Story by Ian Guerin
As featured in Golf Georgia July/August Edition
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Arguably the most fine-tuned project in Myrtle Beach golf history has led us to something special.
The Perfect Round.
The South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel and Myrtle Beach Golf Trips teamed up to find the best 18 holes out of the 1700 or so South Carolina’s Grand Strand has to offer. Ninety four of the panel’s 125 members participated, leaving little doubt in terms of sample size or credibility.
“Our people, their knowledge of golf courses in the state is vast,” said Mike Whitaker, the panel’s executive director. “These aren’t people who have only played a handful of courses. When they go through and say ‘these are the holes that we think [are best]’ - I don’t know how scientific it was - but it was a good representation of what we think is best.”
Whitaker’s panel has heaped plenty of praise on the area’s courses since it was founded in 2004. In fact, its list of the top 31 tracks in South Carolina earlier this year included 13 from the Myrtle Beach area alone.
Accompanied by the panel’s objectivity in voting, it makes the final 18 holes named to the Perfect Round that much more impressive.
“There are so many great layouts in the Myrtle Beach area that we needed to turn to this panel of experts to identify the best holes,” said Steve Mays, director of marketing and sales for Founders Group International, owner of Myrtle Beach Golf Trips. “Since the panel was created, it has earned a reputation for its expertise in rating courses against a very strict list of attributes. Every panel member has to have played a course in order to vote on it, so the conclusions reached by this panel are recommendations that anyone booking a trip to play golf in the area can rely on.”
BREAKING DOWN THE PERFECT ROUND
The selections stemmed from 11 different courses. Most fell on their respective courses’ back nines while a handful were near the front of the round. There were holes originally designed in the 1950s and others that came into their own in the 2000s. Some are set on former plantation properties while others rest atop of the bluffs overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. Some have hosted PGA events; others keep a significantly lower profile.
In total, 10 different designers - including the likes of Robert Trent and Rees Jones, Pete and P.B. Dye - were responsible for the selections. Mike Strantz led the way with four selections, while the Jones/Dye duos had three apiece.
The 18 Perfect Round included four par 3s, 10 par 4s and four par 5s to mimic a traditional par-72 round. This is obviously no ordinary trek around a course.
The short holes that were honored take us from Grande Dunes Resort Course’s No. 14, where the Waterway flows the opposite direction of the hole, to Dunes Golf & Beach Club’s No. 12 up to Tidewater Golf Club’s 12th hole along the Cherry Grove Inlet down to Caledonia Golf & Fish Club’s No. 11.
The par 4 options include the Perfect Round’s lone opening hole, Willbrook Plantation’s No. 1. Tom Fazio’s TPC of Myrtle Beach checks in for the first time with it’s third hole, one that features a forced carry off the tee over significant wild grasses. Dunes Club’s No. 11, Heritage’s No. 14, Tidewater’s No. 4, Barefoot Resort Dye Club’s No. 9 precede four No. 18 holes which made the cut. Those include the finishers at Caledonia, Jack Nicklaus’ Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club, True Blue Golf Plantation and Prestwick Country Club.
The longest holes all come from courses which have already been mentioned at least once, proving their overall impression on the Perfect Round panelists. The choices here include Dunes Club’s No. 13, "Waterloo," wrapping up the trip through Alligator Alley. The ninth hole at Prestwick Country Club and the 10th at Caledonia are here as well, as is the closer at TPC of Myrtle Beach.
All 18 can lay claim to some of the best pieces of land Myrtle Beach golf has to offer. And all are accessible to everyone.
“The Grand Strand market is unique in that the vast majority of the golf there is public,” Whitaker said. “If we wanted to do this in another area of the state, we couldn't do it. Take the Upstate; most of those courses are private. A list from the Upstate wouldn’t mean much to most people. On the Grand Strand, they’re public, so this list has meaning.”