Story by Ian Guerin
On the heels of a major anniversary for the first Myrtle Beach golf course, others in the area are getting ready for key anniversaries of their own in 2018.
One year after Pine Lakes Country Club celebrated 90 years, several courses that help bolster South Carolina’s Grand Strand golfing mecca are preparing to crack open a bottle or two of champagne for their own milestones. Below are some of the most notable of the bunch, along with the biggest reasons many of them stand out all these years after their respective openings.
In some form or another, all of these are planning discounted rates and/or individual celebrations to mark their relative longevity.
And courtesy of their staying power, they’ve all earned the right to do just that.
FOUNDERS CLUB AT PAWLEYS ISLAND
Those who know the history of the south end of the Myrtle Beach area may wonder why this course is included in this list.
Those who truly understand it know Founders Club belongs right here.
Originally opened in 1966 as Sea Gull Golf Club, Founders put its business on hold, bulldozed its entire property and then re-opened in 2008 as something that looked nothing like its original product. Among the biggest changes were a flip of the nines and the addition of more sand than anyone would have thought possible, even for a course so close to the Atlantic Ocean.
“Sea Gull was a very flat golf course. When they remodeled, the goal was to modernize the course. They moved roughly 270,000 cubic feet of dirt to create elevation changes, mounding and sloping fairways,” general manager Eric Glosick said. “As in life, change and adaptation promotes survival. The renovation created a truly unique, championship style course along the Grand Strand. The mounding, elevation changes and waste bunkers are what make this course unique.”
So, 10 years after Founders Club’s reset its foundation, the anniversary will feel just right.
TRUE BLUE GOLF CLUB
True Blue Golf Club so frequently gets conversationally paired with its big brother, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. And while the two share nearby land in Pawleys Island, owners and even the same designer (Mike Strantz), the most notable of the bunch may be that the younger of the duo is about to also celebrate its 20th anniversary while maintaining its status among the area’s elite.
“The golf courses are so dramatically different in design and scope of properties that we
believe individually they would stand on their own and be competitive in the Myrtle Beach area,” True Blues Director of Golf Operations Bob Seganti said.
“I would guess that only approximately 25 percent of our guests know that Mike Strantz designed True Blue (or Caledonia). However, those 25 percent are very loyal and appreciative of Mike’s work here in Pawley’s Island and at his other designs.”
In 2018, True Blue will take a similar approach to honoring its two decades, utilizing roll-back pricing for certain days of the week - for greens fees, items in the pro shop and even at the grill.
AVOCET COURSE AT WILD WING GOLF PLANTATION
Wild Wing’s once-sprawling mega-property actually opened for business in 1991, and it celebrated its property’s silver anniversary in 2016. However, that could have been considered a dry run of sorts.
The Avocet course, the lone full 18-hole course remaining there, opened in 1993. Eventually, it was the one selected to stave off elimination (with nine holes from two of the others combined to add a nine-hole boost to the existing property).
And believe us when we say they’ve been put to great use.
“As far as playability, the course itself has maintained consistent conditions throughout the years,” General Manager Rick Schultz said. “When this course was built in 1993, it seemed like architects were trying to make the courses a little more difficult in terms of the lengths and the terrain of the golf course. Still, we get positive reviews on a daily basis because of the wetlands and there are no homes on it. That’s kind of unique in the Myrtle Beach area.”
The course is looking into commemorative products close what it had in 2016, when all four of the original logos from Avocet, Hummingbird, Woodstork and Falcon courses were featured on hats that quickly sold out of stock.
PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB, LONG BAY GOLF CLUB
Back in 1988, not one, but two Jack Nicklaus courses opened for business in Myrtle Beach. The Golden Bear’s layouts at Pawleys Plantation and Long Bay were built to mimic the type of toughness Nicklaus was known for while giving the regular player a chance to showcase his or her talents on a course affiliated with one of the biggest names to ever affect the game.
“We are proud to acknowledge, display and be known as a Jack Nicklaus designed course,” Pawleys Plantation General Manager Phil Cappel said. “The design of the course, with views overlooking the marshes and incorporating the live oaks on the plantation presents a beautiful background for golfers.”
The South Strand course has exceeded expectations, in part because of its distance from the center of the Myrtle Beach market. And if that’s true there, it certainly is at Long Bay, too. Located along the northernmost east-west thoroughfare, Long Bay’s staying power means even more given its non-centralized location.
“A lot of credit needs to be given to Mr. Nicklaus for the longevity of The Long Bay Club, but not by name alone,” Long Bay General Manager Joe Dipre said. “What he designed here is truly special. The course itself is a challenging but fair, which attracts repeat customers, a consistent member base, and the attraction of new play. When you add his name and add a couple great ownership teams and staff throughout the years, you end up having a successful golf course for 30 years.”
WILLBROOK GOLF PLANTATION
A few years after Willbrook opened in 1988, an area-specific boon of courses followed suit. They’d eventually become known as the Waccamaw Golf Trail, a conglomerate of 11 options south of Myrtle Beach city limits that provided some of the best courses the area has known.
Willbrook was the third to open, following only Litchfield Country Club and Heritage Plantation, and it’s commitment to turf and customer-service excellence pushed the property’s centuries-old land to new heights in what was about to become a saturated local market.
“Although we do have a great deal of history on the course and guests regularly comment about it, I believe the success Willbrook has achieved and maintains is through the hard work and dedication of our grounds crew and the golf staff,” Head Golf Professional Kevin McGuire said. “Our conditions are consistently among the best in the area and our constant commitment to the highest levels of customer satisfaction and service are what set us apart from the competition.”
BEACHWOOD GOLF CLUB
Kevin Lawson mentions Beachwood Golf Club’s de facto motto of “keep it simple.” As the club prepares to reach its golden anniversary in 2018, the course’s mission is still very much working.
“Our owners back in 1968 had the vision and foresight to build a golf course that was fun to play for golfers of all skill levels, but especially for the average golfer,” General Manager Kevin Lawson said. “They knew that Myrtle Beach would become a major vacation spot for the East Coast and they wanted a golf course that people could play and enjoy without taking all day.”
In other words, Beachwood was designed, opened and maintained as a course for everyone. Appealing to all types of players was great for marketing, and an idea that not all courses subscribed to for much of the Myrtle Beach’s golf growth arc. The customer base grew alongside the increased population in the market, leaving more and more players who had experienced the course to spread the word of it to wherever they came.
DUNES GOLF & BEACH CLUB
Just how important is the rich history of Dunes Golf & Beach Club?
In 2018, as the area’s second-ever course will be celebrating 70 years, only a small number of members will be invited for a fall party. That’s because the owners and its staff will be saving up for 2023, when Dunes will be toasting its diamond anniversary.
Still, exactly what 70 means for Dunes - originally designed by Robert Trent Jones and recently touched up by Rees Jones - and its place in the Grand Strand golf scene won’t be ignored.
“Clearly, the golf course has remained relevant in the golf industry throughout time and is a strong test to any level of golfer,” Dunes head golf professional Dennis Nicholl said. “However, what is most impressive is the longevity of the membership with many current members being third generation families from our founding fathers. This stability has allowed the Dunes Club to survive the ups and downs of the economy, weather the fluctuations in the golf industry over the decades and continue to provide the fantastic amenities the Dunes Club members expect.”