Story by Ian Guerin
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. | Top-end designs and economic options. Magnificent uses of the nature and massive teaching facilities. Ease of access and others off the beaten path. No, there is no clear dynamic of exactly what golfers will favor year after year after year to help a course survive the test of time. Yet, nine tracks up and down South Carolina’s northern coastline have each found a way do just that. To gauge the impressive staying power of the following courses, consider they’ve remained despite more than 100 in the vicinity opening after they did (not to mention a bunch that closed).
This is Myrtle Beach golf’s 50 & Up Club.
You want to talk Myrtle Beach golf history, this is where you start. The area’s first course opened in 1927 as part of the Ocean Forest Country Club. In time, it adopted a new name, underwent a few changes to Robert White’s original design along the way and has continued to attract golfers for nearly a century. It also houses the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame.
When you make your way onto the back nine at Dunes Club today, you’re actually playing the original nine holes that opened on Oct. 22, 1949. Fourteen months later, the second nine opened for business. All that’s happened since is several multi-million-dollar renovations projects from the minds of Robert Trent Jones and Rees Jones continued to keep Dunes in the upper echelon of Myrtle Beach golf.
SURF GOLF & BEACH CLUB
Surf Club opened in 1960, and its ties to George Cobb’s design legacy remained long after the prolific architect passed in 1986. Six years after that, Cobb’s one-time understudy and partner, John LaFoy, returned to the area for a redesign project that readied the course for the new age of package play golf. In 2018, Surf Club was typically rated as one of the area’s top courses by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel.
Once a distraction for officers at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, Whispering Pines’ original nine-hole course (opened in 1962) grew into full 18-hole facility that has become either a first or last stop for golfers utilizing Myrtle Beach International Airport. Located directly across the street from the entrance to the airport, the 6,771-yard course is also a quick jaunt to the beach.
The Pines portion of Myrtlewood’s 36-hole site opened in 1966 and immediately had ownership thinking it could add another course - something it did six years later with the unveiling of its Palmetto track. And even though Arthur Hills came in and tinkered with some of the layout in the early 1990s, he left the routing the same, thus allowing the property to keep hold of what makes it such a visited layout.
Pawleys Island didn’t incorporate until 1985, and while the course falls just outside town limits, its 1966 opening inspired economic growth that in turn inspired other potential ownership groups to consider repeating the feat. All these years later, the course looks nearly identical to how it did back in the day when Williams Byrd’s layout helped connect the feeder community to the larger ones to the north and south.
Gene Hamm’s initial Myrtle Beach design unleashed its steady approach in 1967 next door to a budding two-year college that would eventually become Coastal Carolina University - the home of PGA pro Dustin Johnson. Originally known as Quail Creek, the course was eventually overtaken by the golf programs at Coastal and adjacent Horry Georgetown Technical College. The students and their teachers went to work, breathing fresh life into the property.
Located just north of what is now referred to as Restaurant Row, Possum Trot helped establish what could easily be called Golf Course Row. The track opened its doors in 1968 with a light-hearted approach to the game that players have appreciated for more than five decades. The impressive teaching facility and practice facility is a regular opener for players tuning up prior to a week-long golf excursion.
Next door to Possum Trot (but unrelated outside of proximity), North Myrtle Beach’s Beachwood Golf Club also celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. The no-frills layout was Gene Hamm’s second in the Myrtle Beach area. He went on to design a handful more in the 1970s and 1980s, much because of the success Beachwood proved in its first decade and beyond.