Story by Ian Guerin
Course designers have taken a similar approach when it comes to laying out their work.
Backload most of their memorable holes, ensuring that the lasting memories aren’t watered down by the bulk of their architecture.
But when it comes to the sheer number of courses in and around Myrtle Beach, S.C., some astounding opening holes were almost inevitable.
Dan Maples may have done players a favor by putting the second-hardest hole at Willbrook where he did. The 400-yard par 4 (from the whites) begs away from the driver in lieu of a shorter wood to navigate a 75-degree bend up the right side. Staying left is the goal, of course, but too far straight or through the fairway puts other trees in play or cripples the scorecard early. Taking the safe route, meanwhile, puts players ahead of the curve just two shots into the day.
While the artificial ruins up the course a few holes will always dominate the talking points at the Love Course, No. 1 puts you in the right state of mind for the rest of the day. Pristine playing surfaces are dotted by water, natural wetlands, sand, small shrubbery and oversized trees. It is a visually stunning-yet-ultra-playable opener that has helped one of Barefoot’s four golf courses continue to add to its annual haul of awards from national and regional ratings panels.
What makes the Witch’s No. 1 so special is the ride from the clubhouse to its tee boxes, and then from its green to the second hole. The 425-yard par 4 is as secluded as any hole in Myrtle Beach, completely surrounded by the oversized black water forest the course was cut from when the Dan Maples project opened in 1989. That first hole is straight and true, but it curves you far away from the major thoroughfare running adjacent to the property.
Patterned off the opening hole at St. Andrews Old Course, the target zone off the tee here is approximately 100 yards wide, a considerable distance given that the hole itself is only 370 yards long for those utilizing the white tees. The green is cut off from the rest of the hole by a sliver of a creek tying the Nos. 1 and 9 (where a replica bridge crossing the Swilcan Burn of St. Andrew’s No. 18 is visible).
Mike Strantz’s layout at True Blue showed how much of an artist he was without any hesitation. He inserted an oversized waste bunker up the entire left side of No. 1, maximizing the effects of the dogleg - especially when considering the slightly smaller waste area on the right. The 499-yard par 5 (from the whites) then wraps up with a horseshoe creek between the closing yards of the fairway and the green. Nearly all of it is sandwiched by the existing tree lines.