Tradition Golf Club on Pawleys Island

Tradition Golf Club on Pawleys Island

Tradition Golf ClubFor more than 20 years, Tradition Golf Club on Pawleys Island has been playing host to both local golfers and those that converge on the Myrtle Beach area during peak golf seasons. This Ron Garl design is built on the site of a 16th century rice plantation and opened for play in 1996. Tradition Club has received numerous accolades, including South Carolina Golf Course of the Year in 2001, and has been awarded 4.5-stars by Golf Digest as well as voted “Top Fairways” for 1998 by Golf for Women. Tradition Club was also nominated as Best New Public Course by Golf Digest in 1996. It is truly one of the most prestigious golf clubs with public access in the Myrtle Beach area.

Also on property is an impressive practice complex. These are becoming a Ron Garl trademark and one that he has duplicated at several of the other courses he has designed/redesigned around the world. It includes a spacious full-length driving range, a massive chipping green and a putting green with multiple elevation changes so that you can get an idea of the breaks you will encounter during your round. With over 6,800 yards of golf course in front of you at Tradition Club, arrive early and take full advantage of this wonderful practice facility.

Tradition Club is located in the same general area as several other Waccamaw Golf Trail Courses: Willbrook Plantation, River Club and Litchfield Country Club. Five sets of tees provide playable distances for any level of golfer. The Tournament Tees play 6,875 yards and carry a course rating of 73.2 and a slope of 134; a fitting test for low handicappers. The Men’s Tees weigh in at 6,313 (70.8/125) while Ladies have the choice of two distances, the Gold (Senior/Ladies’) play 5,728 (73.1/124 for the ladies’) or the Red (5,189/70.4/120). There is also a ‘junior” set of tees that plays 4,106 with a course rating of 63.5 and a slope of 105.

As you make your way around Tradition Club, you will see how the course communes with nature. Meticulously maintained fairways wind their way through maritime forests and pristine wetlands. Many fairways are lined with live oaks and towering pines, yet there is ample room off the tee to swing away and go for broke.

Tradition Golf ClubRon Garl seems to be a big fan of island greens and Tradition Club does not disappoint. In fact, you’ll have two opportunities to test your mettle on Number 7 and Number 15. Number 7 is a par 4, so you can’t use a tee on your approach shot. Water is present on about 9 holes but is really only a factor on 4 of those, two of which are the island greens.

The bunkers at Tradition Club are well maintained and filled with fine sugary sand. Most are low-lipped and don’t provide any added penalty. A number of holes feature large waste bunkers that are well groomed and add to the overall beauty of the course.

As nice as the course is, Tradition Club is defined by its well-conditioned Bermuda greens. Some have gentle undulations and subtle breaks while others are well-sloped from back to front. All roll fast, true and consistent.

Member’s Favorite Holes:

I spoke with a number of members who had varying opinions on their favorite hole, so we narrowed it down to two.

Tradition Golf ClubNumber 5: Par 3, 179 yards (Men’s Tees). A challenging par 3 that’s got it all – in the way of hazards. From the tee, you need to carry both water and sand; there’s more sand right of the green if you push your shot. The green is shallow – only 29 yards deep, so distance control – and a good putting stroke on this well-contoured green – are essential if you want to score well. Walk away with a par and be happy.

Number 7: Par 4, 377 yards (Men’s Tees). One of two island greens on the course; only you can’t use a tee to reach this one. Long ball hitters will find it best to leave the driver in the bag here; you run out of fairway at about 300 yards from the back tees. You’ll need superior distance control on your approach shot into this island green with a large bunker left. A back-right pin can be a challenge with all of the mounding.

Writer’s Favorite:

Number 10: Par 5, 510 yards (Men’s Tees). A long dogleg left that just seems to keep on turning. There’s a large waste bunker all the way down the left side of the fairway, so favor the right side off the tee and with your approach shot. The large fairway bunker of the right side can’t be seen off the tee and shouldn’t come into play. A good drive followed by a well-placed layup will leave a short pitch into a green that slopes severely from back to front and is protected on the left side by the waste bunker. Mounding in the fairway can produce some interesting lies!

