April 24, 2009
This year’s spring training golf trip to the Myrtle Beach area included a few signs of the ongoing recession, but also some hopeful indicators for a turnaround.
Much the same could be said for the quality of the golf we played, at least according to Cape Region golfers Kevin Conlon, Nick DelCampo, and yours truly.
Crown Park was our first stop on the Conlon brothers’ tour on April 17. I was a bit surprised at the sparse number of cars in the parking lot of this pleasant club in Longs, South Carolina (843-756-3200).
This is the height of the Myrtle Beach golf season. If the club isn’t busy now, it could be in for some trouble when the hot summer arrives.
The course design was no reason for golfers to stay away in droves. As Dennis Conlon pointed out, it was a great place to begin the trip, and would also be a nice way to end a golfing vacation. The fairways and greens were in good condition, and there were few surprises for unsuspecting first-time players. DelCampo said, “I was wild off the tee with my driver, but I could always recover well.”
Water comes into play on several holes, mostly for those with a tendency to hook their shots left.
However, the water in the numerous cross hazards and in other locations left and right were among the many troubles that faced us on the next day, when we played Glen Dornoch, in Little River, South Carolina (800-717-8784).
Nobody played this course awfully well, and some of us played it just awfully. I never missed an opportunity to squiff a shot into a cross hazard, and an increasing tendency to hook into the dense trees didn’t help, either.
The course is beautiful, but as DelCampo said, “You needed the precision of a smart missle.” Conlon said, “I saw a lot of boats on the Intercoastal [Waterway], but I wanted to see a lot more birdies on the course. It was real target golf.”
Our group enjoyed itself far more on the next day, when we returned to Farmstead Golf Links, a Calabash, North Carolina favorite from last year (866-six-PARR). This wide-open course is similar to the opening 18 holes at Bear Trap Dunes, with mounding to redirect errant shots back toward the wide fairways.
The unimpeded winds present the biggest challenge, and did again with our group.
Conlon said, “The greens were just perfect. The starter’s advice about reading the breaks was absolutely right. They weren’t really there.”
Conlon parred the course’s signature 18th hole, a 679-yard par-6 challenge, while DelCampo hit a lob wedge to five inches for a birdie.
The next day we returned to Heather Glen Golf Links, a North Myrtle Beach course we last played in 1994 (800-868-4536). The front nine was a bit harder than the back nine, but most of us didn’t distinguish ourselves on either side of this heavily treed layout. As Conlon said, “This course and Glen Dornoch are supposed to be Scottish, but they weren’t links courses at all.”
DelCampo saw flashes of his old swing return, and enjoyed his birdie on the difficult 558-yard par-5 18th hole. I had one of my routine pars there, with a 170-yard hybrid fourth shot that smacked a greenside bunker wall, bounced up, and stopped five feet from the hole.
We finished up at another group favorite, the Magnolia and Dogwood nines at Brunswick Plantation’s 27-hole layout (800-848-0290). This year we played a scramble format for the last day, and most of us seemed to enjoy the change of approach to the last round of our trip.
The course meanders through a residential development, and is old-style for Myrtle Beach, with greens that rely on speedy slopes instead of swoops and humps to challenge the golfers.
Myrtle Beach’s experience with the recession is ongoing, with at least twenty fewer golf courses in operation than during the insane overbuilding of the eighties and nineties. How that area eventually recovers should be instructive for other resort communities.