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Flat-Earth Golf Rare In Myrtle Beach, But It Does Exist

Story by Ian Guerin

The number of golf courses who declare their elevation changes in their bios along South Carolina’s Grand Strand is vast.

Many play off the natural terrain - dropping off from the tee box or jutting up toward the green - while others overlook the massive bluffs of the Intracoastal Waterway or neighboring rivers. Still, in and around Myrtle Beach, it is clear that not all undulation is really all that undulated.

A handful of options exist where the start, finish and everything in-between rolls as straight as possible without mounding or hills getting in the way. 


What makes most believe Farmstead fits into this category isn’t necessarily based upon something as simple as placing an oversized level on the ground at any point during the 18 holes. Rather, the wide-open landscape surrounding the course changes the perspective. That’s because for as much as it is promoted as a track with rolling fairways, it never feels like one. The Willard Byrd and David Johnson par-71 layout minimizes the elevation changes by taking advantage of three par 3s and the monumentally long and flat 767-yard par 6 on the back nine. 


Indian Wells falls inside one of the lowest-lying levels above sea level of any place in the immediate area not called the beach. As such, the course can be considered one of the smoothest around. Gene Hamm designed in some mounded bunkering around the greens for added dimension, but the up and down associated with some of the courses just a few miles away from Indian Wells won’t be felt here. It allows players to concentrate on all the tree-lined fairways and water hazards on 14 of the 18 holes.


Willard Byrd’s layout at Farmstead was by no means his first foray into the area, nor was it his first shot at making a relatively flat surface truly pop. Opened in 1966, Litchfield was a test case of sorts in Lowcountry golf for the Grand Strand. Doglegs on nearly half the holes bend around centuries-old trees and keep the mid-range course from becoming too easy. Some ponds accent other fairways, with even the feed from turf to water not playing with extreme sloping and pace outside of two or three holes during the driest months of the year.


A handful of holes where banking and even some tree roots have lifted the ground more than a few feet notwithstanding, the elevation changes around the fairways at this Dan Maples design are dictated by the marshes and ponds surrounding the primary surfaces. Funneling down toward the blackwater forest presents more than enough problems, so Maples took it easy on players when it came to the tee boxes, fairways and greens. After all, this course features approximately one mile of bridges that cross wetlands and swampland, each of which add nearly all of the immediately felt elevation changes profiling The Witch.


Two prevalent facts make World Tour the type of course it is. For starters, some of the greatest holes in golf are defined not by extreme elevation changes, but by hazarding and angles. On top of that, where some of those famed holes where Sundays were made or broken did exhibit the rise and falls, it would have been too much for the average player to navigate. So outside of the Championship Course’s fifth hole - patterned after Augusta National’s No. 12 and its downhill tee shot feeding into the stone bridge - players won’t be asked to circumvent much undulation.

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