed two or more area golf courses.

At each of their upscale golf courses, you'll find four-star facilities, conditions and innovative designs - not to mention glossy photos of the architect - or even a bronzed statue (Palmer at Myrtle Beach National).

Here's a look at the top names in design and their contributions to Myrtle Beach golf.

Pete Dye: The Dye-abolical one has two stern tests in Myrtle Beach. The semi-private Dye Barefoot is ranked by most as the third best of four at the resort, behind the Love and Fazio. It's plenty difficult with no gimmie pars here. Difficult par 3s and an overwhelming amount of waste bunkering and water hazards define the course. The brutal finishing stretch is a Dye trademark as well.

Dye also designed Prestwick Country Club, just south of Myrtle Beach, which also has a reputation of being one of the toughest in the area. It features contrasting nines, a forested front and an open, links-style back. You'll discover a Scottish flair here as the name implies, and also encounter "church pew" bunkers and 10,000 railroad ties.

Jack Nicklaus: The Golden Bear has courses on opposite ends of the Grand Strand. Pawleys Plantation on the south end helped usher in Myrtle Beach's upscale golf reputation when it debuted in 1988. It plays tightly (a little too tightly) through real estate on the front nine before opening up along the saltwater marshes on the gorgeous back side. The par-3 13th and 17th are among the most scenic coastal holes in the southeast.

The Long Bay Club to the north on Highway 9 isn't on as stunning a piece of property as Pawleys, but is one of the toughest courses in Myrtle Beach thanks to challenging green complexes. Nicklaus punishes misses to the short side here with tricky green shapes and loads of steep bunkers. The 10th hole, with a giant, horseshoe waste bunker wrapping around the fairway has become one of Myrtle Beach's most photographed holes.

Tom Doak: Doak has become the poster-child for "pure links golf" with his triumph at Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon and the stunning Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand. At the Legends Resort off Highway 501, the property he was given was far less memorable.

"The Legends was almost dead flat to begin with, and we had to move a fair amount of earth just to get the site to drain properly," said Doak. So his firm went in and molded their own links landscape. "After that, the goal was to imitate some of the great holes on British links courses, and to do so we created some big ‘dunes' to vary the appearance of the holes."

Doak also contributed to the Parkland course at Legends, which is molded after the style of Alister Mackenzie.

Arnold Palmer: Palmer has his own three-course facility at Myrtle Beach National. The main draw is King's North, which features all the staples of an upscale resort course: memorable, dramatic, playable and also one of the prettiest courses that doesn't rely on the Intracoastal Waterway or saltwater marshes. The other two courses here, South Creek and the West Course, are mid-1970s designs that are solid, value-oriented back-ups.

Outside of M.B.N., Palmer built River's Edge, which sits north of the border in Brunswick County. Its riverfront property is gorgeous, running along the Shallotte River.

Mike Strantz: Strantz designed two Grand Strand courses before passing away in 2005 from cancer at the all-too-soon age of 50. Caledonia Golf & Fish Club was Strantz's first solo design and instantly shot him to national prominence due to his seamless, natural artistic shaping of the land. Though built in the mid-90s, Caledonia already possesses the timeless atmosphere of a Lowcountry classic.

True Blue showcases Strantz's wilder side, full of sharp edges and distorted angles.

"After the success of Caledonia, the owners sort of gave Strantz 'carte blanche' on True Blue," said head pro Bob Seganti. True Blue was redesigned to become more forgiving to high-handicappers just two years after opening. Today, it has some of the widest fairways (and most penal waste bunkers) in the Grand Strand.

Robert Trent Jones Sr.: Only two of the Dean of Golf Course Architecture's 500-plus courses are in the Grand Strand.

The Dunes Club is widely considered to be Myrtle Beach's signature course - one of its oldest built in 1949. This former host to a Senior PGA event is challenging and scenic, sitting just off the ocean. Jones oversaw an extensive renovation in 1992 that put the Dunes Club back among America's top courses to stay.

Nearby is Waterway Hills, a shorter, 27-hole golf facility with small greens and tight fairways. Its main draw is the two gorgeous holes sitting right along the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway and a most unusual cable car that shuttles golfers from the parking lot over the waterway to the clubhouse.

Tom Fazio: "Mr. Big Budget" has two area designs. The Barefoot Fazio is an over-the-top resort course with all of the flash you'd expect from a Fazio signature, including mammoth bunkers, heavily-shaped fairways and greens and always stunning vistas.

The TPC of Myrtle Beach, which Fazio built with the aid of tour pro Lanny Wadkins, is a little flatter and less of an epic, though with all the high drama and difficultly you might expect from any TPC.

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Heathland at Legend's ResortCaledonia Golf & Fish Club
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Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker.

 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • fazio course at Barefoot

    joseph guancione wrote on: Sep 23, 2007

    Your characterization of his course at Barefoot completely missed the mark. I played ALL 4 courses in August and found his course to be the most fun and scenic. I used every one of the clubs in my bag. Your game obviously could not handle his unique design, and the way he used the land. Every employee at Barefoot, especially the guys in the pro shop, rave about this course and it is the one they usually play........

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    Bill wrote on: Sep 15, 2007

    I'd like to contact Brandon Tucker. Please provide his email address and phone number. Thanks
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