Pro’s Pick:

Number 1: Par 4, 323 yards (Men’s Tees). A short, yet trying par 4 to get your round under way. A gentle dogleg right with a large waste bunker on the right side. Find this bunker off the tee and not only will you have to deal with a sand shot of about 100 yards, you’ll have to carry it over several large oak trees. Playing down the left side of this well-mounded fairway leaves a cleaner look into the green with only a single bunker on the left side to contend with.

The other island green is worth mentioning as well. Number 15 is a par 3 that plays 157 yards from the men’s tees. Clear the water onto the largest green on the course with trouble on all sides. Another short hole where par is a good score.

Last Word:

To score well at the Tradition Club, you need to have your complete game together. Out here, it’s all about shot placement: how far to hit it and where to put it. For the most part, the greens are well protected by sand and/or water. If your approach shots are not dead on, you could be in for a long day. Being able to work the ball – left or right as well as trajectory – is a big plus too. The greens run fast and true, so a consistent putting stroke is a big plus. Most are raised and feature modest undulation. The two island greens add some excitement to an already fun round of golf. You should be able to get around the course in about four hours, which is nice. The course also drains very well so if other courses in the area are closed after a good rain storm, give Tradition Club a call. There’s a good chance they are open and playable. And not cart path only!

Tradition Golf ClubAfter your round, stop by the grill room for some traditional clubhouse food and all of your favorite post-round libations. Tradition Club also has one of the best-stocked pro shops in the area with all kinds of logoed apparel from all of the top names. Be sure to browse around and take home a memento. The staff is friendly, knowledgeable and always willing to help.

Tradition Club is a proud member of the Waccamaw Golf Trail, America’s most awarded golf trail. For more information on the Tradition Club and the Waccamaw Trail, or to book your next golf vacation to the Myrtle Beach area, visit their website at http://www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/show/the-tradition-club/

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

River Club at Litchfield

River Club at Litchfield

River Club at LitchfieldRiver 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.

River Club at LitchfieldFrom 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:

River Club at LitchfieldNumber 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 warmup 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.

River Club at LitchfieldWith 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.

 

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Bay Point Golf Club – Panama City Golf at Its Best

Bay Point Golf Club – Panama City Golf at Its Best

Bay Point Golf ClubOver the past several years, the Panama City Beach area has really cleaned up its act. No longer is it college’s spring destination for uninhibited college kids. The real estate market is booming, area businesses are rebounding nicely, and the hotel industry is once again beginning to flourish. All is good in Florida’s panhandle.

And all is good at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort – Panama City Beach’s premier golf destination. The resort is situated on historic St. Andrews Bay and is a perfect getaway destination for couples, families and golfers. Yes, golfers. The property, which is home to 36 holes of bay front golf including the panhandle’s only Nicklaus design, recently underwent a complete remodel of the lodging, restaurants and golf clubhouse and the final results are nothing short of amazing. Sheraton Bay Point is the only AAA 4-Diamond franchise hotel along the Emerald Coast, with 320 sharply appointed guest rooms, 65 of which are one-bedroom suites. Located about a 7-iron away from the main hotel and on the fairway of the Nicklaus Course’s 3rd and 6th holes is a collection of golf villas that feature both hotel style rooms as well as one-bedroom suites that can sleep up to four golfers comfortably.

Sheraton Bay Point also features several dining options, including the ultra-casual Flip-Flops Pool Bar, where you can enjoy custom crafted cocktails and craft beers while dining on Mahi Mahi Tacos and Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches. If you’re looking for something more upscale, Tides Restaurant offers spectacular views of St. Andrews Bay, which are only outdone by the culinary staff’s creativity. They’ve recently added a Chop House menu, which includes cuts of high-end beef such as the Wagyu Filet and a 26-oz. porterhouse steak. Another great choice for breakfast or lunch is Bar 72, located at the golf course clubhouse. Bar 72 is a little more than your typical burgers and dogs clubhouse fare. Try the shepherd’s pie or the meatloaf stack and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Bay Point Golf ClubOn property and a short cart ride away from the hotel are two of northwest Florida’s finest golf courses: The Willard Byrd designed Meadows Course and the Nicklaus Course. The Nicklaus Course is the crown jewel at Bay Point and plays 7,152 yards from the back tees with a rating of 74.3 and a slope of 143. Most golfers will be challenged from Tee 2 (6,430/70.7/132) and still leave with a little dignity intact. Ladies will be tested from a distance of 4,974 yards, yet still enjoy themselves.

