Story by Ian Guerin
Some golf courses are not only crafted by marshes and wet lands; they’re defined by them.
They pop visually to the eye and camera lens, offering a different feel to a round. Accompanying natural grasses and wildlife simply aren’t available to everyone.
It just so happens that of Myrtle Beach’s 90 or so courses, several add a touch so few others in the area can. The following aren’t the only ones locally with marshes dotting their landscapes. But they may be the ones whose designers were the most adept at incorporating them into their layouts.
Dan Maples’ par-70 design just across the border in Sunset Beach, N.C., is well known for its abundance of alligators. And there’s a good reason why. While the marsh grasses are virtually nowhere to be found on the first four holes, the 550-yard No. 5 begins a stretch of five out of six holes where the normally wet grasses (and many of their chomp-happy inhabitants) adorn either the outskirts of the fairway, serve as a difficult forced carry on the already lengthy course, or both.
The trend goes dormant for much of the back nine until a challenging No. 18 where the final third of the hole is cut off by more of it. That last punch from Oyster Bay has put a dent in many scorecards over the years.
The eastern portion of the property serving as the home to Pawleys Plantation was something Jack Nicklaus wanted to exploit. So on the back nine, he went all in on the thought. It kicks directly into high gear on No. 13, “The Shortest Par 5 on the Grand Strand”, where a minuscule par-3 tee shot has next to no room for error. Next up, the entire right-hand side of No. 14 tempts big hitters to traverse it on the second shot of the par 5 and go for the green in two.
The marsh in the final yardage of the 16th protect the green on three sides, and more of it on the par-3 No. 17 is so apparent that Nicklaus added an adjacent fairway as a crutch. By the time players reach No. 18, the marsh up the left side seems almost inconsequential.
Bookended by the Cherry Grove Inlet on one side and the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway on the other, North Myrtle Beach’s Tidewater had more marshland on its site than any other along the northern coastline of South Carolina. All one-and-done golf course designer Ken Tomlinson did with it was create an absolute masterpiece.
It becomes apparent on No. 4, seemingly named as one of the top holes around Myrtle Beach every year by some publication, is all over the place again on No. 7, lines the entire left side of No. 8 and then plays the role of spoiler on the final hole of the front nine. But you’re not done with it yet. The par 3-No. 12 and No. 13, which are located near the Inlet, have plenty more, as do 14, 16, 17 and 18 as you make your way back toward a second trek toward the Intracoastal.
When architect Mike Strantz was asked to repeat his near-perfect design from Caledonia for True Blue, he used much of the same approach: Let the land there in that part of Pawleys Island do the talking and craft the golf around that. So it was of little surprise to anyone that the former plantation for rice and indigo - two crops that grew there because of the abundance of water - would also be marsh-heavy at times.
Sure enough, he did not mess with the wet stuff or the accompanying grasses. And in an effort to ensure their long-term survival, he laid out his course so that they could be admired but could also play a role. Most notably, there is a forced carry over one section of it off the tees on No. 6 and another into the green on the dogleg No. 9.