I Never Forget a Pretty Face
Or a Memorable Golf Hole
By TONY LEODORA
In the golf world, lists always inspire one thing – arguments.
The best courses. The most difficult golf holes. The most dominant players. The most beautiful layouts. All of those lists can be argued from now until the end of civilization … without any resolution.
But the most memorable golf holes, that’s another matter. The evidence is irrefutable.
I have been going to Myrtle Beach every year since 1985 – once a year at the outset, followed quickly by twice a year, then three and four times a year. Finally, in 2022, I broke my personal record with six visits.
The number of golf courses I played in the area known as the Grand Strand reached an even 100 in 2015, when a visit to the International Club completed my sweep of all of the courses that were open – or once in existence.
Does that qualify me as the ultimate expert on Myrtle Beach Golf? No. But it presents a fairly large sample of information on the courses. Add the fact that almost every round at a course is followed with a session at the clubhouse watering hole – comparing notes with playing partners and others at the bar who always seem willing to lend their opinion.
When the subject of the Most Memorable Hole on the course comes up, it’s amazing how our notes coincide. We’re not talking the hardest, the greatest, the best-designed or the prettiest holes. We’re talking about most memorable – the one hole about which everyone is describing, complimenting or cursing immediately after that round.
This subject came to mind during the shooting of Rivers Edge Golf Club and Plantation for the award-winning Traveling Golfer television show. The episode begins airing in May in a number of outlets that reach many millions of households around the world (see www.travelinggolfer.tv for listings).
Rivers Edge, an Arnold Palmer design which opened in 1999, is an endless eyeful of natural beauty. There are great holes and exhilarating holes. And there is a somewhat controversial but unmistakably memorable hole. And re-visiting that hole gave rise to the following list (in no special order).
Remember, you might have your favorite, hardest, best-designed or most picturesque holes. But, for one reason or the other, these are the most memorable holes … by public acclamation.
- Dunes Golf & Beach Club – No. 13 – “Waterloo”
This wild 600-yard par 5 hole has golfers teeing off in one direction, then hitting at a 90-degree angle across a large lake, and finishing in the complete opposite direction toward the green.
And the work is not finished once the players reach the green. They must contend with a drastic two-tier putting surface that annually produces as many four-putts as two-putts. Head pro Dennis Nicholl describes it as “a love-hate relationship but definitely one of the top holes in America.”
It would be a good guess that Charlie Bartlett, the famous golf writer from years past at the Chicago Tribune, would regard it in the hate category. In the hotly contested Golf Writers Association of America Championship at the Dunes Club, Bartlett made a 22 on No. 13 – without ever hitting a ball in the water.
- Caledonia Golf & Fishing Club – No. 18
This hole at the Mike Strantz-designed Caledonia is one that is famous in two categories – greatest and most memorable. A great finishing hole, it is not overly long – in the 375-yard range. But the tee shot is guarded closely by water along the right side. Then the second shot is a forced carry over the same body of water, which closely guards the front of a narrow green.
The memorable part comes into play because the green butts right up to the deck on the backside of the beautifully rustic clubhouse. And there is a daunting lineup of wooden rocking chairs on the porch, providing an outstanding view of the action on the green. The spectators – adult beverages and cigars in hand – are ready at all times to provide loud verbal commentary of the final hole action.
- Grande Dunes GC– No. 14
The setting for the Roger Rulewich-designed course is along the hills rising from the Intracoastal Waterway. There are a number of views of this amazing seafaring superhighway throughout the layout, but none more stunning than No. 14.
This par 3 can play as long as 220 yards from the tips, but most golfers will play it in the 150 to 180-yard range. From a tee elevated high on a bluff, the wind adds another factor to the challenge of the hole. In addition to the ominous large body of water to the right, there is a large amoeba-shaped bunker protecting the front-right portion of the green.
- Barefoot Resort– Love – No. 4 – “Ruins”
Annually, the Davis Love-designed course at Barefoot Resort is a fan favorite. It is an enjoyable walk through the park. But the eyes pop open when players reach the par 4 4th hole – as the green is ringed by ruins of a Southern plantation.
OK, truth be told, these ruins were created during the design of the course to add dramatic effect. And they definitely serve the purpose.
The hole is a classic short par 4 – only 294 yards from the tips. But trouble lurks in the form of a large, deep heart-shaped bunker that guards the front-right side of the green.
- King’s North – No. 6 – “The Gambler”
Of the three golf courses at Myrtle Beach National – King’s North, West Course and South Creek – the Arnold Palmer-designed King’s North is the most talked-about.
And the most-talked about hole on that storied layout is the 560-yard par 5 6th hole. Golfers are faced with a decision off the tee. Drive to the risky island fairway on the left, leaving a long shot over water to reach the green in two … but two successful shots will result in an eagle putt.
Or take the long route in the wide fairway to the right. However, the third shot is still a nervy one over water.
- Rivers Edge – No. 9
The hole that sparked this entire discussion about Memorable Golf Holes has survived as one of the most controversial, as well as memorable holes along the entire Grand Strand.
The highly acclaimed Arnold Palmer design has many picturesque, dramatic and exhilarating holes along the Shallotte River. But No. 9 is the one that everyone talks about. The mid-length par 5 is a classic bottleneck that continues to get narrow approaching the green.
The tee shot is to a fairly wide fairway. The second shot must cross water and avoid water guarding the left. Then the third shot is to a very narrow-but-deep runaway green. Add wind off the water and you have the ultimate three-shot test.
- Glen Dornoch Waterway Links – No. 9
This masterful course along the North Carolina/South Carolina border takes golfers out on a wonderful wooded trek through the first seven holes. Hole 8 is a tree-lined par 5 that gives golfers the first view of the Intracoastal Waterway when they reach the green.
The wonder increases at Hole 9 as the route turns left and forces golfers to play along the water on this 400-plus yard par 4 with a green that sits right in front of the back porch on the clubhouse.
If the distraction from the beauty of the waterway on one side is not enough, the distraction of the catcalls from the railbirds on the porch will add to the challenge.
- Pawleys Plantation Golf and Country Club – No. 13
At the far southern end of the Grand Stand, in the relaxed atmosphere of Pawleys Island, sits the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation course.
But don’t expect to relax when playing this test. Nicklaus, and the ever-present winds off the surrounding marshes, create a supreme challenge. Most memorable is the 13th hole, a par 3 that normally plays to less than 150 yards. But don’t let the lack of length fool you. The green is surrounded by a bulkhead and protrudes into the marsh. It also connects with the 16th hole to produce a huge double-green.
The vistas of the surrounding holes and marshland are amazing.
- TPC of Myrtle Beach – No. 17
This par 3 is one of the most beautiful and challenging holes on the entire Grand Strand. Designed by Tom Fazio, it was meant to leave a lasting mark at the end of a challenging round.
The hole plays between 150 and 190 yards, but is uphill and into the prevailing wind. The green is a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. A par on this hole is usually a welcome relief to the golfers.
- Tidewater – No. 4
From Day One, Tidewater always has been acclaimed as one of the top courses in the Myrtle Beach area. It is the perfect combination of strategic design and natural beauty.
Both of those elements can be seen on the 4th hole, a magnificent par 4 that plays to more than 400 yards but rolls downhill to one of the most magnificent green complexes on the course. The marshland and the intracoastal waterway run all long the left side of this No. 1 handicap gem.