Story by Ian Guerin
The personality of a golf course can be seen through its design, attention to detail and quality of its parts - moving and non-moving.
Replace “golf course” with “NFL team,” and the same is true.
Each fall, professional football and the links intertwine more than some realize. There are early Sunday morning shootouts that lead back to clubhouses for watch parties and tournaments where players are asked to don the colors and logos of their favorite teams.
We’re going to take it one step further. The flavor of many of the Grand Strand’s courses mirror those of at least one professional team.
The New England Patriots are perennial Super Bowl contenders, and at times, they just seem to be working under a different set of rules (insert Spygate and/or Deflategate jokes here). Either way, from the ground up, the team continues to find innovative methods to reload, building through the draft and free agency. Now look at what The Dunes Club has done with a major 2000 renovation and a pair of projects in the early 2010s. The simultaneous push is coincidental; the high-brow feel of the course and professional team are not.
Like the Arizona Cardinals’ run in the Grand Canyon State, Founders’ original moniker did not match the current one. Be it the Phoenix Cardinals or Sea Gulf Golf Club, the names were changed and a significant restructuring occurred that led to better times.
But the biggest similarity between NFL franchise and the course may be all that sand. Throughout a round at Founders, especially during the hottest months of the year, players have a better understanding of what it would be like to play in a desert.
Two relative newcomers have found prosperity by following a clear path. At Grande Dunes, the spectacular views of the Intracoastal Waterway rival those provided by the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton. The ultra-reliable playing conditions on the course are Luke Kuechly in grass form. And the Roger Rulewich Group design is every bit as steady as Jerry Richardson’s leadership of his team.
A few hundred media outlets have chronicled the reasons behind the Pittsburgh Steelers’ national fan base. In short, it centered around the collapse of the steel industry there, and its hometown fans spreading around the country looking for other work while retaining their football roots. (All those Steelers’ bars in Myrtle Beach make more sense now?)
The incredible popularity of Legends is also not locked into one locale, and for many of the same reasons. The Heathland, Moorland and Parkland courses provide a high-quality product with a blue-collar price tag that helped both sides navigate the market. Enough locals and visitors play here that the towels attached to each bag might as well be yellow.
Jack Nicklaus’ Long Bay layout isn’t always kind. There’s no way around it. The Golden Bear inserted diabolical hazards and messed with depth perception via elevation differences, especially around the greens. The same preventative measures are offered up by the Seattle Seahawks, an NFL squad that has led the league in defense three times in the last five years and finished in the top four every season during that span.
Age is not the only aspect of Pine Lakes Country Club connecting it to the Green Bay Packers. Sure, the Granddaddy and Cheeseheads are the oldest members of their respective brotherhoods. When it comes to success, though, they both have plenty to boast.
Pine Lakes, the Myrtle Beach area’s first course, opened in 1927 and has continued to develop itself in new ways to keep it in the best of the beach conversations. Up in Wisconsin, the Pack have done the same, winning 10 NFL titles and 13 overall championships.
More than the color scheme unites True Blue and the New York Giants. Surrounded by courses that frequently take center stage with ratings panels or national reviewers, the Mike Strantz design sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. When that does happen, the mistake doesn’t last long, and like the G-Men tend to do from time to time, it can knock down some of the other big boys a peg or two.