Your nuts-and-bolts guide to golf mecca Myrtle Beach

Caledonia, November 2010
Michael Slear/The Brandon Agency
The picturesque par-3 6th at Caledonia.

Myrtle Beach, S.C., trumpets itself as the world's most successful golf destination. Presumptuous? No, because it's true. The Costco of golf succeeds for two reasons: unparalleled variety, and unbeatable value in packages, discounts and web specials.

Must-Play Course: The late Mike Strantz was an artist with a bulldozer, and he created one of his masterworks at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island. Gnarled live oaks frame the rippled fairways, and much of the course winds along the Waccamaw River. Caledonia measures just 6,526 yards from the tips, but it's replete with wetlands, vast waste bunkers and contoured greens, which explains the daunting 140 slope rating. The superb closer is a 383-yard par-4 that edges the river and old rice fields, with a green fronted by water and backed by a stately, antebellum-style clubhouse. ($90-$165; 843-237-3675, fishclub.com)

Best Bargain: The Witch ($68-$112; 843-347-2706, mysticalgolf.com) in East Conway scares wayward hitters with acres of eerie, ball-trapping marshes and wetlands, but delights with a back nine that sports elevation changes unique to this area. A Dan Maples design, the Witch opens with a wicked 425-yard par-4 and never lets up. Package deals with sibling courses Man O'War and The Wizard and with the Sea Mist Resort can drive prices scary-low.

Hidden Jewel: Another Maples design, Oyster Bay Golf Links ($65-$130; 800-697-8372, legendsgolf.com) in Sunset Beach, N.C., punishes you early with a pair of brutish par-4s (Nos. 2 and 3), then charms you with the 330-yard, par-4 13th, which doglegs right toward the bay and features an elevated green lined with a wall of oyster shells.

Worth the Extra Effort to Play: Among the 100-plus courses along the Grand Strand, designs may come newer, bolder and trendier, but none touch the Dunes Golf and Beach Club for sheer staying power. Ranked No. 48 in Golf Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play, the Dunes is a 1948 Robert Trent Jones Sr. routing that sports the master's elevated greens, strategically deployed water hazards and heroic shot values, most notably at the vaunted 590-yard, par-5 13th, which dog-legs 110 degrees around Lake Singleton. Double bogeys (and the occasional gator) await any sliced shot. To pit your skills against this private Lowcountry legend, you'll require a hotel stay, but for fans of classic design, it's worth the freight. ($110-$200; 843-449-5236, thedunesclub.net)

Old and Improved: Myrtle Beach, like just about everywhere else, is in a holding pattern for new designs, but the most improved course on the strip is Pine Lakes Country Club, aka "the Granddaddy," which reopened in 2009 following an extensive Craig Schreiner renovation. The oldest course in Myrtle Beach, Pine Lakes dates to 1927, and it was here in 1954 that Time-Life executives hatched the idea to launch Sports Illustrated. It has yet to host a swimsuit shoot, but if you're looking for a splash, miss the green right at the 461-yard, par-4 3rd. ($74-$149; 843-315-7700, pinelakes.com)

Don't Bother: John Daly's first signature course, Wicked Stick Golf Links (he collaborated on the project with architect Clyde Johnston), is a lot like J.D. himself: perplexing. Its Scotland-meets-South Carolina theme on a poker table-flat site has never been a great fit. Forget "Grip It and Rip It" — this one's "Grip It and Skip It." ($60-$94; 800-797-8425, wickedstick.com)

One Thing Worth Knowing: Drive time can cut into golf time. If you're planning a 36-hole day, book side-by-side courses, such as at Caledonia/True Blue ({C}fishclub.com{C}), Barefoot Resort ({C}barefootgolf.com{C}) or the Legends ({C}legendsgolf.com{C}). You'll often find deep discounts for a second round (same course or companion course) as well.

Eat, Drink, Stay: For dining, drinking and entertainment, the Barefoot Landing retail complex (bflanding.com) is your one-stop shop. Located in North Myrtle Beach, along the Intracoastal Waterway, Barefoot boasts two great music venues, the Alabama Theater and the House of Blues.

For memorable drinks and eats, it's tough to beat Dick's Last Resort (843-272-7794, dickslastresort.com), where the servers dish out both food and insults. Barefoot also offers Greg Norman's Australian Grille (843-361-0000, shark.com/australiangrille), where the steaks and the wine are a perfect match for the dark-wood interior.

Elsewhere, head for half-shell heaven at Dirty Don's Oyster Bar (843-448-4881, dirtydonsoysterbar.com) and explore the dizzying options at Broadway at the Beach (broadwayatthebeach.com), including the dueling pianos at Crocodile Rocks (843-444-2096).

Myrtle Beach is awash in solid lodging options. We like the Marina Inn at Grand Dunes (866-437-4113, marinainnatgrandedunes.com) and The Legends Golf & Resort (800-299-6187, legendsgolf.com)

 

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