Arthur Hills is one of the country’s best known golf course architects, especially to those living in the Midwest. He has but one course on the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand: the PineHills Course at Myrtlewood Golf Club, opened in 1993. PineHills stands in considerable contrast to its elder sibling the Palmetto Course, which opened in 1972 and features many classic design elements. Mr. Hills’ course, though shorter—6,640 yards from the back Blue tees—is generally regarded as the more challenging of Myrtlewood’s tracks, though it is by no means a brute.
In fact, PineHills’ opening stretch is ripe for good scoring, as it opens with two of the course’s three shortest par 4s and the course’s second-shortest par 5. Good players should expect at least one or two real chances at birdie to start out. Somewhat unexpectedly, the shortest of the opening trio has the most potential for danger. Though less than 350 yards from the tips and only 324 yards from the popular White tees (6,112 yards), the second hole features a large fairway bunker on the left and two of the courses deepest greenside bunkers on the right. A player who challenges that fairway hazard is rewarded with a clearer look at the green while the one who delays the imposing shot until the approach does so at the expense of coming straight over those two gnarly pits. It is a wonderful example of a hole that, as Jack Nicklaus recommended, should be played from the green backward.
The one-shotters at PineHills are of considerable merit as well, especially those on the back side. They are not particularly long, but they are fraught with danger. The green of the 175 yard 11th is guarded by a pond on the left and bunkers short-right and long. The putting surface is large, though, giving players the option to bail out to the right.
The same can not as easily be said of the shorter 17th. At only 153 yards from the tips, it is a rare (on the Grand Strand) short-iron par 3 for most. This time, water guards the right, and bunkers lie in wait short, left and long, putting confidence and pure execution at a premium. Hitting the small green almost always means a legitimate birdie opportunity at a usually critical time in any match.
Where the Palmetto Course’s features sit tight to the ground, PineHills features a modicum of sculpture and periodic visual wildness. Thankfully, Hills was careful not to go overboard with this at the expense of playability. What he left behind at Myrtlewood was an underrated course that fits well into any itinerary for golf trips in Myrtle Beach, be it the first round off the plane, the last before heading home or at any spot in between.