If you’re looking for a golf experience slightly off the Myrtle Beach beaten cart path, consider heading north to Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Less than an hour drive from Myrtle Beach, the Big Cats Golf Courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation are four courses, which can accommodate most golfers’ skill levels. While tech geeks may confuse the naming pattern with Apple’s operating systems, the course names create a memorable theme for vacationers with so many golf choices in the Grand Strand. Lion’s Paw, Leopard’s Chase, Tiger’s Eye and Panther’s Run are the names of the layouts, so let’s take a closer look at these cats.
Lion’s Paw is a Willard Byrd design. With water on almost every hole, reckless golfers may need to pick up an extra sleeve of balls at the highly rated clubhouse and pro shop. Shot placement is especially important on the 10th hole where a small stream winds through the hole twice. Skilled golfers may get a bit bored with the lack of differentiation among the greens, but Lion’s Paw is a very playable course.
The newest course to join the pack is Leopard’s Chase. This course presents water on all but one hole, perhaps most spectacularly, with a waterfall on the 18th. Opening in 2007 and designed by Tim Cate, Leopard’s Chase also penalizes golfers with white sand bunkers, especially on the 5th hole, where sand completely surrounds the landing area combined with the green. As with any time there’s a “newest” golf course at a complex like this, one negative is its popularity, which can lead to pace of play being an issue at Leopard’s Chase.
Beautiful longleaf pines add to the beauty of Tiger’s Eye. The course doesn’t feature quite as much water as some of the other cats, but natural waste areas and strategically placed bunkers contribute to the challenges of this course. Golfers will enjoy the “island” green par 3 11th hole. This is a course where you should play on the set of tees that matches your game because if you try to be a hero, you could be writing down a high score at the end of the round.
Rounding out the Ocean Ridge Plantation courses is Panther’s Run. Consistent with most of the courses here, Panther’s Run features a water hazard at nearly every turn. The course presents big hitters with some opportunities to go for the green in two and score low.
All of the Big Cats courses offer five sets of tees to fit most skill levels. Set in a nature preserve with well-placed manmade water features, these courses are worth the drive from Myrtle Beach to North Carolina. While not at the championship level of some courses in Myrtle Beach, golfers can certainly enjoy their trip to the jungle.