The site of the Senior PGA Championship won by Hall-of-Famer Tom Watson, TPC Myrtle Beach remains one of the must-play courses for any serious golfer on an excursion to the Grand Strand. It is the only course on the Strand to be awarded five stars by Golf Digest, and it provides a welcome home for many traveling pros as they hone their skills. Tom Fazio designed TPC Myrtle Beach in 1999. Considered one of the best golf course architects alive, Fazio designed more than 120 courses, with more of them ranking in the top 100 than those of any other designer. We played 27 holes when we teed up on a beautiful April day in Myrtle. The foursome included Mike “Corky” Donahue, who had trouble getting his ball to fly true during his game; Jimmy “The Cop” Spratt, serious and focused but often distracted; John “IBM” Ecklund, who warmed up to the course; and me, playing my regular game of double bogeys, bogeys and pars. HOLE 1 | 377 yards, par 4 ‘Off the Bat’ Off the bat, we teed off at Hole 1, ranked the No. 9 handicapped hole at TPC. Mike, Jim and I drove well-placed shots in line for our second shot to the green on this dogleg left. Two bunkers flank the landing area left and right, and the green is deep at nearly 40 yards. John slammed a ball left and short, bouncing around the trees until it rested, making his comeback impossible. After returning to play, he landed in a bunker, adding a stroke to his score while the rest of us carded bogeys and hurried to the carts. HOLE 2 | 547 yards, par 5 ‘Wally and John’ If you are fond of alligators, this is the hole for you! Right near the spot where John drove his tee shot, a rather large gator rested, looking content and fat. I suggested John simply ask the fella to move away, but John insisted on a “drop” due to the man-eater. This beautiful par 5 requires three near-perfect shots to the green, as it wraps around the water on the left. The team, still warming up, scored a collection of bogeys and double bogeys. HOLE 9 | 472 yards, par 4 ‘Relief’ The No. 1 handicapped hole on the front nine requires two good shots to make the green while avoiding any mishaps. Your monster drive must clear the swampy brush just beyond the tee box and still carry enough gusto to take distance away from your approach. A small pond lies on the right side within driving distance. Fortunately, all four of us landed safely, favoring the left side of the fairway. The approach, uphill and elevated, makes it even more difficult, with one lone trap that caught me on the fly. We all scored bogeys, one over par, resulting in relief more than celebration.
HOLE 11 | 425 yards, par 4 ‘Spinner’ Besides my par and John’s birdie on Hole 11, I witnessed a most remarkable shot off a tee by Mike. Racing to be the first to clobber the ball, he swung hard, catching the ball on the hozel of the club and sending it screaming wildly low and to the right. Before having a chance to go out of bounds, the ball crushed the white tee marker (made of PVC plastic at TPC) and sent it spinning around like a top! I thought the marker might drill itself into the ground, resulting in a gusher of oil. The ball bounded furiously off the tee marker and buried itself about a foot and a half behind, as if hiding in shame. We all thought this was a riot, of course, and felt it destined for inclusion in this review. The rest of us played a different game; I drove a little right, putting the trees into my approach more mentally than in reality. I took the ball up the left to the green and two-putted for par. Maybe I didn’t produce a spinning tee marker, but I was pleased with the result nonetheless. John landed left center, caught a perfect iron to the center of the green and one-putted. Unfortunately, Jimmy — still damaged from witnessing the spinner shot — became tangled in the trees on the left and carded a double bogey. HOLE 18 | 538 yards, par 5 ‘Distraction’ This is a wonderful finishing hole, which I think Fazio created to make or break your game. I guess the greenskeeper closes the hole to carts all the time, as the fairway seems to have a drainage issue. The day we played, the course was in great shape and, forgetting the hole was “path only,” I was chastised by one of the maintenance workers. A note to the course superintendent: A sign saying, “cart path only,” might help golfers remember the rule after four hours on the course. My drive was good but slightly less robust than John’s. When I walked out to hit my second shot, John (in a world of his own) started walking out on the fairway toward his ball. This got into my head and I shanked the ball into the water left. A stream splits the fairway, a challenge only those with exceptional drives can master. The second shot is to another fairway with a large pond on the left, culminating in the green and the lovely clubhouse beyond. After taking my penalty stroke, I advanced the ball nicely and then clipped onto the green for a bogey, forgiving John for distracting me. Fazio included some remarkable and memorable holes in the design. Whether you decide to spin a tee marker or make friends with the wild animals is entirely up to you, but I recommend a round at TPC when you are in Myrtle Beach.
TPC Myrtle Beach
1199 TPC Blvd. Murrells Inlet, SC 29576 tel 843 357 3399 tpcmyrtlebeach.com
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