MURRELLS INLET — You may want to save your best for last at Wachesaw Plantation East, because the course requires it.
It’s not that the rest of Clyde Johnston’s 6,933-yard 12-year-old layout is easy, but the three-hole closing stretch challenged the women of the LPGA Tour from 1997-2000, and will do the same to your foursome.
“The course definitely gets harder coming down the closing holes,” said Chris Williams of Brisbane, Australia, who took part in a review of the course in late August. “Right when you’re getting tired you have to pull out the best of your game.”
The 410-yard par-4 16th hole requires a carry over wetlands off the tee, and the green is angled to the right and tucked behind a water hazard with bunkering to the left of the water and right and back of the green.
The 500-yard 17th has a creek down the entire left side that meanders across the front of a green with a false front on its front-left side. The drive over water is to a split fairway with a tree on the left side. A layup short of the creek must avoid heavy mounding and rough leading to water on the right side of an elevated fairway.
A drive through a chute of trees on the 430-yard par-4 18th sets up an approach over water to a green that slopes to the right and front and is horseshoed by bunkering.
Joining Williams, a 10 handicap who owns a water damage restoration company, in taking on the challenge were Chris Neale of Brisbane and Terry Wintermoyer of Washington, D.C. Neale is a 19 handicap and wheel/rim maker, while Wintermoyer is an 8 handicap and founder of the Sustainable Golf Ventures organic turf solutions business.
“The entire course is very challenging and a lot more interesting than many other courses in Myrtle Beach because you have varied shot selection and risk-reward on many tees and holes,” Williams said. “But it’s not too tough on all holes. It’s a great scoring course from the white tees for the average golfer, and has excellent greens.”
Johnston used mounding alongside many fairways and sometimes greens, and utilized grass bunkers around greens on many holes to add to the challenge of wetlands, ponds, tree-lined fairways, multiple doglegs and ample bunkering.
“It’s a little something unusual that gives you a different challenge,” Williams said of the grass bunkers.
The course was in fine shape for our round despite heavy rain in the days leading up to it. “For a complete unbiased lack of knowledge on what to expect, I was impressed,” Wintermoyer said. “The staff seemed quite reverent and helpful. The greens and fairways were quite uniform. For as much as has been going on weather-wise in the past couple weeks, this course looks great.”
The course’s TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens were a decent speed and consistent. “I didn’t see a bad green on the course,” Wintermoyer said. “The greens are uniform and aren’t patchy at all.”
One interesting quirk of the course is that the front nine and back nine yardages are nearly identical for all five sets of tees. The largest disparity between the two yardages is the white tee’s difference of 29 yards. Three of the tees have nines within 4 yards of each other.
Wintermoyer thought the clubhouse and amenities “were above average,” and Williams was particularly impressed with a large covered outside bar equipped with draft beer, TVs and a number of tables. “That’s a nice bar they have in the back,” Williams said. “Not many clubs have an outdoor bar like that. It’ll help you forget about a bad round.”
The group commended the staff and service, and both Wintermoyer and Williams enjoyed the course’s wetlands through forested areas and the wooden cart bridges that often lead you through them. “Every time you go through the woods and come out to another hole it feels like you’re coming out to another course,” Williams said. “It’s quite appealing in that way.”
Williams struggles to read Bermuda greens. “The grain always gets me on Bermuda greens because it’s quite thick and I’m not that used to it,” Williams said.
The group found some of the tee boxes to be crowned, likely for drainage. “All tee boxes should be flat,” Williams said.
Wintermoyer thought the course could use more signage directing players to the next hole, the par-5s would benefit from more waste bunkering, and rates between $52 and $135 depending on the time of year were excessive. “There is not much outside of the rate that won’t appeal to every golfer,” Wintermoyer said.
Par-3s measure between 165 and 195 from the back tee and from 145 to 170 from the white. “The par-3s are spot on,” Wintermoyer said. “Aim for the center, otherwise you’ll follow my paths to bogey.”
The 165-yard fourth hole has grass bunkers in rough front right and left of a green that slopes mildly to the right, toward wetlands and woods below the putting surface. The drive is over a waste bunker.
The 180-yard eighth requires a shot over water that is more in play the farther back on the tee boxes you go. A trio of bunkers and water is short and right of the green, a trio of grass bunkers are right and back right and one is left of a green that slopes from a back right plateau. Mounding leads to the green down the left side.
