Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | The Transformers tried to tell us years ago that sometimes there is more than meets the eye. When it comes to new players scouring the lay of the land, specifically, three Myrtle Beach golf courses are bucking trends that simply looking at a map wouldn’t suggest. One gets lost in a high-traffic zone running east and west in and out of town. Another is tucked away off the south end of U.S. 17 amid some of the highest-profile tracks on the Grand Strand. And the third is virtually untouched by those who aren’t heading there with purpose. Yet, Burning Ridge Golf Club, River Club and Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club all make the treks into what some consider the unknown worth your time and dollar.
For lack of a better term, Burning Ridge Golf Club is hiding in plain sight. Located adjacent to U.S. 501 on the eastern fringe of Conway postal codes, the course’s signage is relatively small, especially compared with that of Wild Wing Plantation across the street and the Myrtle Beach National complexes a couple blocks up the road. And while Burning Ridge originally opened in 1980 (and was reduced to one 18-hole course in 2005), it is still sometimes overshadowed by the two sister properties. However, more folks should probably be linking them more often. “Traffic can damper someone’s day when trying to squeeze in a round of golf,” Burning Ridge Head Golf Professional Zack Atkinson said. “With us being located so close to both Wild Wing and Myrtle Beach National, it is a fantastic idea for golfers to consider 36-hole packages. Oftentimes when groups try to get in 36 holes they end up rushed due to traffic or the other course simply being too far away.” That wouldn’t be the case in this situation. Nor would snapping off a faster-than-normal 18 at Burning Ridge alone. The course double up as the Myrtle Beach and the South Carolina Golf Course of the Year by the South Carolina Ratings Panel. Attrition has proved fruitful since.
Tom VanHoogen’s experience at River Club echoes that of the thousands of players who get onto the course each month. “Even though River Club is not located right off the highway we do have a good level of walk in play and shopping,” VanHoogen said. “I believe a lot of locals and vacationers enjoy the course so much they go out of their way to come back and play. Even with a fair number of rounds being played at the course every year, it is always in pristine conditions.” Tom Jackson’s 18-hole design at River Club never ceases to impress. Water on 14 of the 18 holes (including the ultra dynamic Par 5 No. 18) accents the visuals of the playing surface. It has kept the course at the front of repeat players’ minds as they start to plan their next trip. As VanHoogen pointed out, the 1.5-mile bend through side streets hasn’t stopped River Club’s standing as one of the leaders of the esteemed Waccamaw Golf Trail. In fact, as the second-oldest member, it is safe to say that its success during those early years gave other ownership groups reason enough to start their own ventures. Because of that, the long-time locals and regular out-of-town golfers come back year after year.
SHAFTESBURY GLEN GOLF & FISH CLUB:
Arguably the most off-the-beaten path course in all of Horry County, South Carolina, Shaftesbury Glen doesn’t even show up on a Google image display of Myrtle Beach golf locations unless you zoom out. And then zoom out again. Located in northern Conway off Highway 905, no one drives by the course by accident.“They look at our location and they think ‘Where the heck is that?” But in reality, we’re one of the easier courses to get to with [state highways] 31 and 22 right there,” General Manager Ryan McCarty said. “You can take four-lane highways to get here. That’s what we try to promote. Just come out one time and see how easy it is.” Once there, players are greeted by a staff that rarely turns over and an English-style clubhouse. From the check-in point, it’s on to Clyde Johnston’s extremely clean layout that was patterned after Winged Foot and Augusta National. What’s more, Shaftesbury is one of the three youngest original designs in the entire area, having opened in 2000. The grounds crew has become adept accentuating that point. Still, greens renovations are being planned for later in 2019, making sure players who do go off the beaten path are further rewarded.