Whether you’re in Myrtle Beach for vacation or business, it’s easy to sneak in a round, or many. In a town filled with 7,000+ yard courses crafted by headline designers from Robert Trent Jones to Tom Fazio, the biggest challenge for golfers is not how to play these championship layouts but rather which ones to play. At last count, there were 120 courses in the Myrtle Beach area, aka the Grand Strand, stretching from just over the border in North Carolina down to the southern tip, on Pawleys Island. Here’s a luxury sampling of courses from north to south that highlight the area’s natural assets of giant live oaks and expansive marshes. There’s never really a bad time of year to go to Myrtle Beach, but the summer season offers up some of the best deals.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
It would be hard to find a prettier setting in the region than this scenic layout on the grounds of a former rice plantation. From the tree-lined entrance of centuries-old oaks to the club house’s wrap-around veranda, the place puts on a charm offensive. The late Mike Strantz’s award-winning design, #85 on Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses, is challenging but not overwhelming, like its sister course and neighbor True Blue. A par-70, it maxes out at 6,526 yards, calling for less brawn and more brain as golfers play through the salt marshes that define the Lowcountry region. Back-to-back par-5s and a stretch of four 400-plus yard par-4s on the back nine ups the fun factor. After a round, sit on the back deck enjoying delicious food while watching others hit over the water into the 18th green, arguably one of the toughest shots of the day. www.caledoniagolfandfishclub.com
Dunes Club Golf Course
The Dunes Club is Myrtle Beach’s answer to a must-play round of golf. From the moment you drive in to the last drink on the outdoor terrace, you’ll be treated to a private club experience (Access is limited to guests staying at a select number of area hotels). The vintage 1950’s Robert Trent Jones design, a par-72 stretching to 7,450 yards, is considered by many to be the premier course in the area. Although Dunes is only a few blocks from the beach, it’s a parkland layout that winds through woods, marshes and small ponds (some with big, basking gators). The 640-yard par-5 13th, dubbed Waterloo for its watery peril, gets all the press, but fun par-3s, including the 12th which is all carry over the marsh, add to the drama. You’re almost guaranteed a round under four hours due to the club’s efficient marshals and limited access. Collared shirts and Bermuda length shorts are required. www.dunesclub.net
TPC Myrtle Beach in Murrells Inlet
There’s a lot to love about TPC Myrtle Beach, from the immaculate conditions to the Dustin Johnson Golf School to the Golfboards available to cruise the smooth fairways. But the main draw is the Tom Fazio layout–a championship setup with tree-lined holes, firm, fast greens, over 60 bunkers, and secluded fairways with few outside distractions. With five sets of tees, from 5,118 to 6,950 yards, TPC offers golfers a taste of the high-caliber set-up that Tour players require, but with friendlier challenges from the other tees. As you might expect of a tournament course, the finishing holes require spot-on approaches–the par-3 17th has a tiered peninsula green that adds a thrill to any round. For years TPC Myrtle Beach was home to the PGA Senior Tour Championship and recently held the Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship in March, where 90 elite juniors from around the world competed. Play can sometimes be a little slow, but looking for local wildlife (gators, turkeys, deer, heron) is a nice diversion. www.tpcmyrtlebeach.com
Tidewater Golf Club
You’ll know you’re in Myrtle Beach when you play at Tidewater, and that’s a good thing. Its central location on the strand, with 8 holes along the water, offers a mix of local sites, from the backdrop of Myrtle’s low-rise beach condos to the serene views of the marshes and ocean beyond. You won’t get tired of the water views, even if the trademark off-water headwind is blowing. When the Ken Tomlinson design opened in 1990, it was quickly named a “Golf Digest Top 10 New Public Course,” and it’s been keeping golfers happy ever since. With 5 sets of tees, from 4,648 to 7,044 yards, and elevation changes unusual for the area, Tidewater offers a fun challenge to golfers of all levels, with some forced carries from the longer tees that make it interesting. Heavy overseeding and covers on the Bermuda greens prevent winter kill to ensure plush fairways and well-conditioned greens virtually year round. The par-3s can back up groups, and there’s a good 20-30 minutes total of driving from hole to hole, so while it may not be a speedy round, it will be a pretty one. www.tidewatergolf.com
Leopard’s Chase Golf Club
Even though this course is not in Myrtle Beach proper, its location just north of the South Carolina border at Ocean Ridge Plantation (which has three other courses to choose from), and it’s top ranking among public courses in North Carolina put it in on this Myrtle Beach must-play list. Like many courses in the area, its greens and bunkers took a hit from Hurricane Florence in 2018, but both have come roaring back, and Leopard’s Chase now boasts some of the best greens in the area. Although many courses in Myrtle Beach have hybrid Bermuda greens, Leopard’s Chase is standing by premium L-93 bentgrass, which can be cropped close to provide the fastest, truest putting surface. One of the distinguishing characteristics of this Tim Cate design is the deft use of natural and man-made water features throughout the course. The biggest splash of all awaits on the 18th hole, where the steeply undulating green is fronted by a cascading rock waterfall. www.bigcatsgolf.com
Want to sneak in a little golf in Myrtle Beach? Rent a car with Avis and get $25 off your round if you book through GolfNow – pickup available directly from Myrtle Beach International Airport.