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Myrtle Beach golf: In search of the Grand Strand's top signature hole

Brandon TuckerBy Brandon Tucker,
Managing Editor
Dunes Golf and Beach Club - Waterloo
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The "Waterloo" at Dunes Golf and Beach Club wraps around Lake Singleton and is considered Robert Trent Jones' first employment of a "signature hole." (Courtesy of Dunes Golf and Beach Club)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - Each golf trip has one: that special hole which leaves a lasting imprint in your noggin' long after you've returned home.

Myrtle Beach golf courses are chock full of them. And, interestingly enough, the concept of a "signature hole" is considered by many golf architecture historians to have been born in Myrtle Beach at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club. Robert Trent Jones' famous "Waterloo" hole, a par 5 that wraps around Lake Singleton just off the Atlantic Ocean, is the first known hole purpose built to stick out like a sore (well, a very scenic "sore") thumb.

Today's definition of a "signature hole" lies, depending on your tastes, somewhere between the best-designed, most drama-laden, most difficult or most scenic hole on any golf course.

There are roughly 100 golf courses in Myrtle Beach, and most of them have tried to employ their own offering as Myrtle Beach's best golf hole.

Here is just a sample of the headliners:

No. 6, King's North at Myrtle Beach National: Any worthy signature hole has a nickname. In this instance, No. 6 at King's North was christened by musician Kenny Rogers as "The Gambler," thanks to its island fairway that allows the hole to be played close to 100 yards shorter than the conventional dogleg left around the water. The shallow, peninsula green leaves little room for error both front, long and left. For some golfers, it makes their trip. Others call it "gimmicky," but no one deems it guilty of false advertising.

This isn't the only contender at King's North. The par-3 12th hole features an island green with "S" and "C" bunkers to the left, symbolizing "South Carolina," making it a popular favorite spot for aerial photographers.

No. 18, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club: Caledonia's 18th hole is the best closing hole on the Grand Strand thanks largely to its 19th hole.

The club has become infamous for its often rowdy back porch just steps off the 18th green. As players finish up their morning rounds, the porch fills up, and groups tend to stay here longer than most other clubhouses due to the entertainment provided by the 18th hole's approach shot: a long carry over water that sees one wet, embarrassing failure after another. Jeers and cheers echo off the porch long into late afternoon.

Of all the shots in the Grand Strand, this is the one that will most likely be watched by the most eyes and will certainly test your mettle.

No. 13, Pawleys Plantation: Pawleys' back nine hugs the marsh so close you'll always have the smell of saltwater in your nostrils. Both the par 3s on the back must carry marsh, but it's the short 13th's island green, with a miniscule putting surface jutting out into the marsh, that will have your group talking - or cursing.

And when the tide is out, you can see enough balls sitting in the muck to stock a golf shop for years.

No. 14, Grande Dunes' Resort Course: A handful of courses boast at least one striking hole along the bustling Intracoastal waterway, where anything from jet skis to fishing and luxury leisure boats pass by parallel golf holes at clubs like Arrowhead Country Club, Waterway Hills Golf Links and Myrtlewood Golf Club's Palmetto Course.

But the most distinctive is Grande Dunes' par-3 14th hole. It's a daring shot both over the waterway to a green perched to the left of it - up to 240 yards long if you're a gamer. A weak fade's only hope of finding dry surface is if it somehow lands on a shrimp boat.

No. 16, Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links: If your personal thesaurus has "signature" and "difficult" in the same entry, look no further than Glen Dornoch's 16th hole, which kicks off the North Strand's most sinister trio of finishing holes. It heads straight downhill towards the waterway. Depending on your length, a delicate layup is required to stay short of a perpendicular hazard.

The approach shot plays further downhill, to a green guarded left, right and back by the waterway. Often requiring a medium-to-long iron, few golfers move on to 17 with 4.

No. 6, Barefoot Resort, Love Course: Barefoot went out of its way here to leave a little something extra, recreating slave quarters behind the sixth green. In fact, the structure is so close to this drivable par 4, it isn't unheard of to actually fly the green with your drive, strike the structure and have it kick backwards onto the green.

While this structure is replicated, other courses have authentic plantation remnants. Willbrook Plantation is full of excavated slave ruins and even a cemetery. The Heritage Golf Club's 440-yard fourth is completely encircled with centuries-old oaks and a slave burial ground to the left of the green, which leaves little evidence of anytime later than the 18th century.

No. 18, Farmstead Golf Club: If "signature" means "longest," this hole is the hands-down winner. Those who haven't been to the Grand Strand aren't often aware that there are some golf courses that spill over across the border in North Carolina. But there is only one golf course that plays in both South and North Carolina and only one hole that plays in both. It's Farmstead's endless 767-yard par 6.

That's just a sample of some of the area's most vivid holes. But in the end, it comes down to what the golfer remembers when he's with his buddies a year later in the poker room and the topic of his "trip to Myrtle" comes up.

So what's yours?

