Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | In 2017, Myrtle Beach Golf Trips and the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel joined forces to craft the most objective hole-by-hole analysis the area had ever seen. Dubbed “The Perfect Round”, it identified the best 18 holes the Grand Strand had to offer. Several courses placed multiple holes on the list. However, the designers who placed holes from different tracks into The Perfect Round were limited to Pete Dye and Mike Strantz - two of the upper echelon designers of their time.
And Dan Maples.
His opener at Willbrook Plantation and Heritage Plantation’s No. 14 each made the cut. What’s more, they did so 28 years and 31 years, respectively, after those courses originally opened for business. These weren’t simply flashy and newer options; Maples designed courses that would prove themselves for years to come.
“At the risk at hyperbole, you could make a case that Maples is as influential of an architect that has been here,” said Chris King, a longtime contributor for Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday. “He designed a lot of the north strand. They were in the mid-1980s time frame when Myrtle Beach’s growth really started. Maples’ courses were at the center of that, in my opinion. He was about volume, but there was a lot of quality there, too.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, Maples was responsible for nine designs in the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan area and five on the South Carolina side of the state line. In addition to Willbrook and Heritage, he was also tasked with the concepts at the Mystical Golf trio of The Witch Golf Club, Man O’ War Golf Club and The Wizard Golf Club. With all five of those, Maples played a consistent game of give and take, finding ways to push players to their limits before easing off some to allow them to get their feet back under them.He may have done that the best at Willbrook, where No. 1 is frequently regarded as one of the toughest and most scenic openers along the Grand Strand.
“No. 2 gets a little softer. No. 3 is an easy par 5. And then it starts to get hard again,” Willbrook Head Golf Professional and General Manager Kevin McGuire said. “If you screw up, he gets your head back in the game. And then he challenges you a little more. If you screw up again, he gives you a couple easy ones. You kind of meander through here and before you know it, you had a good day even if you had a couple bad holes.”
DAN MAPLES’ GRAND STRAND DESIGNS
Course: Heritage Plantation
City: Pawleys Island
Year opened: 1986
Notable: With more than 600 acres of former rice fields to work with, Maples tied the True Blue and Midway Plantations together to form a true Lowcountry course. Live oaks dating back three centuries spot the landscape adjacent to the Waccamaw River.
Course: Willbrook Plantation
City: Pawleys Island
Year opened: 1988
Notable: Willbrook blends golf with its deep past, as this former working plantation recognizes its time during and after slavery days. Historical markers are spread throughout the grounds, identifying what made this land what it is today.
Course: The Witch Golf Club
Year opened: 1989
Notable: Owner Claude Pardue swears by Maples’ work, and the architect proved his abilities right off the bat with The Witch. The course is frequently rated as one of the best plays for the money in the entire area.
Course: Man O’ War Golf Club
City: Myrtle Beach
Year opened: 1995
Notable: Designed around an 80-acre lake, Man O’ War has visible water from every single hole. The course, along with The Wizard, is buried in the middle of the Carolina Forest section of Myrtle Beach, just west of city limits.
Course: The Wizard Golf Club
City: Myrtle Beach
Year opened: 1996
Notable: Maples cut The Wizard out of the once-tree-heavy swatch of land, but this was no forest. Extensive mounding and other elevation changes create plenty of blind tee shots and a true links feel.