Bay Point Golf ClubThe first five holes of the Nicklaus Course set the tone for your round. The first hole showcases the water that can become your nemesis on 17 of the next 18 holes. It’s a dogleg right around a lake that requires an accurate shot off the tee up around the 150-yard marker. From there, you’ll have a slightly uphill approach to a green protected in the front by two deep bunkers. Number 2 is a tough par 3 that plays 171 yards (Tee 2) over water to a green protected on the left by water and front right by a large deep bunker. The water on Number 3 shouldn’t come into play; if it does, check with the pro shop about getting a lesson. It’s a modest par 4, dogleg left with the most dramatic false-fronted green I have ever seen; it has to be at least a 6-foot drop. The green features a lot of undulation and a two-putt or better is a good thing.

Bay Point Golf ClubNumber 4 is a par 4, that plays 384 yards (Tee 2) and features a green abutted by water on the left. All of this leads up to Number 5, the most scenic and demanding hole on the course and by far the most interesting. Play your tee shot about 225 yards over wetlands to an “island” fairway. From there’ you’ll have a long iron shot over more wetlands to a long narrow green with not much room behind it. Par is a good score here.

Two of the three remaining par 3s require you to choose the right club and trust your distance; knowing the pin position is also critical. Numbers 7 and 17 are both fairly long with blind shots into the green. Choose the right club, hit your best shot and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

The back nine also features several intriguing holes including the drivable Number 13 which plays 281 yards from Tee 2. Beware of the small grove of pine trees if you push your drive right; the green is protected by water to the left and a deep bunker to the right. Number 14 is the course’s #1 handicapped hole; a long dogleg right that plays over water and sand off the tee. Your approach shot plays over a lake which also guards the right side of the green. There’s a bunker back left that catches anything long. This hole takes four solid shots to make par.

Bay Point Golf ClubNumber 18 is a great finishing hole and is almost the mirror image of the opening hole. It requires a forced carry over water that plays all the way down the left side, with more of the wet stuff short and right of the green. A tee shot over the water and slightly left of the fairway bunker will leave a short pitch shot into an elevated triangular green protected on all three sides by sand. A great end to a great round.

Number 5 is the course’s first par 5 (480 yards from Tee 2) and is also a narrow driving hole, however, with a good tee shot, it is reachable on two. Water comes into play on the left side about 250 yards off the tee, so favor the right. For most players, it’s a three-shot hole and an approach from the left side takes a few of the infringing pines on the right side out of play. The green is small and well protected. Number 9 (509 yards from Tee 2) is the second par 5 on the outward 9 and this double dogleg is a good test of your shotmaking ability. Water short and left of the green sees a lot of action and the elevated green is large and may require an extra club, depending on pin position.

Number 10 is a long par 4 (409 yards from Tee 2) with water on the right off the tee that creeps into the fairway and catches unsuspecting players. Most players will need to hit a long approach shot into a shallow green. Par is a good score here. Number 13 is the most picturesque hole on the course, a short par 3 (132 yards from Tee 2) over water into a well-protected green. Choose the right club off the tee and a low score is possible.

Bay Point Golf ClubThe Meadows also finishes with one of the layout’s most memorable holes, a 384-yard (Tee 2) dogleg right par 4 with bunkers on either side off the tee right at the bend. A good drive will leave a mid to long iron into a small green protected on the right with water and sand on either side. Another strong finishing hole.

Bay Point Golf ClubThe winter months are a great time to visit the resort and take advantage of everything Bay Point has to offer. And, since Northwest Florida’s seasonality peaks in the summer, a great value can be had between January and March.

For more information on either Sheraton Bay Point Resort or Bay Point Golf Club and to see their current offers, visit their websites: http://www.sheratonbaypoint.com; http://www.baypointgolf.com/

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

True Blue Golf Club

True Blue Golf Club

True Blue Golf ClubTrue 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).

Memorable Holes:

True Blue Golf ClubFavorite 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.

True Blue Golf ClubFavorite 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.

True Blue Golf ClubFavorite 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.

