Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Errant shots can add to the frustration of a round. Recovering from them can increase the feelings of accomplishment. Just outside city limits at Myrtle Beach National, the West Course is a constant reminder that players who may not have their best day off the tee can still score well. The fairways are safe, mind you, but sprayers and hook-shot artists don’t need to fret too much. Basically, the West Course can have many players feeling like Tigers Woods during the 2018 PGA Championship.
“If you come to a place like this, you want to have a chance to score,” Colorado resident John Martin said during a recent visit to his old home in the area. “If you hit a really bad shot, yeah, maybe you’ll be out of bounds. But if it’s just a middle-of-the-road, not-your-best (type of shot), you’ll have an opportunity to recover. It makes it a lot more enjoyable, especially for a recreational golfer like me.”
OK, so maybe not quite like Tiger. But still, what Martin discovered during his earlier trips to the course and got a steady reminder of during his latest is that the West Course was designed and then kept up to promote consistency and reward solid play without tricks. Of the 16 holes in which water is present, only three of those hazards shape shot selection or can even really turn into trouble. There are four significant doglegs - three that fall the back nine - as well as very few fairway sand traps.
Oh, and did we mention there essentially isn’t a view of a single house throughout?
“The generously wide fairways and minimal hazards, paired with a traditional treeline design, makes it very playable for all skill levels,” head golf professional Ryan Ruddy said. “We believe that the West Course is such a fan favorite due to the right amount of distance and doglegs, accessible large greens, lack of houses and a gimmick-free approach to the game. It is a simple, effective design that doesn't beat you up.”
Quite the opposite, as even on the busiest (or rare cart-path-only) days, rounds are crisp and quick. Scooting through the 18 holes here in four hours is almost expected since chasing lost balls or figuring out a way to get out of trouble isn’t common. “It’s a fun golf course. I liked the fact that I could hit some really good shots. When I did, I was sitting there at the right place,” Martin said. “With all the variety, it made it a lot more fun. It wasn’t just straight out; there were doglegs in certain places where you had to hit a little different shot. For me, I enjoy those kinds of courses.”
WEST FINALE FURTHER SETS IT APART
With 90 or so courses up and down South Carolina’s Grand Strand coastline, finding ways to differentiate a course is at a premium. The West Course managed to do it with the clean design, but then gives players one more reminder of its focused layout before players head for the exits. With the 165-yard No. 18, the seldom-used decision to utilize a par 3 on the finisher was a creative touch. Only those playing the championship tees (at a distance of 221 yards) have to fly the oversized pond that otherwise sits to the left of the path from the whites and ladies tees to the pin. A pair of greenside bunkers hug the sides of the target area. But much like the rest of the course, even those who miss have an opportunity to take advantage of bump-and-run play and still pull off par.