Charlie Rymer beats the drum loudly for the Myrtle Beach golf scene and everything that makes it “The Golf Capital of the World.” But as he points out, this week’s PGA Championship at The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is another of many compelling reminders of just how special the golf scene throughout South Carolina has become. Charlie also has his picks for contenders to look for this week at Kiawah!
By Charlie Rymer
South Carolina has a population of around 5.1 million and is the 23rd largest state. But it rates much bigger than that in the world of golf. It has produced USGA Champions, major champions, and a multitude of PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour winners. It has several of the top college golf programs in the country, and the junior golf programs are amazing. The number one player in the world, Dustin Johnson, grew up here and is a product of those junior programs.
Our terrain is varied, and so are our golf courses. From the Lowcountry that includes Charleston and Hilton Head to the Grand Strand that includes Myrtle Beach, through our midlands that run from Aiken to Columbia and the south side of Charlotte, N.C. to our mountain and lake courses that start in Greenville and run west and south to Georgia, golf in South Carolina can go toe-to-toe with any state in the country.
Many believe the first golf played in the United States was in Charleston. The modern Ryder Cup was born at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island in 1991. We are home to “The Golf Capital of the World” here in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. And if you want to play golf in Myrtle Beach this season, you’d better book fast because the golf business is booming.
And having said all of that, 2021 is a very special year for golf in the Palmetto State. We host two PGA TOUR events AND a major championship. That’s right … look at us! We may not have a single Fortune 500 corporation based here (at least not yet), but this state LOVES its golf and takes great pride in the sport. The 53rd RBC Heritage was conducted last month in Hilton Head on the Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaboration at Harbour Town Golf Links that should be considered a national treasure. Stewart Cink, with his son Connor on the bag, had an emotional win that was hard to take your eyes off of.
Coming up June 10-13 is the Palmetto Championship played at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, S.C. This event replaces the RBC Canadian Open on the 2021 PGA TOUR schedule. I know you haven’t heard of the club, but you will. It’s a Tom Fazio gem that has just two members. It was formed to honor and develop philanthropy and has ambassadors who serve that mission in the local community and beyond. Congaree will look spectacular on television coverage and I guarantee that when you see it, you are going to figure out a way to get you and your golf clubs to South Carolina ASAP.
That gets me to this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah. The Ocean Course is an absolute beast. It was designed by Pete Dye and measures 7,849 yards, making it the longest course in major championship history. It has a slope rating of 155 and a course rating of 79.1, the highest in the country. It’s a confusing place. The beach along the course runs east/west rather than north/south. The wind changes velocity and direction constantly.
And most confusing of all, it looks like a links course but is absolutely not a links course. Links golf is played along the ground with options to run the ball in to the green. The Ocean Course doesn’t provide that opportunity. It makes you hit the ball up in the air with your approaches to cover false fronts, bunkers, and water. I’ve played a lot of the best courses in the world, and I’m telling you that this is the most challenging I’ve ever teed it up on.
So who are the favorites this week? I get tired of beating the drums of golf favoring the long hitters. Week in and week out, the longest hitters don’t win ‘em all. There is still room in the game for shot makers that can control the golf ball and their emotion. But not this week.
The winner will be the player who drives the ball farthest and straightest. Rory McIlroy proved that with his runaway victory on the Ocean Course back in 2005. When he’s on, he drives the ball better than any golfer on the planet. His drought-busting win in Charlotte last week proved that he’s on. Beyond McIlroy, look to the likes of Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson. And maybe sprinkle in some Bryson DeChambeau and John Rahm. And for wild cards, look to Aussies Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman – especially if the wind is up. The Aussies LOVE the wind, and these two recently paired up to win the team championship in New Orleans.
Enjoy the PGA Championship and all the great golf being played in South Carolina this year. And come see us. Plan on staying awhile. And don’t get in a big hurry while you’re here. Because, after all, you really don’t have a better place to be.