Story by Ian Guerin
Take any metropolitan area in the country. Nearly all of them sprawl out from one spot known by folks around the country.
New York. Philadelphia. Denver. Los Angeles.
Myrtle Beach is no different. While those across the United States recognize the focal point of the Grand Strand, it is important for golfers looking for the full experience to search out the areas immediately north, south and west of the primary city limits.
We begin our multi-part series with four reasons to point the compass up from Myrtle Beach proper.
1. Barefoot Resort & Golf/Barefoot Landing
Promoting the foursome of courses at Barefoot is almost unnecessary at this point. The Dye Club, Norman, Fazio and Love tracks are as impressive as any other grouping of courses in the area. No expense was spared when they began construction in the late 1990s and then opened in 2000.
That has carried right on through to current times. The Dye Club serves as the centerpiece, amid its semi-private environment and the prestige associated with Hootie and The Blowfish’s annual Monday After the Masters celebrity pro-am. However, the other three are right on its heels.
Roll in the Barefoot Landing shopping, food and entertainment district - which actually pre-dates the courses by a couple decades - and a full week of entertainment and golf options are all within minutes of each other.
2. Festivals and a Challenge
When you’re the perceived little brother of a larger area, you find innovative ways to keep people coming back. It would be hard to say the smaller municipalities along the North Strand haven’t done just that. From the Loris Bog Off to the Little River Blue Crab Festival, there is seemingly always a gathering of people celebrating something while partaking in food, drink and music each spring and summer weekend.
Smack dab in the middle of one of the prime northwest corridors of the Grand Strand is Long Bay Golf Club, a course that has the challenge of overcoming location to gain some foot traffic. The Jack Nicklaus design features elevation changes, deep bunkering and slim greens test even the best golfers without crushing their will. It’s one of the biggest reasons some have schedule repeat trips to take another crack at it.
3. Little River’s Sneaky Draws
River Hills Golf & Country Club opened its proverbial doors in 1989 to rave reviews. The course packaged its rare terrain into an eye-popping combination of hills and water, leaving players in a constant state of awe.
Even after a renovation to tame it down some in the early 2000s, finding a similar layout in the immediate area is easier said than done.
The same can be said for one of Little River’s other big draws. The Big M Casino owns the only legal gambling option within hours, and its two vessels sail out of Little River and into international waters daily. And while the table games and slots are the business model that keeps people coming back, the added bonus of the five-hour, offshore tour can’t be beat.
4. Southeast North Carolina
If heading out of Myrtle Beach limits isn’t an issue, crossing the state line into North Carolina shouldn’t be either. You’ll thank us for the push. The likes of Ocean Isle Beach, Calabash and Southport aren’t so much as sleepy as they are simply a tinge quieter. The streets provide almost an entirely local flair, from custom art and antique shops to mom and pop seafood joints where visitors are treated like family.
For many, they are the perfect way to wind down after a day on the links, be it at the Big Cats Golf Courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation, Oyster Bay Golf Links, Farmstead Golf Links or any of the other nearby options.