Story by Ian Guerin
Rankings get us excited.
We see which golf courses are getting the big nods, and we do what we can to get to those respective tracks. The only problem with the updated ratings panels releases - if there truly is one - is that we tend to forget about yesterday’s honorees. Our minds drift toward the next great thing, losing touch with the fact reasons existed for the prior awards.
The Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association has spent the last four decades recognizing the best golf South Carolina’s Grand Strand has to offer. It judges the quality of the golf course, quality of the management and ownership, contribution to the game of golf and contribution to the community.
Are there better perceived courses listed than some of the most recent honorees? Sure. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded group of tracks than what the MBGCOA has already laid out in front of you over the last half-dozen years.
Each has its own personality, and when combined with the others as part of a week-long golfing spree, would add a dynamic boost to memory bank.
Originally using the name Sea Gull Golf Club upon its 1966 opening, Founders Club was full renovated beginning in 2006 and re-cast under its new moniker for 2008. Immediately, the invigorated club brought some more clout to an already beefed up south Strand golf scene. The sand-heavy course was also earned Top-30 Best You Can Play honors from the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel in each of its first two eligible years.
Always a top draw in the Myrtle Beach market, Dunes actually took the MBGCOA’s honor and rolled it into a major renovation the following year, with Rees Jones taking the reins. The greens were converted to Ultradwarf Champion Bermuda and approximately 250 yards was added to the already impressive championship tees. The area’s second-oldest course positioned itself as a leader in the area for years to come.
Not that the folks at Barefoot were complaining about the distinguished ranking in 2013, but it has been clear since the course opened in 2000 that it was going to earn a who’s who of awards year in and year out. Pete Dye’s lone solo design in Myrtle Beach perfectly blends risks and rewards while matching the native grasses with five sets of grass on the playing surfaces.
Pete Dye’s youngest son, P.B., followed his father on the MBGCOA’s list with his layout at the ever-popular Legends complex midway between Conway and Myrtle Beach off U.S. 501. Elevation changes that confound the rest of the local terrain, extreme bunkering throughout and a true target-golf design tests players of all skill levels.
No course in Myrtle Beach came back from the dead quite like River Oaks. During a range of years in which some of the bottom feeder tracks were being plowed for housing or left to look like the apocalypse has started, new ownership shifted perception in a very short number of years. The surface was cleaned up, trees were removed to increase playability and management went to work showing locals this economic option was back and better than ever.
Certainly a nod to the course’s 50th anniversary celebration - which took place in November of 2016 - Litchfield’s place on this list was also recognition of how change doesn’t always equate to success. Willard Byrd’s original 1966 layout remains almost full in-tact, with dogleg after dogleg decreasing distances and the amount of acreage the course needed in its spot just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean.