GOLF DESTINATIONS

Brunswick County's Five "Must-Play" Courses

by Shane Sharp, Contributing Writer

River's Edge

Rivers Edge opened in 1998, and golfers haven't stopped talking about it yet. Arnold Palmer's design team laid out the course along the Shallotte River, one of the most enviable settings in the Grand Strand. The first seven holes play through the inland stretches of the property, and the eighth and ninth holes begin the march out to the river. The par five ninth has become one of the most talked about holes in Myrtle Beach. The second shot has to be drawn (ideally) onto a little sliver of land that poses as a fairway. The green is equally narrow, and the small galleries hanging out on the porch of the clubhouse will typically applaud an approach shot that reaches the putting surface. The back nine plays around the river, and is arguably one of the best backsides at the beach. Call 877-River18.

Tiger's Eye

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Ocean Ridge Plantation's "crown jewel", Tiger's Eye, opened to outstanding reviews in March of 2000, and has since emerged as one of the beach's top tracks. The course was designed by former Willard Byrd associate, Tim Cate, and is a sensational blend of traditional design principles and modern nuances. Tiger's Eye features over 40 feet of elevation changes, surreal waste bunkering, immaculate bentgrass greens that Cate himself described as "wet, warped plywood", and a championship caliber test from the back tees that puts the course in a class with Cate's Players Club at St. James Plantation. Call 800-233-1801.

Oyster Bay

This Dan Maples design is one of the most scenic layouts in Brunswick County golf. Oyster Bay is a classic marshland course that winds through the Intracoastal Waterway and features some of the best views provided by a golf course in the entire county. The course features two island green par 3's and more lakes than you can shake a ball retriever at. Call 800-530-1875.

Marsh Harbor

Quintessential Brunswick County course, featuring Carolina hardwoods, marshland, and even a few elevation changes. Numerous directional changes make this a shotmakers course. The par five seventeenth hole has been dubiously dubbed as "marvelously terrifying." The drivable par four 18th is one of the most dramatic finishing holes at the beach. Marsh Harbor is considered by many golfers to be the most scenic course in the entire Grand Strand, with the course conditions to match. Call 800-530-1875.

The Thistle

The Thistle is a Tim Cate designed fusion of Low Country plantation course and Scottish Links that took Brunswick County by storm in March of 1999. The course is considered by many locals to be the best inland layout in the North Strand. The Thistle features elevated tees, artfully mounded fairways and behemoth bentgrass greens. The South nine opened to rave reviews in the summer of 2000, and features one of the best new holes in the Grand Strand - the par three ninth. The Thistle has also earned a reputation as one of the best-conditioned courses in the Grand Strand. If you blink during the fall and spring transition to and from Bermuda and Rye grass on the fairways and tee boxes, you'll miss it. If you line up a putt correctly and properly judge its speed on the Thistle's true rolling bentgrass greens, you won't miss it. Call 800-571-6710.

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