I'm so often asked about my picks for Myrtle Beach golf that I thought I would make it a semi-regular gig. The timing is good: Last December, Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and the Sports Illustrated Golf Group announced an integrated partnership, whereby the region's premier tournament, the World Amateur Handicap Championship, acquires a new title sponsor: Golf.com.
Hosted by Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, the non-profit trade association that promotes golf in the area, the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship practically functions as a major championship for the amateur golfer. Held the week before Labor Day, the tournament is open to all amateur golfers with a USGA handicap or a foreign equivalent. The 2009 event hosted more than 3,000 golfers from 49 states and 20 countries at 51 area courses for a week-long extravaganza. Flighted based on handicaps, players compete in four rounds with all flight winners and ties advancing to an 18-hole world championship playoff.
Ask Travelin' Joe will return to your specific questions next week. This week, I'll use my column to give you the lowdown about one legendary course on the Grand Strand. Every two weeks or so, I'll shine the spotlight on another course in the area. In all, we'll cover the top trophy courses, the best bargains and everything in between, from now through August.
This week we kick off the run-up to the 2010 Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship with a look at the oldest course in Myrtle Beach, Pine Lakes Country Club. The fit is perfect: In 1954, Time Inc. executives met at Pine Lakes to begin planning the national weekly sports magazine concept that became Sports Illustrated.
Rebirth of The Granddaddy
Until 2009, the oldest track in Myrtle Beach was better known for a magazine design than for its course design. Thanks to a multi-million dollar makeover, however, golf has retaken center stage at Pine Lakes Country Club.
Long known on the Grand Strand as "The Granddaddy," Pine Lakes debuted in 1927 as the nine-hole Ocean Forest Hotel and Country Club. St. Andrews, Scotland native Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America, claimed design credit, but in truth, the lavish facilities were the better draw. After a 20-month restoration and expansion, the clubhouse now shines with its original grandeur. Intact and enhanced is the Snug Pub, where in 1954, a group of Time, Inc. editors met to plan and design the magazine that became Sports Illustrated.
As for the golf, Pine Lakes reopened in March 2009 and it has never looked better. Architect Craig Schreiner retained most of White's original 9 as the current back nine, eliminated several blind water hazards, recontoured the terrain to provide more shotmaking interest, added length, lakes and several sandy waste areas and planted the layout in lush Seashore Paspalum grass. With its smallish greens and par of 70, the result is a throwback design that harkens back to Golden Age classics. So while they no longer serve mimosas and chowder at the tee of the pond-guarded, 155-yard, par-3 11th (formerly No. 7), there's no question that this Granddaddy is cackling with new vigor.