Some call Myrtle Beach the supermarket of golf, simply because there's something for everybody. True, there's not much snob appeal, but that may be the only thing missing among the 90 or so courses that dot the Grand Strand.
While there's plenty of "upscale" to be found along the 60-mile stretch of coastline that runs from Southport, N.C. to Georgetown, S.C., the pampering here is more laid-back and down-home.
What you'll also find in abundance is a fistful of unambitious-yet-handsome, playable and fun layouts -- including three of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses you Can Play -- where you'll get change back from your Franklin even in high season.
That's the real beauty of Myrtle Beach golf: It's all about unparalleled variety for every budget.
Caledonia (fishclub.com/caledonia, 843-237-3675, $110-$200)
Situated on a former rice plantation and drenched in Lowcountry charm, Caledonia is a 19-year-old Mike Strantz design that feels decades older. The late Strantz was an artist with a bulldozer, and here he created a layout worthy of a museum exhibit.
Gnarled live oaks festooned with Spanish moss line the fairways, and the course, ranked No. 27 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play, winds along the Waccamaw River for much of its journey.
Caledonia's 6,526 yards are crammed into 125 acres, which may explain the par of 70, but waste bunkers, wetlands and undulating greens keep big hitters honest.
Sitting in a rocking chair on the clubhouse porch, watching play on the 383-yard, par-4 18th unfold, is one of the true treats on the Grand Strand. Stay & Play packages that combine rounds at True Blue (located across the street with accommodations) and Caledonia are available.
Dunes Golf & Beach Club (thedunesclub.net, 843-449-5914 $75-$225)
Ranked No. 47 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play, the ambiance here is definitely private club, but unaccompanied guest play can be exclusively arranged through myrtlebeachgolf.com (877-523-1619).
It's worth the effort. An early (1948) Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, the Dunes features all of the master's hallmarks, from its fiercely trapped, elevated greens to its collection of scorecard-wrecking water holes, spearheaded by "Waterloo," the 590-yard, par-5 13th that doglegs 110 degrees to the right around Singleton Lake.
Back in the 1960s, Dan Jenkins wrote in Sports Illustrated: "It has long been agreed among knowledgeable golfers along the Atlantic Coast that if a man plays the 13th hole at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club often enough he will eventually lose every ball he owns and perhaps perish by alligator bite."
Almost a half-century later, Jenkins remains right on target. The course will be closed this June, July and August as all greens are being re-grassed and minor renovations are made to bunkers and tees.
Barefoot Resort (barefootgolf.com, 866-638-4818, $65-$185)
This all-star constellation of architects includes Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Greg Norman, but it's the layout designed by Davis Love, ranked No. 86 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play, that might be the most fun of all.
Love's Donald Ross-flavored turtleback greens and chipping areas, along with re-created plantation house ruins along five holes on the front nine, make for a memorable day, whether or not you're wearing shoes. The resort offers discounted green fees for all four courses on Wednesdays throughout the year.
Tidewater Golf Club (tidewatergolf.com, 843-913-2424, $105-$159)
This 1990 Ken Tomlinson design dishes out low-profile fairways that ease past forested bluffs and along marsh-edged flatlands, with photo-ops galore. The best example of the latter comes at the 189-yard, par-3 12th, where the tee shot must carry over a marsh to a well-bunkered green. Ocean views come next at the par-5 13th.
True Blue (fishclub.com/true-blue, 843-237-3675, $99-$165)
This Mike Strantz design, which opened in 1998, is right across the street from Caledonia but worlds away in style. A more links-style setting, with holes framed by mounds and large waste areas, True Blue is a par 72 with five par 5s. Townhouse accommodations overlooking the course are available as part of Stay & Play packages that include rounds at True Blue and Caledonia.
TPC Myrtle Beach (tpcmyrtlebeach.com, 843-357-3399, $85-$165)
This 1999 Tom Fazio design -- with plenty of his hallmark bunkering -- hosted the 2000 Senior Tour Championship, won by Tom Watson. Located in Murrells Inlet, 15 miles south of Myrtle Beach International airport, the tree-lined fairways of the front nine lead to a more watery back side, which includes a semi-island green on the par-3 17th and a par-5 closing hole that is reachable in two with a heroic shot over water for the big hitters.
Best of the Rest
Legends, Heathlands Course (legendsgolf.com/heathland.cfm, 800-522-2660, $85-$135)
One of Tom Doak's earliest designs, this par 71 debuted in 1990 and exudes a Ireland and Great Britain links course feel, with holes modeled after counterparts from The Old Course, Lahinch and Cruden Bay. The ever-present wind is all natural.
