Prestwick is located in the south-central area of the Grand Strand and gets overshadowed due to its singular ownership and more club-like atmosphere, despite its openness to the public. That under-the-radar aspect makes the course an especially enjoyable one.
Pete Dye is known largely for huge shapes and peppering his courses with pot bunkers and abrupt mounding, but Prestwick is rather toned down, at least when compared to the Dye Club at Barefoot Resort, which cackles and hollers at the golfer, visually speaking. It is much more similar in feel to the private DeBordieu Club course south of Pawleys Island, if you’ve played it (and you should, given the opportunity). There are mounds and large bunkers and expansive putting surfaces at Prestwick, but they seem more glued to the ground than do their cousins at other Dye courses. It seemed that at Prestwick, Pete had on his sculptor’s smock rather than his plastic surgeon’s jacket (not that there’s anything wrong with a little artifice, now and again!). The flattish nature of the site makes a number of greens appear to be extensions of the fairway, rather than environments unto themselves.
The first hole is a great example of this. At only 383 yards from the back tee (341 from the middle White set), it is as gentle an opener as you are likely to find on a Dye course. A large bunker protects the right side of the landing area and two smaller ones guard the left side of the green. So, tee shots placed closer to the former hazard will mean less anxiety about the latter ones—a classic Dye stratagem. The minimal amount of shaping makes the approach shot subtly challenging, as it can be difficult to fixate on a singular point at which to aim.
Though Prestwick is very much a restrained Dye course, it is by no means boring or easy. There is still plenty of peril lurking, as is plain when one arrives at the 9th tee. The fairway on the 537-yard par five hugs the edge of a lake on the left with only slanted railroad ties between short grass and harsh penalty. Up the right, a series of mounds and hollows make for a dicey stance if you bail out on your tee shot. The green, hard by the water, is protected otherwise by an elaborate system of mounds, swales and bunkers. It is neat to look at but hell to play from.
Over summer 2012, the club installed new putting surfaces and removed some trees in order to allow more sunlight to feed the turf. The results have been excellent, as Prestwick is in better shape than it has been in recent years. The staff is courteous, if not particularly effusive, and the clubhouse is well-situated, with a veranda overlooking the 9th and 18th greens. The practice area will not win any huge awards but is perfectly serviceable.
Prestwick is an underrated gem of a course, especially for the Pete Dye enthusiast. If you are staying on the southern half of the Grand Strand, it is worth serious consideration for inclusion on any itinerary.