Story by Ian Guerin
CONWAY, S.C. | Relatively speaking amid the course-rich environment along South Carolina’s northern coastline, Shaftesbury Glen Golf & Fish Club is on an island. If that’s the case, it’s certainly more Fiji than whatever retreat Tom Hanks found himself on during the flick “Castaway”.With near-perfect playing surfaces atop a creative and recently touched-up Clyde Johnston design, Shaftesbury has proved that location away from the hustle and bustle of Myrtle Beach can survive just fine - in more ways than one.
“It’s a beautiful course. They keep it well-manicured,” Conway native and Shaftesbury regular Roy Hemingway said after a recent round. “Of course, we can’t do anything about hurricanes and the weather, but they are quick to get it back in shape. I think that’s one of the reasons people [from closer to the beach] tend to drive.” Hemingway, a corporal with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department, wasn’t throwing out the Mother Nature comment on a whim, either.
Shaftesbury is located adjacent to the county’s northern bend of the Waccamaw River - the same waterway responsible for much of the catastrophic flooding viewed along the South Carolina’s Grand Strand on national news during September of 2018. Yet, with that river only a long drive from the eastern portion of the property, the course’s 18 holes were all open within weeks of Hurricane Florence’s arrival and the post-storm flooding that ensued.
Led by Director of Golf Ryan McCarty, the staff had it ready to roll with only minimal closures, a true credit to the work done not only after the storm, but before. That was no surprise for locals and visitors who have made Shaftesbury a regular part of their rotation. Since opening in 2001, the course has given those who book the bulk of their package play closer to the beach (or who live that direction) every reason to do just that. And here’s the reality: The drive inland to northern Conway can be accomplished in as little as 20 minutes - an indication of the spoil-inducing cluster closer to the beach more than the actual distance. Still, Shaftesbury would be doing just fine if its location was enveloped by more competition instead of being the only course in 13 miles in any direction.
The Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owner’s Association named Shaftesbury the 2009 course of the year, an obvious nod to its conditions. Well-defined tee boxes hit into wide-open fairways that make their way toward elevated greens. Not all that long ago, the course added some oversized waste bunkering along the edges. However, the ultra-forgiving fairways remained.“It’s a tough course, but there’s room for error,” Hemingway said. “I like the challenge. I’ve been a competitor all my life. There’s a few holes out here where you tend to think you can overpower the course. If you screw up, it gives a chance to correct yourself. If you go out there and go crazy, you’re going to have a bad day.”
Relatively speaking, of course
SCORE WELL ON SIX (pictured below)
If Johnston had any one thing in mind when he laid out this course, it was the application of his vision he patterned off Winged Foot and Augusta National. He wanted to test players without destroying those who play intelligently. The 360-yard, par-4 No. 6 is a great example of that. From the shadows of the rectangular tee box, players are unable to see the pin around a patch of thinner trees protecting the bend. It serves as a guide, asking you to hit into the left two-thirds of the fairway - while still giving you plenty of space for the driver. As long as you don’t connect with those trees (or a pond way off to the left), going after the green in two is not only possible, but expected. It’s the gift that Johnston presented players time and again in order to make this course so playable.