DeBordieu Golf Club in Georgetown wasn’t built for tourists. Designed by Pete Dye during the peak of his celebrated career as the centerpiece of the Grand Strand’s most exclusive golf community, the course set the standard for top-end private golf in an otherwise mecca for resort golf.
About five years before he designed Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course for the epic “War by the Shore” 1991 Ryder Cup, Dye and son P.B. crafted a stunning course through pristine wetlands, maritime forests and towering dunes only a few long drives away from the Pawleys Island beachfront.
Though hidden from most of the world behind the gates of DeBordieu Colony, a 2,700-acre beachfront community just south of Pawleys Island, it was the spectacular DeBordieu course that launched a run of top-flight courses featuring moss-draped live oaks and spectacular wetlands.
After DeBordieu opened in 1987, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation (now public) opened as another private golf community just up Highway 17. On the public side, Heritage Club, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club and True Blue followed as elite Grand Strand golf destinations.
DeBordieu was more than a great golf course. It was top of the line all the way from the luxurious, brick clubhouse and lush practice facilities to the finely combed playing conditions. Plus, playing the course was a peaceful getaway for the likes of Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr., who owned a home in the community while serving as the state’s top executive.
Long and tight and filled with sand and water, DeBordieu is vintage Dye, excruciating tough and naturally beautiful. Strong breezes off the nearby Atlantic Ocean add significant difficulty to a mostly open design that was already tough enough to challenge the best of golfers.
Opening with then state-of-the-art bent grass greens, DeBordieu converted to new MiniVerde putting surfaces during a 2014 renovation that also lengthened the course to more than 7,200 yards. Waste bunkers and mounds add to the difficulty of off-target shots.
The 17th hole, a long, open par-4 often requiring a precision drive over wetlands into the teeth of an ocean breeze, was chosen as the Grand Strand’s top hole from more than 120 courses.
There are no easy holes at DeBordieu, though Dye gives players a chance to work out the kinks with two modest-length par-4s before ratcheting up the pressure with a watery, 492-yard par-4 behemoth.
DeBordieu’s toughest feature may be its collection of long, unforgiving par-3s, beginning with No. 4, a 191-yard tester, all over water to a shallow, horizontal green. The remaining par-3s measure 217, 203 and 221, respectively – two requiring long carries over water.
The finishing holes are stunning and spectacular. Teal and LaBruce ponds form a dynamic duo of hazard that stretches along the entire right side of the 447-yard, par-4 17th hole.
The tee shot on the dogleg right is the most intimidating shot on the course. To have a reasonable chance to reach the green in regulation, players must hit a long carry over water (the Dyes left a lone oak as a target) – typically into a strong breeze. A bailout left leaves a long approach from rough and mounds.
Pass that test and a treacherous approach remains to a slim, vertical putting surface just a few paces right of LaBruce Pond. A huge waste area grabs short approaches that manage to stay in play.
Tasked with following No. 17, the par-5 finishing hole provides a dramatic conclusion to the round. From an island tee, players once again drive over water to a tight fairway. Go for the green and water comes into play on both sides. Lay-up shots must jag right toward the water to a deceivingly generous landing area with a cavernous waste area coming into play on the left.
The lake buts up against the right side of the green with three bunkers protecting approaches that veer left away from the water.
The course plays to a whopping 75 rating with a slope of 150. Too tough for mere hackers? Maybe. But don’t refuse an opportunity to play the Grand Strand’s most exclusive golf layout.