Airport reconstruction shines spotlight on Whispering Pines Golf Course

ablondin@thesunnews.comJanuary 12, 2013 

— Whispering Pines Golf Course has always been located adjacent to Myrtle Beach International Airport.

Golfers flying to Myrtle Beach may not have known that, however, since the entrance to the course was well away from the airport on U.S. 17 Business and holes on the course were barely visible through trees.

They know now with a new entrance off Harrelson Boulevard. The road’s recent opening has also created unique views of the airport from the golf course, particularly on the par-3 17th hole, which features a peninsula green and a tee shot toward the terminal just a few hundred yards away.

“All you need is a jet taking off and it will be perfect,” said Larry Harpley of North Myrtle Beach, owner of Harpley Appraisal and a 12-handicap who took part in a review of the course on New Year’s Day.

Joining me and Larry in the review foursome were Craig Smith of Myrtle Beach, a public relations veteran and 10-handicap, and Denny Adkins of North Myrtle Beach, a retired middle school principal with a 1.8 handicap.

The airport effect has bolstered the identity of the course, which was built beginning in the 1960s for the U.S. Air Force on what was then a base. The course now has an entrance across an intersection from the airport entrance.

“How many places can you go and walk across the street and play golf after you get off a plane?” Denny said.

As the only municipal course on the Grand Strand, it’s not going to overwhelm you with extravagances but is a solid layout in solid condition. “It’s a golf course that has all the essentials and you don’t have to pay for any of the amenities,” Craig said. “There nothing wrong with the course that a little love couldn’t fix. It’s bare-bones beautiful.

“Budget cuts no doubt have impacted the course maintenance,” Craig said. “For a public facility that’s totally acceptable.”

The course isn’t extremely long at 6,731 yards from the tips and 6,245 from the white tees. Many holes have a fairway bunker or two and many greens have bunkers front left and front right, though a couple holes don’t have bunkering at all.

“If you hit it straight you have a run-up opening,” Craig said. “That gives fairness and playability to all levels of golfers. If you play within your means it’s a pretty forgiving golf course. It’s well-suited for the everyday golfer. The greens are relatively small so if you can chip you can score.”

Three par-3s have carries over water, but hazards are generally to the sides of fairways or come into play on risk-reward shots. “There isn’t anything hidden off the tee or forced carries, so that makes it playable for all golfers,” Larry said.

Some holes are tree-lined but landing areas are generally generous. Some greens have severe slopes that have been made more difficult and quicker this winter with slick dormant TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass that hasn’t been overseeded.

Other than the few holes near the airport, the course has a secluded feel despite its central location. “It’s not encumbered by a lot of housing,” Denny said. “It’s out on open land for the most part.”

Whispering Pines has a challenging finish with the 449-yard par-4 15th, 405-yard par-4 16th, 178-yard 17th and 403-yard 18th, which runs along a narrow lake that separates the fairway from Harrelson Blvd.

“I think the finish has really good, solid and interesting holes,” Larry said.

Likes

Both Denny and Craig appreciate that the course is walkable with tees close to the previous green. “It’s one of only a few in the area,” Craig said.

Denny found the staff to be accommodating and friendly, liked the variety of looks holes offered, and the course location. “It’s centrally located for people on the south and north end of the Strand, and it’s right there at the airport,” Denny said.

He also approved of the course joining many others on the Strand by not overseeding ultradwarf Bermuda greens. “I like that a lot of courses are allowing their greens to go dormant in the winter,” Denny said. “It’s a quality putting surface if it’s prepped correctly before it goes dormant.”

Larry liked the “unusually fast” greens. The entire group thought the course was a bargain, particularly the year-round local rate of $30 including cart. “It has the best year-round value,” Denny said.

The pro shop has very reasonably priced merchandise and the snack bar and grill has a good selection of both draft and bottled beers.

Dislikes

The course doesn’t have a yardage book or depictions of holes on the scorecard, which is potentially problematic for first-time players. “I wish there was a bit more course information available,” Craig said.

