By Ian Guerin
Call them underrated, undervalued or even under-appreciated.
We call them five of the Grand Strand’s “Best Bang for the Buck.”
A number of golf courses in and around Myrtle Beach are seemingly custom-made for those coordinating a trip on a budget. All the while, no one is left feeling like it was a trek to play a handful of bottom feeders.
Price is taken into consideration - it has to, right? - but this isn’t a list of the cheapest courses in the area. Instead, these are ones where you drive away from the clubhouse knowing it was worth every dollar.
Long Bay Golf Club, Longs (pictured, right)
Long Bay’s difficult design and reasonable price tag can make it that much more rewarding. Jack Nicklaus combined significant elevation changes with pot bunkers and shallow greens, creating virtual depth issues on every hole.
Players can concentrate on those trouble spots because of great turf and low traffic. Simultaneously, they can focus on the picturesque setting, one highlighted by the linear pond up the left on No. 9, the waste-bunkered No. 10, an island green on 13 and dogleg around the aforementioned pond on the finishing hole.
Legends Golf & Resort Heathland Course, Myrtle Beach
Twenty-five years after Heathland opened, there still isn’t a course in the area that matches this one.
On the canvas of land that was sitting here, architect Tom Doak separated Heathland from the adjoining Parkland and Moorland tracks by giving it a Scottish feel. Instead of massive trees - save for Nos. 5 and 6 - thick rough just off rolling fairways makes missing your target costly.
Oh, and did we mention the crosswinds? The par-71 Heathland is known for the prevalent breeze, one that can affect every single shot off the tee.
Litchfield Country Club, Pawleys Island (pictured, left)
Litchfield isn’t the oldest course around. But after nearly 50 years, it’s relevance to the Waccamaw Golf Trail and the sport’s growth in the area is undeniable.
Consistency can have that effect.
Dogleg after dogleg made up for a fairly small amount of usable space for Willard Byrd’s design. At the same time, wide landing areas and less-than-scary distances (regardless of tees) were built into the old rice plantation.
That’s how the course opened in 1966, and it’s how it remains today.
West Course at Myrtle Beach National, Myrtle Beach
About the only thing holding back the perception of the West Course is the fact that it shares the neighborhood with the highly esteemed King’s North.
Most believe it would be just fine as a freestanding plot.
Locals have used West as their home course for decades. They appreciate extremely reliable conditions that don’t ebb and flow with the seasons. Hot or cold, the surface under your golf shoes is going to be about the same.
Arnold Palmer threw in a few quirks - the par 3 No. 18, for instance - helping carve out the course’s stellar reputation.
Possum Trot Golf Club, North Myrtle Beach
The Russell Breeden-designed Possum Trot always finds itself included in rankings germane to this list.
The friendly 18 holes spawn quick rounds. What’s more, the opening four holes, where two straightforward par 5s are located, can feel even more like you’re traveling through the barrel of a gun. Players frequently approach the midway point of the front nine in less than 40 minutes. After the quick start, take a breath and pace yourself through the ensuing holes. They’ve earned the nicknames like “T’ain’t Easy”, “No Mercy” and “Oh No” for a reason.
Ian Guerin is a DJ and freelance writer living in Myrtle Beach, S.C. His golf game ebbs and flows like the Atlantic, and he once did the worm after breaking 90 at a top-100 course. You can follow him on Twitter @iguerin.