An introduction to Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, is the self-proclaimed ‘Golf Capital of the United States’. This might be doing it a disservice as you could argue it should be the ‘Golf Capital of the World’. There really are so many great golf courses in Myrtle Beach.
There are an astounding 90 golf courses along a 70 mile stretch of coastline which runs from Georgetown County in the south up to Brunswick County in the north. This stretch of coastline is also known under the moniker of ‘The Grand Strand’.
In the early twentieth century, the coastal town of Myrtle Beach was relatively off the beaten track, until a railroad was built between the town and neighboring Conway, a far more established and historic town.
Shortly after, Myrtle Beach’s first golf course was built in 1927, Pines Lakes Country Club, which was followed some twenty years later by the Dunes Beach and Golf Club. Both these courses were the trailblazers that pioneered the interest and subsequent development of golf in the area, alongside the growing popularity of the city.
Fast forward to today and Myrtle Beach has only grown in stature. Every well-respected golf course architect has penned his name against one of the courses, and this is now truly a golf mecca.
The thing is, it is not just the golf which inspires. It is the après-golf, the off-the-course activities. There are miles upon miles of beaches, bars, restaurants, clubs, views, moderate climate, hotels…it really has it all.
The best golf courses in Myrtle Beach
This was the first of Rees Jones’ solo projects after having left his father Robert Trent Jones Srs’ design firm. There are many of his stereotypical design traits that even here are already obvious to the informed eye.
When you look at the plot of land Jones had to work with, there has to be an element of respect. Slightly squeezed between Kings Road in the south and housing to the north, Jones did an impressive job routing this traditional course into the challenging layout it is today.
There is an abundance of mature trees including live oaks which are interspersed by the occasional lakes which add character to the course. There is no wonder both Golf Digest and Golf Week recognised Arcadian Shores as a course of distinction.
This is without doubt one of the better public golf courses in and around Myrtle Beach, and just a twenty minute drive from downtown.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
This course was the mastermind of the maverick golf course architect Mike Strantz, who sadly passed away at the young age of 50. But in his relatively short career, Strantz created some outstanding and unique golf courses.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is right up there as one of his best designs as well as one of the best golf courses in Myrtle Beach.
Located right in the southern part of the Grand Strand, close to the historic town of Georgetown, Caledonia occupies a wonderful plot of land with an inherent beauty. Century old oaks are dotted along the Waccamaw River, which plays host to a thriving wildlife.
Unlike many of Strantz’s other courses, not quite as much earth was shifted in the build. Instead the genius is portrayed in the routing and the layout, with subtle elevations in the land leading to sculpted green complexes.
It is also shorter than most courses, at just 6,900 yards from the championship tees. But this is a wonderful layout which will have you wanting to come back time and time again.
Barefoot Resort & Golf – Dye Club
The Barefoot Resort is located right in the center point of Lowcountry, North Myrtle Beach, within close proximity to all the surrounding attractions. This includes being surrounded by plenty of golf courses.
However, why you would need to travel elsewhere would be the question, as there are four superb courses at the Barefoot Resort. Each of these was designed by a reputed architect at the top of his game, Tom Fazio, Greg Norman, Davis Love III and Pete Dye.
But it is the Dye course which has managed to elevate itself into the more sought after course to get on. Three of the courses here were awarded by Golf Magazine as being in their Top 100 Golf Courses you can play rankings.
But still the Dye course is recognised as being just that little bit more intriguing to the seasoned golfer.You can play the course as long as you are a member or staying at the resort. Being as there are multiple choices of accommodation, that’s really not a bad idea.
The course is typified by huge bunkers, large lakes and heavily sculpted and contoured fairways. In typical Dye fashion, this manages to deliver the right amount of natural beauty and brutal challenge at the same time.
From the back tees this par 72 stretches out to well over 7,300 yards, but with multiple tee options, players of all abilities can enjoy the course.
True Blue Golf Club
Another Mike Strantz designed golf course, literally over the road from his other masterpiece Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. This was Strantz’s fourth signature course and opened four years after Caledonia.
When designing the course, Strantz wanted to echo many of the design features prevalent at the likes of Pinehurst No.2 and Pine Valley. This included similar contouring to bunkers, the strategic use of marshes and importantly, a maniacal emphasis on upholding the natural feel to the course.
There is a large number of doglegs throughout and this has enhanced its reputation as being a course for long hitters. Not necessarily due to its length but more importantly, due to the fact that if you attack each hole, this leaves a far easier second shot into the challenging greens. Playing safe off the tee however, will leave you with some big approach shots.
Yes this is the sister course to the more highly regarded Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, but True Blue really does hold its own. This is without doubt one of the best golf courses in Myrtle Beach.
TPC Myrtle Beach
Although firmly entrenched within the Grand Strand, TPC Myrtle Beach is still only a stone’s throw away from the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge. This is an epic course and one of the most popular to play being just a 25 minute drive from downtown.
As with all the Tournament Players Club (TPC) courses, you can be assured of high quality golf, top standard conditioning and a good all round experience. TPC Myrtle Beach certainly doesn’t let the side down.
Tom Fazio was the architect called upon here and he certainly delivered, with a layout which immediately received much acclaim. Just a year after opening in 1999, it was selected to host the Senior Tour Championship.
This is definitely not a course to be having an off day with the driver. Straight and consistent hitting is critical to avoid many of the fairway traps, the undergrowth, or of course the water! There are some fairly punchy carries with the driver, even on some of the forward tees, so don’t be too confident on your tee selection pre-round!
Big Cats at Ocean Ridge Plantation- Leopards Chase
The Ocean Ridge Plantation is located over the border in North Carolina, Sunset Beach to be precise in the South Brunswick Islands.
