Story by Ian Guerin
South Carolina’s Grand Strand took maybe its biggest leap toward the future in the 1980s.
The 50-plus miles of beaches between the state’s northern border and Georgetown went from a small number of high-rise hotels and condo units to dozens. Entertainment options shot up, too, as the high number of visitors each year found more and more reasons to head to Myrtle Beach.
As for the golf, well, the expansion there was almost comical. Horry County had a full-time population of fewer than 150,000 people by the end of the decade. By that same time, it was also sporting nearly 50 courses.
The next installment of a five-part series looks at the best clubs that opened during the 1980s, and how they affected the landscape during yet another big rush.
HERITAGE PLANTATION (1986)
Dan Maples might as well have moved his design offices to the Myrtle Beach area during the 1980s. In that span, he was responsible for laying out nine courses in the metropolitan market, and his work at Heritage stands out as some of his best. Built on what was formerly two working plantations, the track winds through a massive property.
The playable functionality of Heritage certainly matches all that space. From the back tees, visitors are facing a distance of more than 7,100 yards, with even the middle tees setting up from more than 6,300. It has prompted nods among the top 100 national courses three times.
PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB (1988)
The Nicklaus Design company now boasts courses in 45 countries, but the Golden Bear’s first foray into the Grand Strand added some serious clout to a market that was clamoring for more of a leg up from the biggest names in the game. Jack Nicklaus’ architecture at Pawleys Plantation did just that.
What it also accomplished was continuing a somewhat brief, yet influential, trend of difficult course openings that separated the weekend duffers from the better players. Pawleys Plantation has been tamed some in recent years, but its place among the hardest courses in and around Myrtle Beach remains.
WILLBROOK PLANTATION (1988)
Maples was at it again, bolstering what would eventually become another member of the famed Waccamaw Golf Trail. And much like his design at Heritage, Willbrook incorporated a piece of land with as much historical significance as its prospects for the future. The Lowcountry marshes and wetlands were once home to a pair of plantations, and some of the slaves who worked the land are memorialized alongside family members who returned after they were freed.
Several historical markers adorn a track that weaves itself through the pristine terrain. The centuries-old oak forest still surrounds most of the holes, and protected greens mean a give-and-take approach to the round.
PRESTWICK COUNTRY CLUB (1989)
Nearly three decades after Prestwick first opened its gates, the course is still wowing some of the most educated golf experts in the state. It placed its Nos. 9 and 18 holes on the Perfect Round, a joint project between Myrtle Beach Golf Trips and the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel that named the top 18 holes on the Grand Strand.
Prestwick, though, isn’t a two-hit wonder. Pete and P.B. Dye’s lone combined effort locally combines stellar visuals wrapped around water and waste areas, elevated surfaces and wooded bunkering.