It’s only proper to start this series off with the best golfer of all time, who just so happens to be one of the best-regarded golf course architects. The Golden Bear’s designs are especially laudable if you like a challenge, and his two Myrtle Beach area golf courses bring the challenge in spades. At the end of 18 holes, you’re likely to feel some of the pressure and drama Nicklaus could conquer in his prime.
His courses sit at opposite ends of the Grand Strand and act as gateways of sorts. If you’re driving, depending on which direction you’re coming from, their appearance will herald the appearance of many more courses within a few miles. They are Pawleys Plantation in the south and Long Bay Club in the north.
Pawleys Plantation is located in Pawleys Island, the second-southernmost (to Wedgefield Plantation) course on the Grand Strand. It celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013. The course is an excellent mix of the Bear’s trademark toughness and Lowcountry beauty. Its small greens, deep bunkers and dozens of Spanish moss-draped oak trees give way on the back nine to open vistas across expansive salt marshland, making for a particularly memorable crescendo in the round, adding wind and the sound of the ocean to the mix of hazards the golfer will face. The highlight hole is the iconic 13th, a short par three with its tee boxes situated on an old cotton dike and an elusive green surrounded almost completely by the aforementioned marsh. Hit the green and you will have a makeable birdie putt; miss and you may well be headed for a double bogey.
Long Bay is more of a parkland-style course, set some miles inland off of Highway 9 near the town of Longs, about as far north and west of Myrtle Beach proper as Pawleys Plantation is south. What it lacks in unique environment it recoups in quality golf, with excellent variety among its four par threes, four par fives and ten par fours. The shortest of these is also the most beguiling: at only 352 yards from the back Gold tee, sand is a prominent hazard, with both the fairway and green nearly encircled by sandy waste area and a separate, greenside bunker besides. The green is contoured in such a way that there are three distinct sections, and players will want to find the proper section in order to secure a two-putt. Imposing as this sounds, a birdie is well within reach for the player who refuses to be intimidated by all the sand and the fury. Like those at Pawleys Plantation, Long Bay’s greens are smallish and well-defended.
To book your golf at the Grand Strand’s only two Jack Nicklaus Signature golf courses, visit myrtlebeachgolf.com.