..The Leopards Chase Golf Links is the fourth and most recent golf course built at the expansive Ocean Ridge Plantation in Sunset Beach, NC, near the Grand Strand’s northern terminus. It opened in 2007 to considerable fanfare: GOLF Magazine and Golf Digest both declared it one of the ten best public courses to open that year. It is also the third course built at Ocean Ridge by Tim Cate, who has designed a number of North-Grand Strand golf courses.
Cate is nothing if not a predictable architect. That is not a bad thing per se, but it puts a bit of a lower ceiling on his best efforts while raising the floor on his worst. Leopard’s Chase can be considered one of the former. He builds big greens and fairly generous fairways, but so too does he arrange big and sometimes gaudy bunkers and sandy waste areas. And water—there tends to be a lot of water on Cate courses, as well as the occasional waterfall.
If the name of Cate’s game is consistency, Leopard’s Chase falls in line, with one hole’s worth of exception. Some golf nerds prefer to tell you that there are no bad golf holes (only bad-tempered golfers), and your humble author is usually one such chap. But he cannot abide the horrid 11th hole, a double-island fairway par five. In the event of a mediocre or merely short tee shot, players are hamstrung into hitting a mid-iron to the second fairway, which is the size of a large green and surrounded by wetlands. Next is yet another forced carry over wetlands to green protected bunkers. The hole would be best as a short par four, but it is a poor par five.
Nevertheless, if there’s only one bad hole on a given golf course, chances are it’s a good one on the whole. This is true of Leopard’s Chase. The two best holes come first and last, the former being an interesting short par four that gives the player the opportunity to take a chance on the first swing of the day and the latter being a brutish long par four to a green perched above a cascading waterfall. Tacky? Maybe, but it’s a memorable end to the round for sure.
Leopard’s Chase boasts modest but complete facilities. Built as it is in a corner of Ocean Ridge’s huge property, the driving range is full length but somewhat narrow. Even so, the target greens are protected by bunkers and one can only expect to fight for a space on the tee on a full tee sheet morning. The clubhouse is small and spartan but functional and the staff are very courteous.
Conditions-wise, Leopard’s Chase is one of the few remaining Myrtle Beach area courses with bentgrass greens. As with all its kind, it is fun putting fall through spring but steer clear in the summer.
Leopard’s Chase lives comfortably in the upper two tiers of courses in the area. It may not have the historical pedigree of The Dunes Club or the arresting beauty and inventive artistry of Caledonia or True Blue, but it is a good deal of fun to play from any of its five well-spaced sets of tees. Don’t make the 80-minute trek up from Pawleys Island to play it during your trip or anything, but if you’re staying in North Myrtle Beach or points north, it’s well worth considering.