True Blue Plantation Golf Club Course Review – Myrtle Beach at Its Best!

True Blue is one of those courses that, after you get a taste of it, you just want more. The course is one of only a handful of Mike Stranz courses; in fact, there are two here, Caledonia Golf and Fish Club being the other. True Blue is built on the site of a once thriving indigo and rice plantation.

Stranz was more than a golf course architect, he was a golf course artist. His courses seem to blend in perfectly with the natural surroundings. True Blue seems to rise out of the ground like a Phoenix rising from the ashes; it’s also one of the most creative golf courses you will ever play. Stranz’ creativity in design requires creativity in your shot making as you make your way around a course that has incorporated salt marshes, wetlands and maritime forests of twisting live oaks and pine trees into the layout creating memories that are one of a kind.

True Blue Golf Club was Mike Strantz’s fourth signature golf course, and opened to rave reviews in February 1998. Caledonia opened in 1994 and shortly after True Blue opened, Stranz was named “Architect of the Year” by Golf World. The course is not without its share of notoriety, being ranked 77th on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Public Courses in America list and 6th best public course in South Carolina. Golf Digest has also seen fit to rank True Blue the 29th best course in South Carolina (8th among public courses) and gave it 4 ½ stars for “Places to Play”.  But this course is not just for the guys; Golf for Women Magazine recognized True Blue as one of the country’s Top 100 Courses for Women. The course is an absolute must-play for any golfer visiting Myrtle Beach.

Sand is a legitimate concern at True Blue as it figures into every hole on the course, and some of it will penalize you severely. Technically, there are no bunkers; every grain of sand out here is considered a waste area. It’s packed down in many areas so, unless you’re adept at hitting off your kitchen table, it can be a little tricky. Feel free to ground away, take some practice swings, even drive the cart through it; whatever you have to do to get the ball on the green. Because that’s when the fun starts!

Most golfers have never experienced greens like this before in their lives. They are some of the most unique sizes and shapes around. And, unlike designers who like to bury elephants in their greens, Stranz relies on lengthy angular greens – many slanting from back to front – putting an emphasis on slope and speed for longer putts.

True Blue offers a set of tees to fit everyone’s game. When in doubt, play the shorter set, you’ll have more fun. Bit off more than you can chew out here and you could be in for a long day. The Back/Gold Tees measure 7,126 yards with a course rating of 74.5 and a 138 slope. Most golfers will find that the White Tees (6,375 yards/71.1/132) will give them all the golf they can handle and still leave with a little dignity. Of course, that part depends on how you fare on Number 18, more on that in a minute. Seniors typically play from the Black Tees (5,736/68.2/123) while ladies will enjoy themselves from the Green Tees (4,995/69.3/125).

Here are a few of the most memorable holes:

Favorite Par 3: number 3, 141 yards (White Tees). This hole can make or break your round early on. Depending on the pin position there can be a 25-yard difference between front and back. The hole plays a lot tougher with the pin in front because the landing area is smaller.  Also, if the pin’s up front and you hit it short or long, you’re in the bunker, which sits well below the putting surface. Regardless of pin position, it’s all carry over water and sand to an island green. If the pin is in the back, play to the right of the hole and let the ball funnel down towards it. Par is a good score here. This is a good display of Mike Stranz the artist.

Favorite Par 4: Number 18, 406 Yards. Stranz has indeed saved the best for last. Water is in play all the way down the left side and the fairway slopes off on the right into a large waste bunker. It’s 200+ yards to carry the bunker just across the water and if you can find the middle of the fairway off the tee, you’re halfway there. Play your approach shot into a long narrow green that angles back left to front right and slopes down towards the water which protects the entire left side.  Once you get on the green the fun begins as onlookers from the clubhouse porch cheer and jeer your efforts. This may be as close as you ever get to playing in front of a gallery so relish the moment.

