Behold, the Granddaddy

TEE 4: 6,675 yards / par 70 / 72.3 rating / 134 slope
TEE 3: 6,305 yards / par 70 / 70.5 / 128
TEE 2: 5,756 yards / par 70 / 68.1 / 120
TEE 1: 4,758 yards / par 70 / 68.6 / 111 (W)

Pine Lakes Country Club is in some ways an atypical Myrtle Beach area golf course.  The gentlemen who greet you and tend to your golf bag at the bag drop are clad in tartan and knickers.  Golfers do not have to contend with out-of-bounds stakes and houses except on the very periphery of the course.  But despite its departures from the perceived norms of Myrtle Beach golf, Pine Lakes is where it all began.

It all began, by the way, in 1927.  Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America and a co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, laid out nine holes in coastal pine forest less than a mile from the Atlantic, beginning a chain of events that turned Myrtle Beach from a small seaside settlement into the world-renowned golf destination it is today.  And in 1954, a group of gentlemen from Time Inc. sat around a table in the Pine Lakes clubhouse and hatched the idea that would become Sports Illustrated.  As fitting recognition, Pine Lakes is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The golf course received a major upgrade in 2009 from architect Craig Schreiner.  Many architects, when charged with the task of updating a venerable course, tend to leave behind a mediocre new product rather than a true refreshment of the original.  Not so with Schreiner, who left 16 of the original 18 playing corridors intact while building two new holes—necessitated by changes to the entrance drive—that blend in very well with the rest.

Pine Lakes enjoys an uncluttered, traditional aesthetic, with broad shaping and large greens with enough undulation to support multiple rounds and provide different challenges one day to the next.  The standout hole on the front is the third, a big, brawny par four that measures 463 yards from the back tees.  It features a semi-blind tee shot—another rarity in Myrtle Beach—over the crest of a hill where a well-struck drive can gain an extra 15 to 20 yards of roll as it tumbles.  A pond sits hard by the right edge of the green, which features pronounced kick-slopes to the left so that a low, running approach shot can trundle onto the green.  The opportunity to watch a ball roll out can be a rare joy in Myrtle Beach, but the third at Pine Lakes offers that option to every player.

The back nine features a number of excellent holes, the standouts being the par threes—numbers 11 and 16.  The former is a 155-yard charmer with a green perched just beyond a pond.  Though the hole requires a short iron shot, the wind swirls constantly, making the decision over which short iron to use agonizing.  Number 16 is longer but still of middling length at 180 yards from the tips.  Its main defense is the most interesting green on the course, which rolls down slightly from the front edge before rising to a shelf in the back left, the back right dropping off into a small grass bunker at the edge of a pond.  It is an imposing-looking shot from the tee, making a par or rare birdie especially satisfying.

Pine Lakes seems to excel when it comes to the little things as well.  They began, and have recently resumed, the tradition of serving piping hot seafood chowder as a complimentary mid-round snack.  With nice chunks of clam and potato and a clearish (i.e. not the creamy New England style) broth that has nice bite, it is a perfect way to forget one’s woes from the opening nine and recharge for the back.  The grill room where this edible tradition is to be found also serves excellent hot dogs and great sit-down fare for a pre- or post-round lunch.

In sum, Pine Lakes takes advantage of its unique features and stands proudly as the place where golf began in Myrtle Beach.  It richly deserves the nickname “Granddaddy” and commands respect and loyalty from those who know it well.

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