Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | You’ve already stretched your golfing legs some and worked out the kinks. The driver is doing just what you want. Your ability to read putts has never been better. And everything in between is making sense. Now, it’s time to take the challenges up a notch. Up and down Golf Capital U.S.A. stand a number of courses built specifically to test players who think they have what it takes. The following five have proved to do just that without a need to even play the championship tees (although those are available for the ultra-brave). Check them out, but keep in mind they weren’t meant to be walks down easy street.
Each year during the annual Hootie and the Blowfish Monday After the Master’s celebrity pro-am, some music or entertainment star with an affinity for the game finds out what a good number of locals already know: Without proper preparation, some analyzation skills and a good bit of patience, this Pete Dye design can tear you up in a hurry. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but the native grasses, extensive bunkering and contoured greens make misses hurt more than normal.
You ever watch Floyd Mayweather and wonder how he’s been so successful despite rarely throwing a true “knockout” punch? That’s Parkland’s approach. The par-72 Tom Doak design is the longest of the three on-site tracks (by 300-plus yards) despite the fact that none of the par 5s hold a true eye-popping distance. That means every par 4 is going to keep the pressure on and make a whole bunch of terrain changes and deep bunkers that much more dangerous.
The eye candy at Pawleys Plantation is a vicious tactic that maybe only Jack Nicklaus saw coming. The south Strand property is adorned with centuries-old live oaks and marsh views unlike anywhere around - not to mention just enough of a salty ocean breeze to bring it all together. What the Golden Bear probably knew better than most was that he was also putting together a stout 18-hole track that has the right (or wrong?) tricks up its sleeve to inflate a scorecard.
Pete (again) and P.B. Dye stretched the course to measure more than 7,000 yards from the back tees, and even the average player will be shooting away from 6,300-plus. That’s important because on top of the length, very little at Prestwick comes easy. Slight elevation changes are magnified by relatively tight fairways and oversized greens that are sneakily difficult via pin placement. Make sure you keep your eyes on the no-man’s land that is the rebuilt bunkers on No. 9.
Tom Fazio was charged with designing a tour-quality course, and not only because it would carry the TPC label. Not long after opening, the Myrtle Beach version (located in Murrells Inlet) would play host to the 2000 PGA Senior Tour Championship. In the time since, it has been the home for a numbers of college tournaments, a large amount of charity events and - since 2015 - the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship. Translation: It was built for competition.