More photos

King's North at Myrtle Beach NationalGrande Dunes Golf Course - No. 14

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 and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • MB

    Ron C Clair wrote on: Feb 24, 2009

    About 3 years ago, I made two trips to Myrtle Beach - my first and last. While the golf courses were OK to quite good, the town is a cow town/mill town or whatever. Heard a lot about it so checked it out. Pinehurst is a much, much better destination!


  • signature golf hole

    Charles O. Wilkie wrote on: Dec 10, 2008

    I would have to say that my signature golf hole of Myrtle Beach would be the 17th hole at Marsh Harbour, which I now understand is no longer there. The other one that stands out is the par 3 at Tidewater where you have to carry the water and the bulkheads along the inner bay.


  • Pawleys Plantation par 3s

    Larry wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

    The 13th at Pawleys is indeed worthy of recognition, but the 17th, played off the same "dike," is tougher, all carry to a green that is much wider than deep, with bulkhead and marsh at the green's front edge and OB stakes about 10 yards beyond the back of the green. Whereas the 13th requires a wedge or 9 iron, #17 is a mid- to longish iron. And the same wind that blows on 13 blows here as well. Toughest par 3 on the Strand.
    Larry, http://www.GolfCommunityReviews.com


  • A Few More...

    TomW. wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

    I would have to add the 9th at River's Edge and the 3rd and 4th and Tidewater if I was making this list. The 9th at River's Edge is a breathtaking part 5 along the Shallotte River, and features the gamble of hitting a second second over the marsh to a peninsula green.
    The 3rd, 4th and 13th at Tidewater...which play along and over the large salt flat with the Myrtle Beach skyline in the back, are gorgeous...


  • No. 6, King's North at Myrtle Beach National

    Gary Blenkhorn wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

    I played this course in 2007 and eagled the Gambler. It was a thrill of a lifetime for me. I have never had a hole-in-one but I feel this would rank right up there as a very close 2nd. A memory I will never forget
    The hospitality at the Myrtle Beach Nationals is next to none.


      • RE: No. 6, King's North at Myrtle Beach National

        Lee Fanning wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

        In 2003, myself (golf professional)and a playing partner (provincial amatuer champion) both made 3's on this hole, using the island fairway as our avenue. We returned in 2004 and proceeded to make 8 and 7 respectively, not using the island hole. It paid to gamble, I guess.


  • Myrtle Beach

    dakwray wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

    I made my first two trips to MB this year and both were major let downs. Customer service was non-existant, the courses were low quality. The heat and humidity were distracting. I think the bloom is off of this rose and MB is living on it's past glory. May it rest in peace for me.


      • RE: Myrtle Beach

        serge gagnon wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

        I don't know where you stay and what courses you play, but I think you are full of ..... I aggree some courses are not to good but in general, they are perfect. I can suggest you to go back once more to MB. and play the following courses : Arrowhead, Heritage, Long Bay, Pawley's Plantation, Dunes, Willbrooke Plantation. I just got back, three weeks ago, from MB. and I played those courses with great satisfaction. IF YOU DON'T LIKE PLAYING GOLF IN MB. STOP PLAYING GOLF RIGHT NOW.


          • RE: RE: Myrtle Beach

            dakwray wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

            I have stopped playing golf IN MYRTLE BEACH..I DID play Arrowhead and Willbrooke Plantation along with the National courses. Rivers Edge should be closed down. The greens were like mud! An embarassment of a golf course. Sea Trails-Maples couse was sans grass in many areas and the maintenance was poor. One of the main issues was the ridiculous policies at some courses...like no carts can be taken to the driving range. They wanted 70+year old players to carry their bags a quarter mile each way! This was when we were the only golfers at the course. Starters and cart men..not boys..were downright rude...even at MB National. You obviously have a different level of expectations.


              • RE: RE: RE: Myrtle Beach

                Nick wrote on: Feb 5, 2009

                Wow I am somewhat surprised to read this. I am about to go to Myrtle for our 3rd trip and the previous 2 have been stellar. Maybe the problem is YOUR level of expectation, the courses we have played have all been fantastic 8 different courses so far and this trip will be 4 more different ones. As for your winning about the hear and humidity, exactly how is this Myrtle's fault and not yours for going during a time of year where that would be an issue. I'm sorry but heat and humidity are not isolated to the Myrtle area, I live in southwestern Ontario and in the summer the heat and humidity can be killer. As for the carts to the practise area, exactly what course required this of you because out of the 8 I have played that has never been a problem. You seem to be a whiner!


  • Myrtle Beach Signature Holes

    JB wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

    How can we ever forget the par 5 17th at Marsh Harbour, leapfrogging from point to point to green. For years, this was the most photographed hole in MB.


      • RE: Myrtle Beach Signature Holes

        serge gagnon wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

        I agree with you, this course was fantastic. Somepromoters should re-open this course with another course: Ocean Harbour. I played those two courses several times and was never disappointed. I played over 70 courses in MB. and those two where part of the best courses.


      • RE: Myrtle Beach Signature Holes

        John Wheatley wrote on: Nov 4, 2008

        I agree with you on this hole. There were several holes that were awesome at Marsh Harbour. I had my only hole-in-one on the par 3 15th. It too required a carry over marsh to the green. Too bad we will never get to play them again.


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