The (Not So) Incredible Shrinking Greens and Fairways of Myrtle Beach!

That phenomenon shouldn’t happen on golf courses. But it does, especially in the Myrtle Beach area. Here are three courses suffering from that affliction with which Seinfeld’s George Costanza is all too familiar: shrinkage.

Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
Jack Nicklaus’ “Signature” course on the southern Grand Strand has always been one of the area’s toughest, due to its tree-lined fairways, deep bunkers and small greens. Those greens have gotten even smaller over the last few years, further ratcheting up the brutality factor. Before the last couple years, when the superintendent and maintenance staff really stopped paying attention to where the edges of the greens should be, the back tees carried a pretty hefty Rating of 74.5 and Slope of 142. The most recent revision has seen those figures skyrocket to 75.7 and 148, respectively. The more oft-played Blue Heron and White Egret tees have splits of 73.7/144 and 72.0/139, which are outrageously high. One of the main criticisms made of Pawleys Plantation is that the pace of play is on the slow side.  It’s no wonder, when approach shots that used to be on the green or fringe are now in the rough on holes like the par five 4th, par four 5th and 6th and par three 7th holes, to name but a few. On the latter three of those holes, Nicklaus’ original greens were already very narrow. Now, it looks as if there will be no putting surfaces left on those hole in a couple years if the loss of greens space continues unchecked.

Myrtlewood Golf Club – Palmetto Course
This course is one of the older ones in the Myrtle Beach area and, to look at the greens and fairways, is really starting to show its age. It’s a shame, too, because the bones of a really good, underrated beach course are there. The easiest way to tell that greens have shrunk is to observe how far the edges of greens sit from edges of greenside bunkers. At the Palmetto Course, on holes like the otherwise attractive par three 17th, that distance is eight or ten YARDS! That sort of negligent greens-cutting makes one wonder if the folks driving the lawnmowers at these courses have ever even played golf.

And the fairways! If you look at the 18th fairway, you will notice a line of demarcation between different qualities of Bermuda grass about five yards off the left edge of the current fairway. This tells you that those five yards of rough used to be—and should still be—fairway. Sad.

Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
Even one of the best golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area is not immune to dreaded shrinkage. The 13th green, nearly completely ringed by sand, has lost a solid yard on all sides. A yard this year, another next year and you’ll end up with a pretty tired-looking golf course before you know it. And just ask any recently-restored classic course: recovering multiple yards of lost greens-space is much more expensive and time-consuming than allowing your maintenance staff to just lop off a few inches every time they mow a green for the sake of saving time.

Posted 8/6/13

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