Pawley’s Island, SC, The Willbrook Plantation Golf Club

Sep 1, 2006
2006 / September 2006

East Coast golfers know that Myrtle Beach is a mecca of great, affordable golf. After all, the region boasts the largest cluster of golf courses in the world. Now the word has spread to European golfers who have discovered this gem of a golf getaway. You’ll notice flags representing the U.K. and countries in northern Europe as you play the fairways here.

Sadly, there is a movement to eliminate some of the great courses here to make way for residential development. The once relatively inexpensive land here is now more valuable for housing sites than for golf courses. Take, for example, the Wild Wing Plantation off Route 501. Two of its three courses will meet fate later this year when a bulldozer rolls in to make way for more housing.

“With the 200-plus courses in the Myrtle Beach area, we no longer have enough golfers to fill the tee times for four courses,” said one pro shop employee.

Thankfully, Willbrook is one golf course that is not set to meet its demise. On the contrary, just this summer a massive restoration and renovation of the greens took place. Steeped in history as it lies on the site of the Pawleys Plantation, golfers can only imagine — aided by signage posted throughout the course — the significance of the events that transpired here 300 years ago. It’s ironic that we now enjoy a leisurely round of golf on the same land where slaves once took to the fields to put in long days of back-breaking work.

Willbrook was designed by Dan Maples who calls it “one of my best.” Golf for Women magazine names it one of the “Top 100 in America.”


Hole 3 (553 yards, par 5)

Off the tee this does not look like a very challenging hole. Yes, it is long, but the landing area for your drive is very wide. Be careful of two fairway bunkers on the right. The problem lies with your second shot, which will cause you to aim to the right over a waste area and small pond as the hole doglegs on the approach to the green. A set of moguls lie about 100 yards at the turn, which is where your second shot will land. Keeping the ball left of these could cause you to blow through the fairway and into a waiting channel. Missing your second shot might mean you land in the waste bunker — or worse, hit the water or roll out of bounds on the right.

Hole 5 (383 yards, par 4)
This is a tricky par 4. You need an accurate drive off the tee to the center of the fairway, which is surrounded by water on three sides. There is enough room to hit the driver, but balls right are wet and balls left might find their way to a string of live oak trees that stand from the original circa-1700s Pawleys Plantation. On the far left, you can see remains of the mounding system used to separate the plantation property, all built by hand with slave labor. I am familiar with this area. It is where my drive landed, nestled in the leaves under the live oaks. I managed a “golf shot” to the rough just inches off the green from this position. This second shot needs to clear the finger of water that juts in front of the green. Any errant shot will roll into the water as the fairway slopes toward it.

Hole 6 (147 yards, par 3)

This island green has a depth of 39 yards, which would seem enough to stop wayward shots, but anything not sticking to this green has a tendency to roll into the water. One bunker protects the left side, but there is nothing to catch you behind the green. Club selection is key here. Pay heed to wind direction and speed.

Hole 8 (519 yards, par 5)

This dogleg right offers big hitters a chance to make the green in two or at least get close. Live oaks line the fairway on both sides as you approach the green. Second shots that land left might need to carry a large live oak, estimated at about 300 years old, to the green. The green is relatively flat with mounding surrounding the back and sides.

Hole 12 (199 yards, par 3)

This should be a relatively easy par 3 if you can reach the distance without any problems. Missed hits will end up in the large waste bunker in front of the green and anything far right will catch the swampy area that runs the entire length. It is also advisable to favor the left side of the green due to the presence of a huge bunker guarding the right side.

Hole 14 (419 yards, par 4)

Lots of trouble here for golfers who tend the spray the ball. There are trees lining the right side and a small pond on the left. Water also is found where your drive might land. Left-center placement will leave you with a 170-yard shot to the green, which is totally surrounded by water. Take a club less to avoid overshooting this green, which has a slight hump in the center, making putting a challenge depending on pin placement.

Hole 15 (572 yards, par 5)

This is the No. 1 handicap-ranked hole on the course — and it lives up to its reputation. At the tee box, take a deep breath and look right toward the beautiful lily pond. It might help you relax for the first shot on this monster. Drive your ball slightly favoring the left side near the fairway bunker. There is a large live oak that appears to come out of the rough to the fairway left and it is advisable to avoid this at all cost — it will ruin your second shot which has to clear a marshy wetlands area to a narrow landing about 100 yards from the green. Any shots short will be caught by this bulkhead hazard. From here the fairway climbs up slightly to the green, which is protected by traps left and right. The green — your reward — is relatively flat and putts true. This is a beautiful hole that can drive you absolutely insane.

Hole 18 (535 yards, par 5)

This is a great finishing hole. The smart shot is a drive to the very narrow landing area on the fairway of this slight dogleg right. From here you can pull out your fairway wood and get the ball within 100 to 120 yards from the green. There is a 300-plus-year-old live oak that makes for a “golf shot” when the pin is tucked to the right side. My approach to the green was a sand wedge over the tree to the green.

WILLBROOK PLANTATION GOLF CLUB

100 Tidewater Circle
Pawley’s Island, SC 29585
tel 843 237 4900

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