True Blue Golf ClubMany 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.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Founders Club at Pawleys Island

Founders Club at Pawleys Island

Founders ClubThe Founders Club at Pawleys Island, about 20 minutes south of Myrtle Beach on Highway 17, opened for play in 2008 and attracts golfers because of its unique appeal: sand instead of long, unforgiving rough.

The course was designed by Thomas Walker, former lead designer for Gary Player Design, on what used to be the Sea Gull Golf Club, a Gene Hamm design that dates back to 1966. Like much of the surrounding area, the original course was relatively flat. Walker changed the look and feel of the course by moving around over a quarter million cubic yards of dirt. The $7 million renovation project included a new Lowcountry-style clubhouse, overlooking the 18th green.

Since Walker’s redo in 2008, Founders Club has received numerous accolades including one of the 30 Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel in 2009 and again in 2011. Founders Club was also named Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year by the Myrtle Beach Area Golf Course Owners Association in 2011.

As a result of all the renovation work, Founders Club features sloping fairways, bunkers, elevation changes, and mounding, lots of mounding. Overgrown rough has been replaced with waste areas filled with native beach sand, pine straw and grasses. Also sprinkled throughout the course are Lowcountry wetlands, towering live oak and pine trees and azaleas which, when in bloom, add to the beauty of the layout. You won’t find many traditional cart paths out here, instead what you have are waste areas that are in play. Another feature that sets Founders Club apart from other courses in the area are the Emerald Bermuda greens. This unique strain of grass withstands the summer heat and requires less water than other grasses; it also has less grain.

Founders ClubFive sets of tees allow players to choose their level of difficulty. From the Black Tees, Founders Club plays 7,007 yards with a course rating of 74.2 and a slope of 142. Big numbers from the Back tees. Mere mortal golfers will find that the White tees (6,394 yards/71.2 course rating/133 slope) will give them all the golf they can handle and allow them to leave with a little dignity. Seniors move up to just over 5500 yards while the Ladies will enjoy a length of 4,805 yards. Since you know your game better than anyone, picking the right set of tees will maximize your enjoyment.

With such a premium on land in the area, there is no formal driving range. Instead there is a hitting net which can accommodate 6 players at a time and a practice putting green where you can also hit some chip shots.

Memorable Holes

Number 2: Par 4, 390 yards (White Tees). Standing on the tee, this long par 4 looks intimidating, with water all down the right side and trees and a waste bunker down the left. The landing area is generous, so take advantage of it. Favoring the left side of the fairway will take the water out of play and give the best angle for approach into a large green with a long, narrow bunker on the right and a small deep bunker about half way back on the left. Keep it on play to the green and you could end up with a low score.

Number 3: Par 3, 166 yards (White Tees). Because of the shallow depth of the green, distance off the tee is crucial. It’s all carry over water to an oval green set on an angle. A deep bunker in front guards the right side. If the bunkers behind the green come into play, you weren’t listening when I talked about distance control. The green slopes gently back towards the water.

Number 9: Par 5, 493 yards (White Tees). For most, Number 9 is the first hole you see when you enter the property; it’s the one right along the road. Most golfers will comment on the way the sand slopes down into the pond, making it a great looking hole. That being said, if you want to post a low score on this hole, it’s best to avoid the pretty sand and water! This hole can best be described as a narrow strip of grass surrounded by sand – and water. You’ll need to carry your tee shot over a large waste bunker and on to one of these narrow strips of grass – aka fairway. The landing area opens up, however two bunkers on the right and infringing water on the left come into play if you hit it too far. The fairway bottlenecks and then opens back up in the landing area with the right-side waste bunker creeping in and the water on the left. Success so far will leave a short iron into a large green protected front right and in the back by large penalizing bunkers. Par is a good score here.

Founders ClubNumber 12: Par 5, 491 yards (White Tees). Number 12 looks like a hole straight out of the yardage book of a Scottish golf course with a row of pot bunkers down the middle of the fairway. Most of the time, you want to hit the ball off the tee as far as you can down the middle of the fairway; on this hole it’s not advised! Most players will come up short of the bunkers and have to deal with them on their layup shot. Unless you’re a long ball hitter, you’ll want to hit your layup shot short of the pond and then play your approach shot about 120 yards to a large, receptive green with a deep bunker front left. The fairway is framed on either side by a waste bunker. A challenging but doable hole.