Favorite Par 5: Number 1, 499 yards (White Tees). For my money, True Blue starts you out with the best hole on the course and builds from there. Waste bunkers frame the left side of the fairway on this long dogleg left, leading up to a creek in front of a well elevated green, meaning you’ll have to use an aerial approach. For most players it’s a three-shot hole because of the creek. To complicate matters, there’s a bunker that wraps around most of the green which is very narrow, yet receptive. A good-looking golf hole that can be tamed.

Best Chance for a Low Number: Number 4. Par 5, 493 yards. A low number can be had with two good shots back-to-back as long as you’re willing to risk it. A well struck drive in the neighborhood of 250 yards that finds the middle or left side of the fairway will leave a second shot of around 220 yards into the green. Here’s where the risk comes in: it’s all carry over water with sand catching anything left or right of the putting surface. It’s one of the smaller greens on the course but receptive to long approach shots. Whatever you do, avoid the pot bunker to the right of the green; it’s a tough up and down. Go for it; you didn’t come here to lay up!

Last Word: True Blue certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the best golf courses in South Carolina. The late Mike Stranz sure did himself proud. Other than the par 3s, most of the holes are doglegs, some of which are created by the presence of the waste bunkers. This places an emphasis on distance and direction control. Spend too time in the waste bunkers and you’ll wish you went to the beach. A lot of the rough is cut just slightly longer than the fairway which tends to let the ball roll more, which can be both good and bad.

Many of the fairways are framed by waste bunkers, which adds to the natural beauty of the course. As a whole, the course is challenging without being overly taxing. It will make you play every club in your bag, and play them well. Also, there are some pretty significant elevation changes (+/- a club or two) which is unique for this part of the state

True Blue has some pretty impressive practice facilities too. Range balls are included with your greens fees and it’s highly advised that you hit all the balls they give you. There are a number of targets at varying distances so you can hit every club in your bag. Be sure to practice your bunker play; if you can make it around this course without having to play out of the sand, you’ve accomplished something!

Inside the clubhouse you will find a pro shop packed with all kinds of logoed gear from top apparel companies and some new up and comers. The True Blue Grillroom serve up all of you favorite post-golf libations as well as some authentic Lowcountry food. Breakfast is served from 7 am – 10:30 AM and lunch is available from 11 am – 3 pm.

True Blue is a proud member of the Waccamaw Golf Trail. For more information or to book your next round visit http://www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/show/true-blue/.

Litchfield Country Club Review – Delighting Grand Strand Golfers for Over 50 Years

Litchfield Country Club on Pawleys Island opened for play in 1966 and is one of the original eight courses built on the Grand Strand. Over the years, the course has evolved and changes have been made but for the most part, Litchfield Country Club has maintained many of its original features, including player-friendly green complexes that leave room for bump-and-run approach shots.

Litchfield carries with it a proud Lowcountry tradition and is built on the former grounds of one of the largest rice plantations on the Waccamaw Neck, as evidenced by the stately plantation-style clubhouse, which is surrounded by live giant oaks that date back centuries.

The golf course was designed by Willard Byrd and has garnered numerous accolades over the years. It has been awarded 4.5 stars by Golf Digest and named one of the magazine’s 2008 “Best Places to Play”. More recently, Litchfield Country Club was voted “2016 Golf Course of the Year” by the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association; an accolade bestowed on a local course, with consideration for course design, conditioning and service all figuring into the equation.

Since opening over 50 years ago, Litchfield’s natural Lowcountry beauty has attracted golfers from around the globe. Set amongst towering oak and pine trees, the course is regarded by many as a shot-maker’s course, with several doglegs that require well-placed tee shots in order to have the best angle into some well-protected greens.

The Blue Tees are the longest and play 6.692 yards. From back here, the course rating is 72.5 with a slope of 131. Many players will have an enjoyable time from the White Tees (6,295/70.6/128) and still leave with their manhood intact. Seniors will be adequately challenged from the Gold Tees (5,912/68.8/124) while the ladies tees measure out at 5,252 yards (74.4/130). A 5th set of tees has been added for junior players and plays 4,096 yards. Everyone will have a great time at Litchfield Country Club, as long as they play from the tees best represented by their handicap.

