A “tricky” golf hole doesn’t equal a bad golf hole. In fact several of the top Grand Strand golf courses have holes that could accurately be described that way.
Tricky doesn’t have to mean hidden water hazards, trees in the middle of the fairway or unfair sloping greens where any putt struck from above the hole rolls off the putting surface. Instead, the best, tricky holes often require precise shots to specific, strategic targets. And yes, local knowledge is often a tremendous aid to hitting the right shot.
Here’s a list of five favorite tricky holes from five of the best courses on the Grand Strand:
- The Surf Club, No. 10, 564 yards: This sharp dogleg left par-5 can quickly put a damper on your round after a great front nine, or kick you in the chops at the beginning of your round, depending which nine you play first. The tee shot is one of the toughest on the Grand Strand, requiring either a long, very accurate driver hit either dead straight or with a draw, or a precise mid-to-long iron or hybrid (the hardest shot for most golfers) to the left side – but not too far left – of the fairway. Most players can’t hit driver off the tee, and those who can, probably shouldn’t. It takes a carry of well over 200 yards to a narrow window over water and between woods and out of bounds to profit from hitting the big stick. Hit the great drive, and the odds are still against reaching the green in two – the hole plays 554 yards from the white tees. The smart shot for all but scratch players is to hit a medium iron to the right of the lake that guards the turn in the dogleg. Too far left is in the water, too far right makes a fairway wood over the water necessary to get within striking distance for your third shot. Any type of layup tee shot will require at least a long iron on the second shot to have a reasonable third shot at the green.
- Oyster Bay, No. 13, 330 yards: Don’t be distracted by the spectacular scenery or the relatively short distance of this signature par-4. This hole requires two good shots to avoid water off the tee and water and a cavernous bunker complex set far below an elevated, shallow green supported by a wall of shells. Oh, and there’s usually a disruptive wind howling off the water to make club selection and ball flight much harder. An alligator-filled lake extends down the entire right and juts gradually into the fairway, making the target different depending on what club you select. You can hit driver, but the biggest hitters on the PGA Tour probably couldn’t reach the green. The result would be either a tricky half-wedge up into the wind over the intimidating bunker to the shallow green, a second shot from the bunker complex that stretches back 30 yards or so from the green or an errant shot left either out of bounds or blocked by trees. Of course, a shot hit to the right would be wet. An iron off the tee must avoid the water on the right, the trees on the left and travel enough distance to leave only a short iron to the deceptively small, largely hidden putting surface surrounded in front, right and back by water. There’s very little bailout room to the left, either.
- Caledonia, No. 18, 383 yards: Another short par-4 that requires precision rather than distance on the drive and the approach. The tee shot is a fairway wood or long iron for most players with the key hitting the ball as close as possible to the marsh that extends down the right side of the landing area before jutting in from the left to protect the green on approaches. A bailout to the left side leaves an uncomfortable mid-iron over the marsh (all carry) to a long, shallow putting surface resting in the shadows of the antebellum-style clubhouse and the spectators on the patio of the 19th hole. The typically gusting winds off the marsh and the nearby Waccamaw River add to the difficulty. Hitting at a pin placement on the far right portion of the green – a position requiring greater distance and a tiny margin for error – is foolish. But a left pin is no easy target, either.
- Prestwick No. 4, 320 yards: Another short, tight par-4 surrounded by hazards … Have you noticed the pattern here? The tee shot much be well struck to clear an initial carry over water, and accurate enough to find a small landing area wedged between trees. And if you hit it too far – 220 yards or so – you’ll find more water. This tee shot is probably the trickiest of our gauntlet of short par-4s because anything not in the fairway is either wet or in the trees. There’s just no place to miss. You have to hit a solid, straight shot with the right club. With a good drive, you’ll still have a short, but dangerous approach over a creek to a small green. After playing back-to-back par-4s of 448 and 470 yards, this short par-4 offers no letup.
- Pawleys Plantation, No. 13, 145 yards: OK, you probably expected this hole to be on this list. And for good reason. The Grand Strand’s most dangerous version of the infamous island hole at TPC at Sawgrass takes an accurate, well-struck shot and yes, a little bit of luck. What you thought was a great shot can easily go into the marsh if the wind kicks up in any direction or you slightly misjudge the effect of the wind, which is always blowing across the vast marsh. Standing on the narrow dike just above the gator-filled marsh, with the wind violently whipping against your clothes, it’s just you against the elements and a tiny target. Although most golfers play the hole from no more than 115 yards, hitting the green is a tremendous feat. But staying on the green after a bounce or two and some roll, is what’s required to make par. Though the wind makes the shot impossible to fully judge, the key is to decide how to play the shot then hit it with confidence and hope. That’s all you can do.