Myrtle Beach’s reputation as the Golf Capital of the World has long been secure. One hundred courses and millions of rounds played solidified that title, one the area wears with pride.
The Grand Strand has gradually added another jewel to its crown – home to more elite golf courses than any destination in America. That reputation was burnished even further with Golf Magazine’s biennial release of its “Top 100 You Can Play,” which ranks America’s best public golf courses.
Four Myrtle Beach area layouts, led by Caledonia Golf & Fish Club at No. 25, earned a spot on the prestigious list, more than any other destination. The Dunes Golf & Beach Club (No. 47), the Love Course at Barefoot Resort & Golf (No. 86), and Tidewater Golf Club (No. 100) completed the quartet.
“Myrtle Beach is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to golf travel,” Golf Magazine’s course architecture and rankings editor Joe Passov said. “I call it the gold standard because there is no other golf destination that can touch it for pure variety, and there are only a handful that can compare for value.”
The rankings for Caledonia and the Dunes Club were virtually unchanged from the 2006 list – Dunes Club dropped one spot – but the Love Course vaulted nine spots and Tidewater rejoined the list for the first time since 2004.
Tidewater was named Best New Course in America when it opened in 1990 and was a fixture on Top 100 lists through its first 14 years, but man-made mounding and large undulating greens emerged as design trends that didn’t favor a layout that remained true to its surroundings.
“Tidewater was once ranked in the high 30s on the Top 100 You Can Play list before slipping off,” Passov wrote in the September issue of Golf Magazine. “But tastes change … Architect Ken Tomlinson didn’t sprinkle mounds over the course, and so his bunkers and greens are on the flattish side, a design treatment that fell out of favor for a few years. But a recent reexamination of the course’s virtues has vaulted it back into the rankings.”
Myrtle Beach long ago vaulted to prominence based on the quality and value of its golf, traits that were very apparent when area courses were ranked alongside their elite peers. The average peak season greens fee for the top 25 courses on the Golf Magazine list was $280, which is 80 percent higher than Caledonia’s most expensive listed price.
Fees at Pinehurst ($410) and Scottsdale ($295) dwarf the most expensive list price on the Grand Strand, just over $200, which is a walk-in rate. Given that most Myrtle Beach visitors play on golf packages, their actual cost is normally considerably less.
But the Golf Magazine list wasn’t about value, it was designed to help readers identify elite layouts. Beyond the Top 100 courses, Golf Magazine ranked the best courses in each state, something that illustrated Passov’s point about the variety along the Grand Strand.
South Carolina is among the most golf-rich states in the Union by nearly any estimation, and 13 of the Palmetto State’s top 20 are Myrtle Beach area courses. Caledonia (No. 3), Dunes Club (No. 4), Love Course (No. 6), Tidewater (No. 7), Fazio Course at Barefoot (No. 8) and True Blue (No. 9), ranked among the top. 10.
TPC (No. 11), Heathland at Legends Resort (No. 12), Heritage Club (No. 14), Glen Dornoch (No. 16), King’s North (No. 17), Grande Dunes (No. 18) and Pawleys Plantation (No. 19) also made the distinguished list.
The Grand Strand figured almost just as heavily in North Carolina rankings, placing four layouts in the top 11. Rivers Edge (No. 7), Leopard’s Chase (No. 8), Tiger’s Eye (No. 9), Oyster Bay (No. 11) and the Jones Course at Sea Trail (No. 17) ranked among the Tar Heel state’s best, giving the Grand Strand a total of 18 “Top 20” courses.