Grande Dunes (grandedunesgolf.com, 843-315-0333, $63-$147)
The Resort Club layout, designed by Roger Rulewich and opened in 2001, is just north of Myrtle Beach International airport and comes with views of the Intracoastal Waterway from multiple holes.
At 7,618 yards from the tips, it's one of the longest courses in the country, and there's plenty of wind. The Members Club course here is private, but guests of the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes (marinainnatgrandedunes.com) have access.
The Heritage Club (legendsgolf.com/heritageclub.cfm, 843-237-3424, $85-$135)
You could three-putt every one of the wildly undulating greens at The Heritage Club on Pawley's Island, but you'll wear an ear-to-ear grin from the moment you drive down the avenue of oaks entryway to your post-round cocktail in the Southern Colonial clubhouse. Standout holes include the par-3, 228-yard 13th (all carry over water) and the 506-yard, par-5 18th.
Myrtle Beach National, Kings North (mbn.com, 843-448-2308, $65-$155)
Originally opened in 1972, Arnold Palmer came in 1996 and thoroughly renovated the entire layout, including flipping the nines. And just last year all the greens were converted from Bentgrass to Championship Dwarf Bermuda. The par-5 sixth hole has an island fairway while the par-3 12th features an island green with bunkers shaped in the state of South Carolina. The closing hole? You only have to avoid 40 bunkers en route to a green bordered by water.
Pine Lakes Country Club (pinelakes.com, 877-283-2122, $54-$116)
Pine Lakes Country Club, a.k.a. "The Granddaddy," was the very first course in Myrtle Beach, debuting in 1927 under the name Ocean Forest.
Robert White, a Scotsman and the inaugural president of the PGA, first crafted nine holes, and it's that original nine that architect Craig Schreiner elected to preserve as the back side for a revised layout that reopened in 2009.
The result is a throwback design that conjures up classic strategic shot values thanks to enhanced contouring and thoughtful hazard placement.
Yardage tops out at 6,675 yards, and par was shaved from 71 to 70. Check out the clubhouse as well, home to the Snug Pub, where legend has it that the idea for a magazine called Sports Illustrated was born in 1953.
Oyster Bay Golf Links (legendsgolf.com/oysterbay.cfm, 800-697-8372, $85-$135)
Located just across the state line in Sunset Beach, N.C. this 1983 Dan Maples design, part of Legends Golf and Resort, smacks you down early, with rugged back-to-back two-shotters at the second and third. But then it soothes with strategy and scenery, notably at the short par-4 13th that doglegs right toward the bay and features a slightly elevated green shored up with a wall of oyster shells.
The Witch (mysticalgolf.com, 843-347-2706, $45-$99)
This layout in East Conway scares wayward hitters with acres of eerie, ball-ensnaring marsh and wetlands, but delights with a back nine that sports elevation change that's rare for the area.
This Dan Maples creation opens with a card-wrecking 425-yard par 4 and never lets up. Stay & Play package deals with sibling courses Man O'War and the Wizard can drive prices frighteningly low.
Worth the Money
Whether you call it Myrtle Beach's best secret -- or just one of its best values -- it's worth the freight to play the semi-private Surf Golf & Beach Club (surfgolf.com, 843-249-1524, $75-$125).
You won't find bells and whistles (or a view of the nearby ocean, despite the club's name) at this low-key, 53-year-old layout, the third course built in Myrtle Beach, but you will discover a solid, tree-lined treat that features multiple doglegs, a stately clubhouse, a superb set of greens and a wonderful quartet of one-shotters, including the unusual and daunting par-3 18th that plays over water, straight at the clubhouse porch.
Outside play is only permitted before 9:30 a.m., or after 1:30 p.m., but it's worth the effort.
For buddies, the centrally located Legends Golf & Resort (legendsgolf.com, 800-299-6187) sports comfortable, affordable 2- and 3-bedroom villas, a superb practice facility and the much-awarded, on-site Ailsa Pub -- along with three terrific tracks, Moorland, Parkland and the Tom Doak-designed Heathland.
For couples, it's hard to beat the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes (marinainnatgrandedunes.com, 866-437-4113), which features niceties such as in-room spa service, rooms that overlook the Intracoastal or the marina and an atmospheric restaurant, WaterScapes.