Just scratching the surface in Myrtle Beach, the Golf Capital of the World

Pictured above: TPC Myrtle Beach / Golf Tourism Solutions

Golf trips come in all shapes, sizes and variations from buddy trips to couples’ visits to large groups and tournaments. It’s rare to find one destination that can cover all the options, even more unusual to find one that can accommodate all of them at the same time.

But Myrtle Beach can. It’s just one of the reasons they call it the Golf Capital of the World. With over 90 golf courses along the Grand Strand, most of them public and affordable, there’s something for everyone along this 100 km stretch of beach in South Carolina. From upscale resorts with multiple courses to stand alone options, you’re never far from your next game.

With designs from some of golf’s best known and lauded architects such as Nicklaus, Fazio, Dye, Norman, Doak and Jones, Myrtle Beach can easily stand with the top destinations in the country when it comes to unique and challenging layouts. There’s no shortage of wetlands, lakes and creeks to highlight the gently rolling terrain and paint some very pretty pictures.

I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the best Myrtle Beach has to offer and recently spent a few days with my wife at the Beach to play a few more. February isn’t exactly high season and daily temps ranged from a low of 2C to a high of 15C. But the good news is that it wasn’t windy, the sun shone most of the time and the pace of play was as brisk as the temperature.

TPC Myrtle Beach

Our first stop was TPC Myrtle Beach, a Tom Fazio / Lanny Wadkins design that is consistently ranked among the top handful of public courses along the Grand Strand. TPC is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024 and I would say it’s well stood the test of time. The course is a very pretty layout, carved out of the trees and wetlands and while you go through an upscale golf community to get there, once you tee off, there’s no civilization in sight.

TPC Myrtle Beach No. 13 (Photo: Golf Tourism Solutions)

I don’t have any experience with a Lanny Wadkins design but Tom Fazio’s attention to detail was evident at every turn. The overall routing might be described as strategic. It’s by no means unfair but you do have to be careful. The fairway bunkers were precisely where they could exact the most damage if you weren’t careful and dogleg holes left little room for shortcuts. There were several really good risk reward options across the wetlands for those that have the courage and the power but my game these days is much more of a tic-tac-toe strategy and in my opinion, TPC is designed for that.

I’ve always been impressed with Fazio’s greens in terms of placement, scope and contouring. They vary in size and degree of difficulty and certainly can’t be described as cookie-cutter. At TPC Myrtle Beach, many greens are raised with deep bunkers flashed into the sides. The greens are more than slightly contoured and quite quick. Overall, a real treat to play. It’s easy to see why the course is so popular and highly regarded.

True Blue Golf Club

Next up was a course I’ve had on my Bucket List for a long time. True Blue Golf Club is part of a twosome of adjacent courses that the late Mike Strantz dug out of the wetlands along with its sister course Caledonia Golf and Fish Club. Both are rated among the best in Myrtle Beach.

True Blue No. 17 (Photo: Brian Oar)

Readers might be familiar with Strantz’s work at Tobacco Road near Pinehurst. For those unfamiliar with his style, it can best be described as quirky, although many aren’t so charitable with their adjectives after playing one of his designs. I happen to love quirky, and Tobacco Road is one of my all-time favourites, so the opportunity to play True Blue or Caledonia was beyond sweet.

Caledonia was hosting a tournament and my wife decided she needed a “beach” day, so I teed it up at True Blue with Chris King, who has handled PR duties for Myrtle Beach Golf for a very long time and has an immense knowledge of golf in the region.

Part of what Mike Strantz did so well with his designs is mess with your head. At Tobacco Road, he used massive dunes to create blind shots, and dual fairways and enormous waste bunkers to challenge you to try shortcuts. At True Blue there are no massive dunes, but he uses waste bunkers and elevation and water to create illusions.

For example, the par five 5th is a boomerang hole that hugs a lake and keeps turning left all the way to the green. It just dares you to bite off as much as you can on the drive and maybe go for the green in two, but the water laps the edge of the green and there’s a bunker short of that where the sand runs right into the hazard. Very difficult to pick a line.