This is a wonderful place, beautiful on the eye and hugely popular to visiting golfers. Popular despite being around a 45 minute drive from downtown Myrtle Beach and a good hour from Wilmington.
This mega golf complex features four 18-hole championship courses, Tiger’s Eye, Panther’s Run, Lion’s Paw and the most recent, Leopard’s Chase. And it is the Tim Cate designed Leopard’s Chase which has caught the eye of golf enthusiasts.
It is the most recent of the four courses to open and immediately was recognised by both Golf Digest and Golf Magazine as one of the ‘Top 10 Best New Public Golf Courses in America’ back in 2007.
And you can understand why as the course is a treat to play. Man-made water features with large contoured fairways, lead you up to perfectly manicured bentgrass greens. This is a fun course to play whilst being incredibly pleasing on the eye. This is really worth the detour north.
Grande Dunes Resort Course
A short drive from downtown Myrtle Beach is the superb Resort Course at Grande Dunes. There are two courses here, with the semi-private Members Club another option, but the Resort Course which is fully open to the public, is great value.
As a resort, Grande Dunes is up there as one of the best in the Myrtle Beach area. So much so, it has been recognised as being ‘one of the great golf clubs of the world’ by the likes of the PGA Magazine.
As for the Resort Course, it opened in 2001, so relatively new for the area, and was designed by the Roger Rulewich Group. Shortly after opening, it was praised by Golf Magazine as one of the ‘Best New Courses’.
The club is positioned alongside the Intercoastal Waterway, on slightly elevated ground, which has its benefits when it comes to views. In fact there are four holes which run parallel with the waterway and are beautifully scenic.
The course is links in style, with large Bermuda grass fairways. This really is a driver’s course and there are many opportunities to let rip. This is a great fun course in a really convenient location.
Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Yes Myrtle Beach has its detractors, those who argue there is far more quantity than quality when it comes to golf. And I wouldn’t disagree. There are many courses that offer a quick-fix, a functional need without necessarily offering any medium to long term satisfaction.
The emphasis can often be on the ‘trip experience’, rather than the ‘golfing experience’. But, choose the right courses (any on this list by the way!), and you’re in for a treat. Even more of a recommendation, try to play the Dunes Golf & Beach Club.
This outstanding golf course is none other than a Robert Trent Jones Sr masterpiece, one of his earliest designs and it has more than stood the test of time.
It opened in May 1948, the second course in the Myrtle Beach vicinity. Over the years, there have been some minor upgrades and renovations, (led by his son Rees Jones) but the core essence of what Jones designed and routed has been kept.
It occupies a plot of land right by the Atlantic coastline and there are some wonderful views over the ocean. The favorable location means the ground is largely sandy, ideal for golf. The gently rolling fairways are flanked by large ancient trees and lead up to magnificent greens.
This is without doubt one of the finest golf courses in Myrtle Beach. The course is semi-private which means there are limited opportunities to play here.
Heritage Club at Legends Resort
This club occupies a fantastic plot of land, right alongside the Waccamaw River and is nestled between two other courses on this list, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue. This section of the Grand Strand really does punch high when it comes to delivering some of the better golf courses.
The course is routed through fresh water lakes and a maze of marshes, whilst being flanked by ancient oak trees and hundreds of acres of giant magnolias. You certainly won’t feel let down aesthetically here.
The course is operated by the Legends Resorts, located in Myrtle Beach, and over the years has received much praise and acclaim. All the major golf publications have named it ‘Best in State’, listed it in ‘top public golf courses’ lists, or ‘top golf courses to play in Myrtle Beach’ lists…you get the idea.
If the rolling fairways are not meandering alongside rivers and lakes, they’ll be accompanied by long abandoned rice fields. It is these fairways where water isn’t present, that are more generous and allow slightly more aggressive play.
Tidewater Golf Club
Starting in downtown Myrtle Beach and making your way along the Intercoastal Waterway, after about a 35 minute drive you will soon arrive at the fantastic Tidewater Golf Club.
The club occupies a wonderful spot, nestled between the Intercoastal Waterway and the inlet of House Creek. Continue along the waterway for a mere 5 minutes more and you’ll arrive at the state border with North Carolina.
This was the first and only golf course designed by Ken Tomlinson and it’s a shame this was the only one. A principle underpinning Tomlinson’s design was to work seamlessly with the natural environment in a way many of the great golf courses manage to do. And he’s done a great job achieving that harmony.
There are a handful of holes just a stone’s throw away from the Intracoastal Waterway, whilst holes 3 and 12 run parallel with the salt marshes of House Creek. These are without doubt some of the finest holes on the course.
Housing now flanks many of the fairways throughout the inland section, but they never encroach enough to negatively impact the overall experience. Likewise, the many pines, century old oaks and verdant surroundings ensure nature takes center stage alongside the course.
The course has been littered with awards and recognition since opening in 1990 and is well worth the drive.
River’s Edge Golf Club
The course on this list which is furthest from central Myrtle Beach, at just over an hour, but one which makes the list for good reason.
River’s Edge is an Arnold Palmer creation and is located on a wonderful plot of land overlooking the Shalotte River in North Carolina.
Like the aforementioned Tidewater golf club, River’s Edge has a handful of holes which have been strategically positioned alongside the tidal marshes and bluffs of the river. There really is a sensation of pure calm and bliss.
The rest of the course features gently undulating fairways elegantly routed through lakes and tall pines. The condition is superb and the feedback time and time again is how much fun it is to play here.
There is enough of a challenge on offer to make it testing, but not penal to the point where you don’t enjoy it. The scenery and the views are stunning, and quite frankly, this is a must play on a Myrtle Beach golf trip.