Litchfield Country Club is full of memorable holes and has some solid par 4 holes; especially the doglegs. Number 6 plays 363 yards from the White tees and requires accuracy off the tee to avoid the large tree on the left at the corner of the dogleg. A fairway or hybrid iron off the tee may be all this required here. Water creeps in up against the fairway on the right side about 80 yards from the green. There’s sand all around the green, so you’ll need to hit an accurate approach shot. At a depth of only 22 feet, number 6 is one of the smaller greens on this layout.

Number 9 (Par 4, 339 yards from the White tees) is a very narrow dogleg right. Best to leave driver in the bag here too. A tee shot short of the first fairway bunker on the left will leave a short pitch shot on to a relatively small, flat green, protected by sand front left and front right. Because of the positioning of the sand, odds are you will have to fly your approach shot on. A short – yet challenging – way to finish the front nine.

Number 11 (par 4, 387 yards from the White tees) is one of the more challenging doglegs on the course, because of where the bend is positioned. It’s a little over 200 yards from the white tees to reach the dogleg, leaving a long iron into the green. Depending on your position in the fairway off the tee, you may need to shape your approach shot. It’s also complicated by the fact that off the tee, you’re hitting out of a narrow chute with a tree overhanging the fairway on the right. The green is protected in front on either side by sand. Par is a good score here.

The par 3 holes are no pushover. From the White tees, the shortest one measures 165 yards. The par-3 12th hole is all about club selection and accuracy. The hole plays 189 yards from the White tees; spray the ball left or right off the tee and you’re bringing the trees into play. The front of the green is open with sand on the other three sides so if you hit it straight and short, you’ve still got a shot at getting up and down. A good tee shot can have you writing down a favorable number on the scorecard.

As a whole, the par 5 holes at Litchfield Country Club offer a lot of variety and the emphasis is on shot making and placement rather than distance. Number 13, at 498-yards from the White tees, is a soft dogleg left with water all the way down the left side and trees positioned off the tee that make challenging the water almost a necessity. The landing area is fairly generous, if you don’t mind water hanging out ominously on the left. That will leave a short-iron approach shot of around 100 yards into a small green surrounded by sand and water left and behind if you really get crazy.

Last Word: Litchfield Country Club is very player-friendly for the ladies. There are no forced carries off the tee over water with the exception of the par 3, 4th, and the bunkers are pretty easy to hit out of.  Men can make the course as easy or as tough as they want, all predicated by which tees they choose to play from.  The Bermuda greens are in great shape and hold shots well. They feature modest undulations with no unnecessary challenges such as multiple tiers. Being able to work the ball left and right is a distinct advantage because of the doglegs.

Club selection off the tee – especially for a first timer – can be a challenge, but gets easier the more often you play. Driver isn’t required on a lot of holes; hitting it a specified distance off the tee is a better approach. This is where a yardage book – available in the pro shop – can be an invaluable tool.

There are many reasons Litchfield Country Club is highly coveted by golfers who flock to the Myrtle Beach area on golf vacations each year and also by those who live here year round. The course drains well and it’s highly likely that the course – and cart paths – are open when surrounding courses are not. At Litchfield Country Club, walking is permitted anytime. The course is relatively flat and the tee boxes are in close proximity to the previous green, making it an easy and enjoyable walk. Pace of play is important as well; our foursome played in a little under four hours, without any prompting from course marshals.

All in all, Litchfield has a country club atmosphere and first-class accommodations; it’s a sure bet for golfers who enjoy the finer things in life. Litchfield Country Club is a proud member of the Waccamaw Golf Trail, America’s most awarded golf trail. For more information or to book your next round or outing, visit the Waccamaw Golf Trail website at http://www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/show/litchfield-country-club/.

River Club in Pawleys Island, SC Course Review – Fun and Frustrating

River Club is a Tom Jackson creation that has been delighting – and frustrating – golfers in the Myrtle Beach area since it opened in 1985. Over the years, it has received numerous accolades, including 4.5 Stars from Golf Digest’s “Places to Play”, and having two holes named to the Myrtle Beach Sun News’ 100 Greatest Golf Holes Along the Grand Strand; the 14th and 18th. More on those two holes later.

