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Bring Out the Best: Biggest Challenges to Test Your Game at the End of Your Golfing Calendar Year

Pawleys Plantation Golf Club

Story By Ian Guerin

The joy of victory is great, but the agony of defeat can, well, suck.

As prestigious as some courses are, those players lacking even moderate skill can quickly find themselves hating Myrtle Beach’s ultra-challenging tracks. Some of the biggest names on the design circuit flexed their muscles some here, and their creativity can test even the seasoned players among us.

So remember to not extend the tee box selection, and - in some cases - know that novices need not apply.

DUNES GOLF & BEACH CLUB, MYRTLE BEACH

Robert Trent Jones’ original design from the 1940s and 1950s has been touched up significantly throughout the years. Little added the impressive touch as 2013’s renovations, when 250 additional yards pushed the championship tees back to 7,450. Many try to overplay their abilities for bragging purposes, only to be left with reason to enroll in lessons at their earliest convenience. Even some of the lower tee boxes have ravaged scorecards for decades.

PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB, PAWLEYS ISLAND

Few will argue that Jack Nicklaus forgot that most folks didn’t have his ability when it came to his layout at one of the Grand Strand’s southernmost courses. Take the second hole, for instance, where 408 yards from the whites equates to the No. 1 handicap. Heavy tree lines, wind-affect par 3s next to marshes and even a hole with a tree set smack dab in the middle of the fairway follow from there. 

PRESTWICK COUNTRY CLUB, MYRTLE BEACH

Prestwick has one of the ultimate names in golf attached to it. The only local joint effort between Pete and P.B. Dye is about as pretty as they come, and as the folks affiliated with the course like to point out, it isn’t like Pete took a few holes and P.B. handled the rest. No, together, they each added their combined M.O. Some of the fairways drop off onto lower tiers, natural grasses cut across others and some pot bunkers rear their ugly heads. If you’re a first-timer and not at the top of your game, a triple-digit score is normal.

RIVER CLUB, PAWLEYS ISLAND

One of the great aspects of River Club is that Tom Jackson’s signature design includes a virtual air conditioning system in terms of large ponds and streams that cut around or through 14 of the 18 holes here. What’s not so fantastic for some is all that water tends to have a magnetic affect for golf balls. When the wet stuff isn’t affecting the shots off the tee box, front-side bunkers are basically killing any chance of bump-and-run golf. You’ll need some touch with the irons to be successful here.

TRUE BLUE PLANTATION, PAWLEYS ISLAND

The sister course of the famed Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, True Blue was the ownership’s second venture into the game. They brought back Mike Strantz, who decided to add a few more gut punches here and there, at least compared to his neighboring Caledonia. Artistic waste bunkers, giants ponds, slender fairways and sloping greens make a course previously named as one of America’s top 100 tracks also one of the area’s most consistently toughest rounds, regardless of season.

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