Lots of golfers make the annual pilgrimage to Myrtle Beach, but few ever see their consecutive-years streak reach the half-century mark.
Such was the case recently when a foursome from Philadelphia made it to Myrtle Beach to play golf for a monumental 50th year in a row. Through more than 10,000 rounds (equal to playing 18 holes every day for over a year) and 50,000 miles (enough to circle the planet twice), their traditional fall migration to Myrtle Beach is a tale of 50 years of friendship, golf and good times on and off the links.
“It’s not just the 50 years, but all the experiences we had along the way,” said 75-year-old Ron Bingeman, one of two in the party to never miss a year. “Whenever get together someone will say, ‘What was the name of that course we played?’ or `What band was playing at what bar that one time?’ We’ve made a lifetime of memories and great friends playing golf in Myrtle Beach and we love to relive them.”
The year was 1970. The Beatles broke up, the Concorde made its first flight, and the cost of a gallon of gas in the U.S. was 36 cents. That same year, four golfers from the Philadelphia area were making their inaugural visit to the Grand Strand’s burgeoning golf scene.
“My number one memory is seeing the place grow from 10 courses when we first came to 115 at its peak,” said Bingeman, who has played them all and has a souvenir ball from each course to prove it. “There’s nowhere else you could experience that than Myrtle Beach.”
Bingeman and Everett Cassel made it for all 50 fall trips to Myrtle Beach, while friends Larry Spangler, Craig Aiken and Bob Hayes made most of the visits despite a combination of health problems, transportation issues, hurricanes and other hazards along the way. That includes a Volkswagon “hippie van” that broke down on the way to Myrtle Beach and required some MacGyver engineering on the road side.
“It was the middle of the night and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere. There were no cell phones back then,” said Bingeman, who fashioned a steel-belted flat tire into a makeshift accelerator cable. “We were already complaining about which courses we weren’t going to be able to play, then within 20 minutes we were back on the road. It wouldn’t go very fast but it got us to Myrtle Beach and back.”
A few of the names have changed over the years for extenuating circumstances, but the general rule is once you made the trip you didn’t want to miss it. That’s what happened to Aiken, who wasn’t around for the first 20 years but managed to make the past 30 in a row.
“We were bragging about our trip one time and (Aiken) said, ‘How do your wives let you guys do this every year?'” Bingeman recalled. “I said, ‘This Christmas when she asks what you want as a gift, tell her you want to go on a golf trip to Myrtle Beach with your buddies. All you need are three other friends crazy enough to do it and a very understanding wife.’ Thirty years later, he hasn’t missed a trip.”
Of course, much has changed since the foursome teed it up in Myrtle Beach for the first time in the fall of 1970. That inaugural trip featured a package that set them back just $25 per person per day that covered all their green fees, accommodations and two meals a day.
“That included our room and food – we could order anything off the menu – and we could play The Dunes Club, all for $25,” Bingeman said. “The prices have gone up, but so has the value. There are so many great places to play and stay and so many things to do after golf.”
Sadly, the foursome has decided to call it quits after 50 years. “We really wanted to get to 50, and that’s the right time to end it,” said Bingeman, who will continue to visit Myrtle Beach with his wife to play golf and enjoy the town. “It’s like going out on top.”
But fellow golfers can follow in their footsteps by starting their own annual adventure in Myrtle Beach. Packages are available to fit any group or budget, and you just might find yourself and your friends coming back year after year for another half-century.
Plan your golf trip today and make yearly memories in Myrtle Beach.