Living in the Myrtle Beach area for years, I always wonder what my score would be if I played the toughest 18 holes on the Grand Strand as if they were all on one golf course. This is an attempt to "construct" the toughest par 72 golf course on the Grand Strand using holes from various Myrtle Beach area golf courses. To make it even more interesting, the holes will be kept in the correct order based on their original position on their golf course (ie, Hole # 1 will be the first hole on its course, Hole # 2 will be Hole # 2 on its course, etc.).
Please note that I did not include any holes on courses designed by Pete Dye and his son, PB Dye. That is because I would rank the courses designed by these two, individually and jointly, among the most challenging in the area. This would include Barefoot Resort's Dye Club, The Legends Moorland course, Prestwick Golf and Country Club, and The Founder's Club at St. Louis. James Plantation. I will write a future article to celebrate these two great course designers.
In my opinion, here are the toughest front nine holes in the Myrtle Beach area.
Hole 1 – True Blue # 1 – 624 yard par 5. What better way to begin your round than with a 624-yard par 5? The first time I played True Blue, I arrived early after having a terrific breakfast, felt great after a solid session at the fantastic practice facility, and then sent the rest of my round trying to recover strokes lost on the opening hole. Usually playing into the wind, the hole plays longer than the listed yardage. The first hole at True Blue features a large waste area that runs the entire left side of the fairway, plus a large bunker to welcome a wayward tee shot to the right. A massive waste area, plus a narrow stream surrounding the green. Length and accuracy are required to score par on this great opening hole. Honorable mention: none – this hole is unmatched.
Hole 2 – Barefoot – Fazio # 2 – 458 yard par 4. The second hole at the Fazio Course at Barefoot Resort features a narrow, tree-lined, gentle dogleg left that stretches over 450 yards from the tips, and it plays into the anticipating wind. The hole is fortified with large wetlands off of the tee, huge trees, steep fairway bunkers, and a small green. Honorable mention: Farmstead # 2 and Oyster Bay # 2.
Hole 3 – Lion's Paw # 3 – 204 yard par 3. With pearl white oyster shells outlining the tee box and area between the lake and green, the third hole at Lion's Paw is a scenic, yet taxing hole. The approach shot over water to a narrow green (only 15 yards deep in some areas) make this one of the more vexing tee shots in the Grand Strand! Honorable mention: Heritage Club # 3.
Hole 4 – Tidewater # 4 – 430 yard par 4. With stunning views of the marsh on the left, the 4th hole is one of my favorite par 4 holes on the Strand. Playing 430 yards from the tips, the fourth hole is the number one handicap hole at Tidewater for a reason! The tee shot on number 4 welcomes the golfer with trees on the right and the marsh on the left. There is a narrow waste area running on the left side of the fairway to stop most disobedient tee shots, but the large elevation change from the fairway to the waste area provide a daunting approach shot for any tee shot hit into this area. The intimidating approach shot to a two-tiered green is framed with cavernous bunkers protecting the front and right side of the green. But, if you take an extra club to ensure you carry the bunkers fronting the green, you risk flying the green which slopes from back to front. Then it will take a miraculous chip to save par. Honorable mention: Long Bay # 4.
Hole 5 – Carolina National – Heron # 5 – 203 yard par 3. A picturesque par 3 that features a tee shot over marsh to a well-bunkered green. Hit it short or left of the green and you're in the danger and playing your third shot from the tee. The only bailout is right of the hole. However, a near impossible pitch to an undulating green faces the golfer who decides to bail right. Honorable mention: Barefoot – Love # 5.
Hole 6 – Glen Dornoch # 6 – 410 yard par 4. Glen Dornoch # 6 is a tremendous risk / reward hole. Distance and accuracy off the tee are a must in order to have an unobstructed approach shot to a well-bunkered green located 90 degrees right of the optimum landing area of the fairway. A right-center tee shot of 255 yards is ideal. The golfer will be rewarded with a birdie opportunity with two solid shots, but this is also a classic "blow-up hole" waiting to happen with a poor drive, poor approach shot, poor lag putt, or all of the above. Honorable mention: Pearl – East # 6 or Witch # 6.
Hole 7 – Leopard's Chase # 7 – 451 yard par 4. Leopard's Chase # 7 features a large bunker on the right side of the fairway to welcome an insubordinate tee shot. A well-placed tee shot will leave you with an approach shot to a green protected with multiple bunkers and severe undulation on the back and middle part of the putting area. Unless you can feather a 5-iron from 225 yards, certain pin locations will award a conservative approach shot 25+ feet away from the hole. Honorable mention: Sea Trail – Jones # 7.
Hole 8 – Thistle # 8 – Stewart Course – 443-yard par 4. This holes features water along near the right right side of the hole, plus a large fairway bunker to the left of the fairway. If you hit your drive too well and just a few yards to the right of center, you risk hitting into the water the squeezes the fairway to a sliver of grass. The approach shot to an elevated green makes the hole play longer than the listed yardage, but you must carry the deep bunker fronting the green to have a shot at par … assuming you do not three-putt the severely undulating green. Honorable mention: Grande Dunes – Resort Course # 8.
Hole 9 – Rivers Edge # 9 – 570 yard par 5. This is one of the more discussed holes on the beach. It's scenic, but brutal. The smart approach is to the play Rivers Edge # 9 like a true three shot par 5. The tee shot is framed with marsh enveloping the front, entire left side, and end of the fairway. There are large trees to discourage bailing right off of the tee. A long, accurate tee shot will provide an opportunity to reach the green in two. The problem with trying to reach the hole in two is the green, set on a peninsula, is very narrow. A short tee shot will leave a lay-up shot of over 200 yards of carry over marsh. The smart second shot is to lay-up 100-120 yards short of the green. An accurate lay-up shot is required because there is marsh to the front, side, and back of the second landing area. The approach shot to a narrow green, with bunkers and normal crosswind, is one of the more harrowing wedge shots you will hit. One of my favorite holes! Honorable mention: Leopard's Chase # 9 or TPC – Myrtle Beach # 9.
So, there is my front nine. Did I miss any holes on the Grand Strand? Are there any holes you believe are tougher? If you have not played any of these great Myrtle Beach golf courses , I urge you to do so on your next trip to Myrtle Beach. Watch for my second article covering the back nine. I would love to hear any comments and / or suggestions.