On other holes, Strantz uses the raised back of a bunker or a mound to hide how much room is on the other side, even though the pin may be quite visible. Or tucks a green amongst a sea of sand and water making it difficult to gauge the distance. Even with 20/20 vision, a range finder is a must at this course.

Mostly the fairways are generous although there’s always a preferred line to the pin and while the greens are readily accessible, they have enough slope to keep you on your toes. On the day we played, they were fast too, maybe too fast for my rusty off-season putting. But it’s all part of the charm at True Blue. Definitely one to add to your must-play list.

Caledonia Golf & Fish Club

After our round, I asked Chris if I could buy him a beer or lunch in the clubhouse that overlooks the picturesque 18th hole. Instead, he suggested we head over to Caledonia for a quick look and a bite there. That turned out to be a great idea.

The entrance to Caledonia Golf and Fish Club framed by 200-year-old oaks

The driveway into Caldonia is long and straight and framed by 200-year-old moss covered oak trees. It’s a spectacular entrance. There’s not a lot of golf course visible on the drive in but what we could see looked similar to True Blue. Strantz playing tricks again. The rustic clubhouse sits on the edge of a huge wetland area with the 18th hole coming straight at you and the green just feet away from the verandah. Apparently, it’s a popular spot for golfers and lunch patrons to sit and bet on the approach shots. Too bad we couldn’t play but I now have a good reason to return. As if I needed another one.

The Dunes Golf & Beach Club

Our final round in Myrtle Beach was at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club. Ironically, with so many courses along the Grand Strand, very few are built right on the beach. The Dunes is one exception, with the clubhouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and the course boasting several holes along an inlet known as the Singleton Swash. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr in 1947 and has been ranked among the Top 100 courses in both the US and South Carolina for over 70 years.

The Dunes Club No. 10 (Photo: Golf Tourism Solutions)

The Dunes will be host to the region’s first PGA Tour event this spring as The Myrtle Beach Classic will be played there May 9-12. I never want to suggest that touring professionals will find a course difficult because they can do things that the rest of us can’t. However, the course won’t be without its challenges.

For starters, the wind may howl off the Atlantic. Then there’s the RTJ Sr. greens which are mostly raised and sloped and well protected with deep bunkers. If the Tour ratchets up the green speeds, there are a number of holes with wicked false fronts too that could cause a short shot to roll 30-40 yards back down the hill. The 10th and 18th may be the most treacherous. Finally, there is plenty of hidden water – small ponds tucked behind a hill or around a corner. Of course, the pros will know about these from their practice rounds and their caddie notes, but they’re still lurking. Just sayin’.

The Dunes is a very pretty course, especially the holes along the Singleton Swash. The 13th is a long dogleg par five that hugs the edge of the water and dares you to pick an aggressive line over the Swash for your second shot. The fairway rises to a green flanked by bunkers and bisected by a ridge in the middle. In 2007, Golf Digest writer Dan Jenkins named it the Best 13th Hole in America. Best 13th hole I can think of too.

I’ve just scratched the surface when it comes to the 90 courses on the Grand Strand, my latest trip making it an even dozen, so I have lots to look forward to.

The World Amateur Handicap Championship

For those thinking about a golf trip to Myrtle Beach, the World Amateur Handicap Championship would be a great place to start. This year will be the 41st edition and it’s being held from August 26-30. The tournament will host over 3,200 golfers from around the world who play four competitive rounds of golf spread out over 50 courses. Golfers are flighted by age, gender and handicap and flight winners advance to a Championship round where the winners are crowned as World Champions. Each participant receives a gift bag and there are plenty of draw prizes each day. Each evening all golfers gather at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center for free food and drinks. The cost is just $629 US. For further information, click HERE.

For more information about golf and travel to Myrtle Beach, including accommodations, click HERE.

Peter Mumford
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. He's played over 500 different courses in 21 countries and met some fascinating people along the way. He's also a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

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