Over the last 13 years of publishing Global Traveler, I have written many golf reviews and, due to an annual trip to Myrtle Beach with childhood friends, probably covered this region more than any other in the world. Pawleys Plantation and its sister course, Willbrook Plantation, counted among the courses we played this year. I conducted a search on globaltravelerusa.com and discovered the September 2006 issue featured my review of Willbrook, which was telling.
I wrote the article before the recession, when golf course development and housing boomed in Myrtle. One interesting line from an employee indicated he was having trouble filling the tee sheets for all the courses in the Pawleys complex … almost a foretelling of the changes to come.
Although I played Pawleys Plantation before, I never reviewed the course; and it is certainly worthy as a wonderful example of how a pro can turn Lowcountry land and difficult topography into a challenging and enjoyable design. Jack Nicklaus designed the course in 1988, and the pro tips yardage book includes his comments and suggestions on how to play each hole. Our group had nothing in common with Nicklaus except that we enjoy the game and admire the man.
I teed up at Pawleys Plantation with Neil Curran (aka “Swirly” due to his love of fine wine), Mike “Corky” Donahue and John “The Apprentice” Kelley.
HOLE 2 | 461 yards, par 4
Long and demanding Hole 2 is ranked as the most difficult on the course. Maybe it was a little unfair for Jack to bring it out so early in the round when golfers are just warming up. Tee up your ball, ignoring the waste and marsh area that sits between the tee box and the fairway; it should be easy to clear. There are several mounds where your ball lands, and you can only hope these will come to your aid as they did for Mike and deflect your ball back to the fairway. At about 150 yards from the green, try to avoid the sandy marsh area on the left-hand side. Alas, The Apprentice (so-called because he was taking over the restaurant bookings for this trip) found this little patch and ended his hopes for par. The trap actually continues left of the green to a rather generous putting surface.
HOLE 11 | 563 yards, par 5
Jack says there are 10 different ways to play this hole; well, we found a few more! I was pleased to power a drive over the pond that separates the tee box from the fairway, allowing me to really advance the ball. Others in the group delivered a mixed bag of shots, some right and others left. The hole is wooded and therefore makes any shot off the fairway difficult. Neil experienced one of those bad holes where he struggled with a few shots getting back into play. To make matters worse, on one of his recoveries his ball squarely hit the cart return sign, stunting his momentum. I hit a second good fairway wood, and my approach landed just left, enabling me to chip on and two-putt for par.
HOLE 13 | 150 yards, par 3
Coming off of No. 12 and heading to 13, you are a little stunned and amazed that good old Jack used an earthen dike not just to transport golfers to the other side of the course but also for the tee boxes of holes 13 and 17. With wind blowing and hats barely staying on our heads, we teed up to try to hit this green, which offers little room for error. I took a marvelous swing but with too much draw, causing my ball to hit one of the bulkheads left and end up in the marsh. The green is somewhat peninsular, offering many possibilities for mishaps. The best miss is right, where you are likely to be safe from any hazards. Stopping the ball near the pin, which sat back the day we played, finds many good shots rolling off the green and likely wet.
HOLE 17 | 201 yards, par 3
Let’s see how brave you are! Taking a direct line to the hole is the shortest way, but once again you have returned over the dike to make your tee shot. That means you need to carry a lot of salt marsh to the green, as there is little to no margin for error. After all four of us hit our balls into the drink, we declared a “fun ball” re-teeing — some with similar consequences. My tee ball just made it over the salt marsh, but turned ever so slightly left it was nearly a goner, though still dry and playable. Mike bailed out, pushing his ball so far right I thought he was going cotton picking to the green. Nicklaus says, “There is plenty of room to play on the left,” but a large trap there actually saves many shots from falling into the marsh.
HOLE 18 | 443 yards, par 4
As if the “Golden Bear” has not punished you enough, he made 18 a narrow but terrific finishing hole at Pawleys. He claims he did not have the heart to remove the large live oak that stands inside the back knee of this ever-so-slight dogleg left. Every dog has its day, and we four enjoyed a windy final hole. The small lake left of the green and the long trap on the inside left of the fairway add to the challenges.
The Pawleys Plantation complex stands the test of time, and I am always pleased to hit a few with Corky, The Apprentice and Swirly!
PAWLEYS PLANTATION GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
70 Tanglewood Drive
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
tel 843 237 6000
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