River Club is located in Pawleys Island, about 20 miles south of Myrtle Beach and exemplifies everything Lowcountry golf is about. Built on the site of a former rice plantation, golfers will encounter pristine wetlands, maritime forests, Spanish moss-draped trees, abundant wildlife, over 100 sand traps and bunkers and lots of water, both natural and manmade. In fact, water comes into play on at least 14 holes. While the course is aesthetically pleasing, it can present a challenge to just about any caliber of golfer.

From the Black Tees, River Club plays 6,677 yards with a course rating of 72.3 and a slope of 134. The White Tees (6,240/70.2/127) provide a great challenge with some allowance to exit the facility with a little bit of dignity. Seniors can choose to play from the Gold Tees (5,807/68.4/120) and Ladies will be tested from the Red Tees (5,084/68.8/122). Pick the tees that best suit your game and you’re likely to really enjoy yourself.

My Favorite: Number 6, Par 5, 477 yards. If you can reach the dogleg off the tee on this par 5 hole, you’ll set up yet another risk/reward opportunity. It will require a drive of at least 255 yards from the White Tees and set up a manageable 223-yard approach over water to a slightly elevated green. Should you choose the three-shot route, beware of the fairway bunkers that dot the left side of the fairway and protect the back of the green.

Members’ Favorite: Number 14, Par 3, 149 yards (White Tees). I’m not surprised the members chose a par 3 as their favorite hole, for some reason a lot of golfers seem to think that par 3 holes are the easiest holes on the course. Number 14 is anything but; it features an island green fronted by four sand traps that catch anything hit short. The green holds the ball quite well, although a back-left pin position can prove to be very trying. There’s no way to get on the green without hitting over the water at some point. Number 14 will test both accuracy and distance control. Par is a good score here.

Staff’s Favorite: Number 18, Par 5, 493 yards (White Tees). As I mentioned earlier 18th hole was one of two holes named as one of the Grand Strand’s 100 most memorable holes by the Sun News. I spoke with several members of the staff who all gave number 18 the nod as their favorite hole, now I understand why. It’s a par 5 that plays 493 yards from the White Tees and is considered one of the harder holes on the inward nine. My guess is that the water that makes up the entire left side of the fairway has something to do with that. If you can manage to find the thin peninsula of fairway that sticks out just past the fairway bunker, you’ll leave yourself a little over 200 yards to the green; a manageable distance, or at least worth the effort. The way the hole is shaped and the green is set up, you’re most likely going to have to go over the water at some point or another, so it’s well worth the risk. Find the trap off the tee, and your chances of getting on in two diminish greatly, as I found out. The green is set at an odd angle and, if you’re playing Number 18 as a three-shot hole, it’s much wider than it is deep. In any event, par is always a good way to end the round.

Last Word: Because land is at a premium in this area, there is no formal driving range; pre-round warm up is limited to hitting into nets. However, there is a very large chipping and practice putting green, so no driving range is not a valid excuse for a bad first couple of holes.

The majority of golf holes out here have ample room off the tee, giving you the opportunity to keep it in the fairway. River Club is more about second shots, whether it’s sticking it close to the pin on some of the shorter par 4s or setting up your approach shot on the par 5s. What you see is what you get; there are no hidden surprises such as water hazards, pot bunkers or unexpected rough in an otherwise inviting landing area. Execute your second shot on each hole and you’ll be well rewarded. The greens are receptive and conducive to making putts, but you have to put the ball in the right spot.

With water infringing on so many holes, accuracy and proper club selection is essential to shooting a favorable score as is the ability to hit a variety of shots. If that’s not enough, there’s more than 100 traps to contend with. As a matter of fact, if you can make your way around River Club with the ball you started with and never having to hit out of the sand, you’ve accomplished something – hopefully a low score.

River Club is a proud member of the Waccamaw Golf Trail. For more information or to book your next round, visit the Waccamaw Trail website at http://www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/show/river-club.