Story by Ian Guerin
What makes a great golf course can be debated, and beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.
For many, a reason to keep the camera or smart phone handy, however, is what pushes some courses over the top. Regardless of cost, some courses simply have a put more effort into framing their picturesque settings front and center for all to see.
Here are five scene stealers that can’t be ignored, even when the scores aren’t shaping up how you hoped.
Naysayers tired of seeing Caledonia pop up on lists such as this one bring up the money and the existing environment designer Mike Strantz was given to play with after the owners elected to add golf to their already spectacular location. Much like a football team scoring 60 points, until someone prevents Caledonia from earning it reputation, it’s going to keep happening. The former plantation land was crafted into one of South Carolina’s best golf courses, in part because of the sweet look from start to finish. That perception isn’t likely to change any time soon.
So few courses can say they touch one of the area’s two primary bodies of water. And while the glamour of the Atlantic Ocean built Myrtle Beach into what it is, the Intracoastal Waterway had much to do with sustaining growth. Glen Dornoch played off that wonderfully, putting a number of its holes parallel to perpendicular to the Waterway. In fact, after heading toward it on the Par 3 No. 17, the length of the Par 4 18th plays alongside one of the busiest stretches, complete with views of some of the largest boats on their way out to sea.
Jack Nicklaus’ course on the south end of the Strand may be too difficult for some. But even for those in that category, the views at Pawleys Plantation keep bringing players back over and over again. From the tree-lined opener to some oversized waste bunkers, especially on the front nine, to the the 115-yard par 3 at No. 13, to the finish on 18 in front of the clubhouse, the course swells with pride at its look. Add in some of the magnificent marshland in front, behind and in the middle of some of the holes, and Pawleys Plantation has a true Lowcountry presence.
First-time visitors here may not know to take notice of Nos. 5, 10, 13 and 16. That’s because those are the only four holes at River Club where water isn’t either directly in play or adjacent to the surface. And it doesn’t take a seasoned photographer to recognize what all that wet stuff does for the eye. The contrast of all that magnificent green and blue makes the course pop as much as it affects shot selection. The Tom Jackson design uses all of that while building toward an iconic No. 18, which crescents around a large body of water giving players one last chance to see why the course’s name makes so much sense.
Not all that long ago, Wild Wing proved that addition by subtraction can very much improve playability and sustainability, not to mention beauty. The once-four-course property trimmed down to 27 holes, the full Avocet and Hummingbird Nine. To say that the remaining course and a half is immensely better is probably underselling it some, especially on Avocet. The 18 holes there provide clear views of the well-maintained property, starting with the massive clubhouse and bar and grill, and finishing off with scores of wildlife that call the area home.