The road into Calabash, N.C., is a narrow, two-lane strip of pavement, surrounded by trees and a small town coastal charm that many miss without ever realizing it was there. A two-story building qualifies as a sky-scraper, and the word corporate is as foreign as John Daly in an etiquette class.
Less than 10 miles away in North Myrtle Beach are 5-star accommodations, high-rise condos, and entertainment galore.
As disparate as the two locales are, they are drawn together by great golf and help give the North end of the Grand Strand a unique charm. The South Strand is renowned for its casual pace of life and high-end golf. Myrtle Beach proper is the area's hub, where golf, entertainment and the beach collide for the ultimate buddy trip.
The North Strand lacks that definition, but it offers the best of both worlds, which has helped its popularity soar. North Myrtle Beach, home of restaurant row, provides the vibrancy many want in a trip. Abundant night-life and high-end restaurants like Thoroughbreds and Cagney's help give the area it's off-course character.
But the further one travels north, the slower the pace of life of becomes. Little River, the last outpost in South Carolina, is home to charter fishing, stunning views of the Intracoastal Waterway and a casual dining environment that is worth the drive, particularly the Little River Marina.
“The Little River area is one of my favorites,” Jeff Diehl, the marketing director at Barefoot Resort, said. “I love the fishing village type motif. It seems to be a little quieter up there. I think the quaintness of it all (really stands out). It has a small town, lowcountry feel, but it's still a resort community.”
Just across the border in Brunswick County, N.C., home of Calabash and Ocean Isle, N.C., things get even quieter. The whole of Brunswick County doesn't have many more stop lights than Restaurant Row, but the area's unique brand of fried seafood – Calabash style – has gained national acclaim. Any trip to the area should include a stop at the Waterfront for Calabash seafood made by the descendents of the people who created it.
The tie that binds North Myrtle Beach and its casual cousins is golf. The epicenter of the Grand Strand golf boom was on the north end. Twenty-five years ago, golf was practically non-existent in Brunswick County and there were a limited number of tee times in North Myrtle Beach.
Named Best New Resort Course in the county in 1983, Oyster Bay opened the floodgates and a torrent of high-end layouts followed. The two lanes roads that criss-cross Brunswick County now lead to golf gold with courses like Tiger's Eye, Leopard's Chase, Crow Creek and the layouts at Sea Trail.
The area's abundant marshland provides many courses the type of property no amount of money can recreate.
The golf is no less stunning on the South Carolina side of the state line. Tidewater Golf Club is one of the region's anchor courses and was recently named to Golf Magazine's list of the “Top 100 Courses You Can Play:” Four holes at Tidewater offer a view of the Atlantic Ocean and the ones that play along the Intracoastal are just as visually appealing.
Barefoot Resort opened four courses simultaneously – designed by Tom Fazio, Davis Love, who created a top 100 course, Greg Norman and Pete Dye – and has managed to meet the hype associated with the property's 2000 opening. Home of 5-star accommodations, several on-site restaurants, including Greg Norman's Australian Grille, golfers could conceivably never leave the property.
Four-star courses such Glen Dornoch, Long Bay and Heather Glen help make the North Strand home to the highest concentration of elite courses in the Myrtle Beach area. As a matter of fact, three of the top eight courses in the state of South Carolina – the Love and Fazio courses and Tidewater – are located just miles from each other.
Four of Golf Magazine's top 11 courses in North Carolina – Tiger's Eye, Leopard's Chase, River's Edge and Oyster Bay – are clustered just as tightly.
Diamondback at Woodland Valley provides the combination of quality and value that has lured so many golfers to the North end of the Grand Strand.
The North Strand has quality and quantity of golf and its off-course offerings are just as diverse. From the bright lights of North Myrtle Beach to the back roads of Brunswick County, the North Strand offers a little bit of nearly everything and a lot of great golf.
North End Golf Photo Gallery
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