Story by Ian Guerin
CONWAY, S.C. | Back-to-back harsh autumn weather did a number to golf courses in and around Myrtle Beach.
Floods in 2015. Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
But the lasting effect may not have been courses’ turf or playability. Rather, it was the mental toll and what could be described as a misinformation campaign, inadvertent or not. Like many in the area, Burning Ridge Head Golf Professional Steve Ubl has done his best to let his course do the talking.
“I think there's been no shortage of horror stories around the Grand Strand surrounding the run of storms we've seen in recent years,” Ubl said. “However, our staff have excelled at getting things back in order as soon as possible in each case. Everyone spent a couple months in soggy conditions with the 1000-year flood, but other than the insufferable wait for the water table to get back in order, we came through with no lasting damage to the course. When Matthew came through last year, we had about 200 trees come down. We were open for business running the fairways three days later.”
More than a year removed from the hurricane, Burning Ridge has proved that it could rebound nicely from some of the worst Mother Nature could throw at it. The course - originally a 36-hole property before a renovation project scaled it back to 18 in 2005 - shows next to no negative signs of the storms, outside of a few fringe trees that haven’t been completely removed.
And if the loss of those 200 others did anything, in reality, it was to make an already playable course even more so. Gene Hamm’s layout was previously designed with deceptively wide fairways, and the decrease in trees added the to that.
That starts immediately with No. 1 - the longest hole on the course at 571 yards - and carries throughout the round. Some forgiveness off the tee also, surprisingly enough, comes into play on the longest par 3.
Measuring as far as 247 yards from the tips, players must muscle up some to reach the green. For those who fail to do so, a mock fairway up the left acts as a saving grace.
Along with the other 16 holes on the course, they leave Burning Ridge as a great player-friendly option.
“I hadn’t played many courses in Conway, but I’ve played Wild Wing and I think it matched up well with that,” said Seth Oskin, a local attorney who recently played Burning Ridge for the first time. “It’s got forgiving fairways and it’s a beautiful course.”
Of course, it wasn’t some magic act that allowed that to happen. Cleaning up the mess of the two storms was a daunting task.
Countering any misinformation? Well, Ubl and Co. had a plan for that, too.
“I'm incredibly proud of where we've been able to take the course since coming under [Founders Group International] ownership,” said Ubl, who started at the course in 2012 and took over his current role in 2014. “Funds for proper care were tight to say the least under previous ownership, but with FGI, we've been able to put so much more back into the course. I think the conditions and increased play speak for themselves.”