Story by Ian Guerin
As nice as any given golf course can be, playing host to a professional event is a distinction so few can boast. In and around Myrtle Beach, only three can say just that.
Dunes Golf & Beach Club, TPC of Myrtle Beach and Wachesaw Plantation East put themselves on a different plane by serving as the site to a multitude of Senior PGA and LPGA events over the years. And although it has been more than a decade and a half since the last such tournament teed it up along South Carolina’s Grand Strand, the knowledge of playing where professionals have in the past will always carry a certain level of separation.
The Dunes Club was the first area course to play host to a top-level professional event when it earned the U.S. Women’s Open in 1962. Murle Lindstrom won $1,800 that year; the stakes would only get bigger and better for one of Myrtle Beach’s finest designs.
Dunes was later awarded six Senior PGA Championships (now dubbed the Charles Schwab Cup Championship) between 1994-1999, with Gary McCord, Hale Irwin, Gil Morgan, Jay Sigel, Jim Colbert and Raymond Floyd earning the top prizes. They all did so on an ever-evolving Robert Trent Jones course.
In the years since, the prestigious Dunes Club has maintained to its reputation as a top-level track with multiple projects. There was the 2001 renovation totaling approximately $6 million, followed by projects by Rees Jones in 2003 and again in 2013. The latest refurbishments pushed the championship tees to an impressive 7,450 yards, a figure that will make just about anyone feel like he’s teeing it up with the pros.
TPC had to wait a year before finally pulling the Senior Tour Championship away from the Dunes Club. In 1999, nine months after it originally opened for play, it was set to take over before Hurricane Floyd caused extensive tree damage and flooding in mid-September, give or take six weeks prior to the start of the event. So TPC’s time in the spotlight was put on hold.
When it finally got its chance to shine on national television in November of 2000, the course showed exactly why it was so highly publicized. Tom Fazio’s design brought together undulation and beauty to a layout that challenges even the best of golfers while simultaneously playing rather straightforward. None of that changed under three sets of owners in its first two decades.
In fact, the TPC name continued to leverage even more weight locally. One of the biggest boosts came when eventual-2016 PGA Player of the Year Dustin Johnson elected to open his golf school on-site, paying back years of support the club gave him and his college team while he was cutting his teeth at nearby Coastal Carolina University.
Much like TPC of Myrtle Beach, a tournament was heading to Wachesaw East almost as soon as it opened for business in 1996. The following year, the first of four LPGA events would be finding itself a new home on this Clyde Johnston layout.
With purses totaling in the mid-six figures, Karrie Webb won the Susan B. Komen International 1997 and the City of Hope Myrtle Beach Classic in 1998. Rachel Hetherington pulled the Aussie trifecta in 1999, and Grace Park wrapped up the four-year stay in Myrtle Beach by winning the Kathy Ireland/Greens .com Classic in 2000.
The accolades for Wachesaw East didn’t end after the LPGA moved the event to the West Coast. In 2007, the Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association named the track its course of the year, rewarding the thought-provoking design.