Number 16: Par 3, 135 yards (White Tees). What makes this hole interesting is the deep pot bunker in the front middle of the green. You’ll play your tee shot over a small waste area on to the green. There’s really no bailout area here and you’re going to need to fly it on, so be sure to take enough club off the tee.

Last Word:

Founders Club is a difficult but fair golf course. The waste bunkers and pine straw that have replaced the rough are a welcomed change; it’s easier to find your ball and hit out of a waste bunker than some gnarly rough. In fact, every hole has a sand challenge of some sort. There are only a couple of holes that require a forced carry, even for the ladies.

Founders Club appeals to just about any type of golfer, whether you like to grip-it-and-rip-it or play it conservatively. Hit the ball as far as you can every time or layup and lay back and play it more strategically. You can play it differently each time.

Founders ClubSome players feel that Founders Club plays tough. If you feel the same way after a few holes, consider playing one tee forward from where you normally play at another golf course. If all else fails, the PGA professionals at Founders Club are always happy to give you lessons and help improve your game. Start by hitting some balls into the net to get warmed up and then head out for some real-time on-course learning.

Whether you’re coming down in the spring as part of a larger group or renting a home in the area during the summer months and just want to get away for a few hours, Founders Club welcomes you as a guest. And, if it’s been raining for a few days – as it’s known to do during the summer – odds are that the course is open and playable; it’s one of the best draining courses in the area. If you play a variety of courses in the area, you’ll find that Founders Club is one of the more unique, challenging and fun courses in the area.

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

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

Bryan Park Champions Course  – Unspoiled Splendor

Bryan Park Champions Course – Unspoiled Splendor

Bryan Park Champions CourseShould you, an avid golfer, find yourself in the Greensboro, NC area during golf season- which according to Bryan Park General Manager and Director of Golf Kyle Kolls is all year – you need to book a round on the Champions Course at Bryan Park Golf Club.

Bryan Park Golf Club is a 36-hole facility. The Players Course opened in 1974 and was originally designed by George Cobb. Rees Jones did a major redesign of the course in 1988. The Champions Course opened in 1990 and is 100% Rees Jones; it has quickly become one of his best works. With seven holes bordering Lake Townsend, the views are just about as spectacular as the golf course. And, when the leaves change color in the fall, the scenery gets even better.

The Players Course was ranked number 2 in Golf Digest’s list of Best New Public Courses in 1990 and hosted the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2010. Year after year, the course is nationally ranked by major golf publications and is by far the Greensboro area’s most prestigious public course.

Before your round on either course, be sure to take advantage of Bryan Park’s impressive practice facilities. The driving range is full-length and allows you to hit every club in your bag. There’s also a chipping green where you have plenty of room to work on a variety of short shots as well as improving your bunker play. The practice green is one of the biggest I have ever seen and has the ability to accommodate the largest of outings.

The Champions Course has it all: significant elevations changes, forced carries over water, sand and deep chasms, tree-lined fairways and wide-open holes. There’s something for everyone here as well as a tee box with yardage suitable to your golf game and ability. From the Back Tees, Champions plays 7,264 yards and carries a course rating of 75.8 and a slope of 142; much higher than its sister course, the Players. The White Tees at 6,536 yards (72.4/136) will give most non-touring professional golfers all the golf they can handle. Seniors will enjoy the Gold Tees at 5,905 yards (69.7/130) while Ladies will have a blast from the Red Tees (5,237/71.7/128). A 5th set of tees – a combination of the White and Gold Tees – appears on the scorecard in the form of circles; I imagine this combo yardage will be added next reprint. From these tees, the course plays 6,151; for me the perfect yardage.

The 3rd hole is a challenging par 5 that plays 482 yards from the White Tees. Longball hitters who can carry the ball over 250 yards in the air should definitely try and cut the corner and get home in two. For the rest of us, the third fairway bunker on the left is the perfect aiming point off the tee, however if you pull it right you could easily find yourself in one of the neighboring sand traps. There’s ample room in the landing area for your layup shot, setting up a short chip into an elevated tiered green. Odds are you’ll have to fly the ball on as the three deep-lipped bunkers that surround the green will swallow up anything that is hit short. Not the longest par 5 out here, but still a challenge.

