There are over 120 courses sprinkled on either side of Highway 17, each a gem in its own right and in as good condition as you’ll find anywhere in the world.
And while the golf is as good as it gets, the service is first class and there’s lots to see and do even when you’re not trying to rip drives between gaping white bunkers and over alligator lakes or trembling over slippery putts.
I’m a six handicapper from Littlehampton Golf Club and this was my second visit to Myrtle Beach, where I was joined by club colleague John Mantle (5) and Stuart Pate (unattached) and playing off nine. Both had been here on two previous occasions.
In our experience, Myrtle Beach offers something for all standards of golfer, from the long and very tight TPC of Myrtle Beach to the more open and forgiving courses which don’t stretch your game or your wallet.
Getting there and around
We booked our flights on the internet for around £300 with US Airways. This included all taxes and internal flights to and from Myrtle Beach.
You definitely need a car to get around and we hired a Mitsubushi Explorer for our seven-day trip for £300 and this included getting ‘stung’ for not returning it with a full tank of petrol! If you do hire make sure you fill up before you return it, whatever they say at the desk when you collect it at the start of the week!
Where we stayed, what we paid
Accommodation in the Myrtle Beach area ranges from houses and apartments (condominiums) to hotel rooms. This year we stayed in a superb ‘condo’ at the Legends Golf Resort. Fantastic quality and plenty of room (two double bedrooms, two bathrooms, lounge area and kitchen). Total cost was £600 including cleaning and taxes.
The total cost was around £1,100 each for the week, plus spending on food, drink, entertainment and presents.
What else to do
Restaurants and bars in Myrtle Beach are many and varied, as is the other available nightlife! There are plenty of good eating places, though the majority are based on the all-American idea that good food comes in very large portions. For a great Italian meal, check out the Old World Italian Restaurant on Highway 17 South.
Other sightseeing was restricted to the golf supermarkets (Martins and Golf Dimensions) and the Tangere Mall on Highway 501 – it was great for the presents you’ll have to take home.
Golf equipment is cheaper in the US - about the same in dollars compared to pounds sterling. It’s great value if you’re buying clubs, and the shops have a huge selection. Golf pros (and nets) are available in the stores to give advice and to ‘try before you buy’. We spent many a happy hour testing all makes of driver. And if you’re keen to buy always negotiate your old clubs in part exchange.
The weather in January was mostly good but unpredictable. We had some cold days, which led to frost delays in the morning and which also meant that playing two rounds in the day wasn’t always possible. Most of the week was played warm in sunshine.
Where we played
The golf was fantastic. With over 120 courses to choose from there is something for everyone. Last year we played the cheaper, ‘first division’ courses, but this year we decided try the ‘premier league’ and although more expensive (from £60 - £100 per round including carts), the whole on and off-course experience was worth the extra.
All the courses were in great condition and had excellent, tight mown fairways and little real rough (at this time of the year as the Bermuda grass is dormant). However, many of the courses defend themselves by the use of bunkers, trees and water. Lots of it.
Whatever the course the greens will be superb. In our experience the first division courses tend to have slightly slower, flatter greens but all are quick!
Some of the courses roll the greens and virtually all are double cut each day. If you have never experienced a green rolling at 12 seconds on the stimpmeter then it is something you’ll remember, particularly on a green 60 yards long with several interesting slopes between you and the hole.
It took us around three days to adjust and to get any realistic birdie chances. You really have to put the ball in the right place with your approach, (usually below the hole) and if you’re not then just lag it. Even then, a three-putt will sometimes be a great result
Booking tee times
We arranged our golf and accommodation by using a trip organiser in Myrtle Beach (Joe Mantere of TSR Events, on 00 1 843 602 9292) and worked with him to choose the right courses for our handicaps. He then put the package together.
He knew all the courses and has played most of them and even played two rounds with us. A great guy and great service – and I’m not just saying that because he might give me cheaper golf next year if you mention my name.
If you travel to Myrtle Beach in the winter, one round a day is probably as much golf as you need. But if you’re thinking of playing more, either chose clubs that have two or three courses to restrict travelling or pick ones that are close together.
Alternatively, you can play the same course twice in a day. If you do this, don’t book an afternoon round in advance. If it’s frosty overnight you won’t be starting at 8am and will probably only play 18 holes. Also many courses have ‘replay’ rates that are around 50% of the original cost. If not, haggle because courses tend to be empty after midday.
Angels Trace North: A ‘first division’ course to start the week. Wide fairways but plenty to make you think. Superb greens, possibly the best we played.
True Blue: A premier division course. Awesome design (Mike Strantz) with vast fairways, undulating terrain and huge greens. Has to be a ‘must play’.
Caledonia Golf and Fish: Another great Mike Strantz design with some beautiful holes. The 18th must be one of the best closing holes I’ve played (approach to the green over a swamp with resting golfers watching from rocking chairs on the timber verandah. Intimidating.Ed.)
Heritage. What a great course: Plenty of water, fantastic scenery and some memorable holes. The island green at the short 13th needs steady nerves and a good swing.
The Dunes: One of the original Myrtle Beach courses, established in 1948, and therefore of a more traditional design. More open fairways than some but incredibly quick greens that will test your temper and sanity. Truly an experience.
Tidewater: Probably the best course of the week with some awesome holes (especially the 13th) with wonderful scenery. This is a must play.
TPC of Myrtle Beach: Has been used for PGA Senior Tournaments. Very tight driving to narrow, tree-lined fairways. Long irons to many greens that were slopey and quick. Check out the locker room – what a place! An awesome experience on and off course.
Kings North at Myrtle Beach National: Designed by Arnold Palmer and more forgiving than the TPC with plenty of doglegs and some interesting driving options. Try driving the par-4, 311 yard 4th. It has a carry of 260 yards over water but you still have to get over the waste area (I didn’t!). Great course spoilt for us by the greens that had only just been hollow-tyned and sanded.
ConclusionIn the last three years we have played over 25 of the Myrtle Beach courses and without hesitation, I can say there isn’t one I wouldn’t play again. And there are still only 95 to go.
I would thoroughly recommend ‘The Grand Strand’ for a great winter golfing break. It’s only around 10 hours away, has got more variety than Spain or Portugal, great value for money (particularly with the current strength of the pound) and the people really make you feel welcome.
The weather can be mixed but in last two years we’ve only missed two rounds. We’ll be back in 2005 as I really do need to play the TPC again to prove I can play the game.
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