“The rippling effect of the design with the mounding and water make it a visually intimidating hole,” Wintermoyer said. “It’s hard for your eyes to focus on one thing. … The course itself was visually challenging.”
The 185-yard 12th features a drive over a waste bunker and wetland area, a large slightly undulating green with mounding to its left and a deep bunker that falls into a pond to its right.
The 195-yard 15th has a long bunker below the right side of a slightly elevated green with mild undulations, and a pair of oaks with manicured flowers and shrubs at their base must be avoided on the right side between the tee and green.
“The par-3s are attractive,” Williams said. “They have good-sized greens so you can be slightly off target without major penalty.”
“The par-4s are longer than many Myrtle Beach courses,” Williams said. “Shaped tee shots add to the challenge and you have to be accurate off the tee.”
The 390-yard first hole doglegs left around trees and water to a green that slopes from a back left plateau. A tall pine 120 yards from the green on the left side of the 403-yard fifth can impact shots into a narrow green that angles to the right behind a deep grass bunker, and a tree on the left side of the fairway on the 380-yard sixth can affect tee shots. The hole has mounding on both sides of the fairway and a green that slopes to a narrow front with a swale to its left.
The 395-yard 13th has bunkers and water to the right side of the landing area off the tee, and the 405-yard 14th has a drive over water and an undulating fairway turns slightly right.
“The par-4s are a little daunting,” Wintermoyer said. “From the tips you’d better check your swing twice with those narrow alleys.”
Par-5s measure between 500 and 580 from the tips and between 470 and 530 from the white tees, and are diverse. The fairway on the 530-yard third slopes to the right toward red-staked trees and wetlands, and wetlands crossing the fairway between 150 and 100 yards from the green force a decision on the second shot depending on the drive. A flat green is protected by a bunker and water right and a grass bunker in front.
The 580-yard seventh is a double dogleg with a significant carry over water off the tee to a right dogleg with a bunker on the back of the turn, and a second shot to a left dogleg with a bunker at the back of that turn. “It’s one of the longest and hardest par-5s I’ve played at the beach,” Williams said. “It’s a bit of an intimidating tee shot and it’s a double dogleg so it’s a bit of a beast.”
The 10th is a rolling par-5 that can present a birdie opportunity, though bunkers squeeze landing areas on both the drive and second shot. The green is protected on the left by a bunker and right by three grass bunkers.
“The par-5s are a lot longer and more interesting than many Myrtle Beach courses,” Williams said. “They have forced carries and lay ups, double doglegs and double tiered fairways – a good mix.”
Wintermoyer’s favorite hole is the par-5 17th . “If you are a big hitter this hole can make you look like a pro and sometimes spit you out,” he said.
Williams likes all the par-3s, the par-5 10th because it is vulnerable to birdies, and the 410-yard par-4 11th, which measures 386 from the blue tee. The 11th requires a drive of 200 yards over water from the tips if you hit the tee shot to the right side of the fairway, and features five bunkers and water to the right of the green. “It’s a nice hole with a long water carry from the tee box,” Williams said.
Neale’s favorite hole is the 420-yard par-4 ninth, which measures 363 from the gold tee and turns to the right along a water hazard. Following a drive over a waste bunker that hopefully avoids a wide bunker at the bank of the landing area, the second shot is into a green that slopes to the front and back right from a middle ridge and is protected by bunkers along the water’s edge on the right and grass bunkers on the left and back.
“It’s a good driving area and tight second shot,” Neale said. “You need to be very accurate with your second shot.”
Least favorite holes
Wintermoyer’s least favorite hole was the dogleg-right, 410-yard par-4 second, which requires a lengthy carry off the tee and has a fairly flat green. His reasoning was affected as much by the commute that precedes it as the hole itself. “The distance and time of travel from hole 1 to 2 allows time for your muscles to cool down too much,” Wintermoyer said.
Williams thought the par-4 16th hole, measuring 395 from the blue tee, was extremely difficult. “It’s intimidating off the tee box with a narrow chute and has a tough second shot,” he said.
Neale’s least favorite hole is the par-5 10th, which plays 449 yards from the gold tee. “The 10th hole is a very straightforward hole, and I like holes that are tricked up a bit,” Neale said.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.