The par 3 holes also present a challenge, especially on the inward nine. Number 12 plays 180 yards and gets you ready for Number 14 at 210 yards. Number 14 also features two sets of tees and depending upon the mood of the superintendent that day, can make or break your round. The harder set of tees play over a finger of Lake Townsend and, if you tend to fade the ball, you’re in trouble. A deep bunker guards the entire front of the green and there’s a nasty pot bunker right as well. Mounding on the left side can make for a difficult lie and a tough up and down. The second set of tees play just as long but take most of the lake out of play.

Bryan Park Champions CourseThe need for accuracy off the tee is really stressed on the back 9. Standing on the tee on Number 10, you get the feeling that you’re going to have to make a good shot if you want to score well. After all, at only 345 yards – most of it downhill – how hard can it be? All that is visible off the tee is the retaining wall in front of the left side of the green. Water doesn’t come into play off the White Tees unless you hit it over 250 yards, so most players can hit driver. Bunkers on the left and large grass mounds on the right beckon you to keep your tee shot in the fairway. A good drive that carries down the hill will leave a short iron into a two-tiered green guarded by water in the front left, a large bunker on the right and three pot bunkers in back.

Target golf continues on Number 11, a 501-yard par 5 that is more of a 90° angle then a dogleg right. Your tee shot is a 200+ yard carry over water and a deep chasm as well as two large bunkers. Success off the tee does not insure victory over the hole; you’ll need to hit two more accurate shots to reach the green. The fairway is narrow and slopes off on both sides all the way up to the green. A good line on your layup shot is the left bunker. Leave it short, and you’ll have the best angle of attack into the large green that features modest undulation. This was by far my favorite hole.

Number 13 is the most challenging hole on the Champions Course. It’s the longest par 4 at 435 yards (White Tees) and requires a long carry off the tee. Lake Townsend sits to the right of the tee box and figures into the equation all the way down the right side. As you get closer to the green, you will notice that you are on a peninsula in the lake, with water and deep bunkers on both sides. Mounding and sand make for a tough approach shot, especially if you hit it short. Depending on pin placement, an up and down can be a challenge.

The final three holes on the Champions Course play away from the lake, but still offer some significant challenges. Number 16 (382 yards) is a dogleg left with a well-undulated fairway that slopes right to left and is guarded by heavy woods on both sides. Your approach shot is all carry to one of the layout’s smaller greens which is protected in front by a complex of 5 bunkers.

Number 17 is a long, straight par 4, that plays 408 yards from the White Tees. The only trouble off the tee is a pot bunker on the left side about 230 yards out. The elevated green is guarded by two large and deep bunkers on the left. Two good shots and you could be rewarded.

The finishing hole on the Champions Course is a long par 4 at 443 yards (White Tees). The towering pine trees on the right shouldn’t come into play, however the same cannot be said for the large fairway bunkers on the left. A long tee shot is still going to leave a long approach shot to a large, elevated multi-tiered green that falls off on either side. Pars (or better) can be hard to come by on this hole.

Bryan Park Champions CourseLast Word: Bryan Park is one of the nicest public golf facilities I have ever had the pleasure of playing and writing about; and that goes for either course. Although the Players Course may not be quite as challenging, it is by no means an “easy” golf course.

The Champions Course on the other hand, demands a complete golf game from its players. You’ll need both length and shot making ability if you want to score well here. A couple of the par 4s are extremely long, in fact, I’ve played shorter par 5s. The front nine provides a great warmup and is the side you’re going to score well on. Be sure to save your energy and deductive reasoning skills for the back side, you’ll need to hit a few long carries and think your way around.

If you’re serious about the game of golf and want to get an idea if how good (or bad) you really are, the Champions Course will be a great barometer. If you can get around this course and still feel good about your game, you’ve accomplished something. If you’re playing poorly, just take a minute and look around; especially on the backside where some of North Carolina’s best golf vistas can be found. It’s just you, mother nature and that little white ball.

For more information on Bryan Park Golf Club or to book your next round; be sure to visit their website, www.bryanpark.com.

Golf Life Contributor
David Theoret

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