Larry and Denny found the practice range grass to be thin and green slopes to be too severe in places. “There are not many level areas on greens and there is some extreme slanting,” said Larry, who also thought the clubhouse could use updating.

Denny thinks some tee boxes need to be leveled, areas of cart path need work, and carts should be electric.

Par-3s

“All par-3s have average and fair length for scoring,” Larry said. “I enjoyed them all.”

The 158-yard second hole measures 142 from the white and has a downhill shot from elevated tees to a green that angles to the left behind water. The right side of the green, which slopes sharply to the front and somewhat left, is more accessible.

The 197-yard sixth is 151 from the white and has a tee shot over water to an elevated green that slopes forward and has bunkers left and front right. The 187-yard 11th measures 169 from the white and has a slightly elevated green that is mildly tiered with a higher back portion and no bunkers.

“Three of the par-3s are on the long side from the back tees,” Denny said. “Some greens are narrow for the length of shot, and some greens have severe slopes.”

The 178-yard 17th is 161 from the white and has water on all sides of the green but the left and bunkers left and front right. The green slopes sharply to the front.

“There is a good variety of par-3s and they get stronger on the second nine, building to my favorite, the 17th, with the unique backdrop of the new airport terminal,” Craig said.

Par-4s

The 380-yard first hole is a dogleg left around trees with a gully down the right side, and the 408-yard 10th is a straightaway tree-lined par-5 with a slightly elevated green that slopes to the front with bunkers front right and front left. “Holes 1 and 10 are good opening holes to get you started,” Denny said.

The 404-yard fourth is a dogleg right, and the 408-yard fifth has water down the right side and a handful of palm trees down both sides. The 416-yard eighth has elevated tees and water in the right half of the fairway about 140 yards from an elevated green with a bunker front right, and the 395-yard ninth is tree-lined with a slightly elevated green sloping to the front with bunkers front right and front left.

The 449-yard 15th plays slightly downhill and has no bunkers and a green that slopes from a mild front-right mound. “It’s a long, straight, great hole,” Larry said. The 405-yard 16th is a slight dogleg right with a slightly uphill tee shot and downhill second shot to a green that slopes sharply to the front and has water pinching to it s left front.

“There’s a good mix of left and right doglegs, and water on a fair number of par-4 holes at the greens,” Craig said.

The 403-yard 18th turns slightly right along water, and a tall pine on the right and bunker on the left pinch the landing area.

“Lengths of par-4s were good,” Larry said. “Some required a good carry to reach the corner of doglegs.”

Par-5s

Three of the par-5s are less than 500 yards from the tips, while the 567-yard 12th measures 538 from the white and is a three-shot hole for all but the longest hitters. It turns right on the third shot after a patch of trees to a green protected by a pair of bunkers to its right, and water runs along the entire right side of the hole.

“Truly enjoyable par-5s all required a good second shot to set up the approach,” Larry said. “A good drive could set up going for the green in two.”

The 485-yard risk-reward third is tight and tree-lined. Water begins on the left side of the fairway about 140 yards from the green. Players laying up to the right-side fairway have to avoid a pair of bunkers beginning 40 yards from a fairly flat green.

The 475-yard seventh has elevated tee boxes overlooking a fairway running along water to its right with single trees right and left in the landing area. A bunker-free crowned green is tucked behind water on the right. The 496-yard 14th turns to the left around water that can be challenged off the tee. A large fingered bunker is on the left side of the fairway 30 yards from a green that slopes in all directions from a middle-back ridge and is protected by bunkers front right and right.

“There’s a good mix of risk-reward with bailout areas if you want to play it safe on par-5s,” Craig said.

Favorite holes

Craig liked the finishing combination of the 17th and 18th holes. “The strong and fair finishers challenge every golfer to keep his/her good score,” he said.

Larry enjoyed the par-5 third, which measures 410 from the gold tee, because it requires a good second shot. He also enjoyed the last two holes. “Those are two good finishing holes,” Larry said. “The view from the tee box on 17 is one of a kind.”

Denny’s favorite hole was the par-5 second. “You can go for it or it’s difficult to position your second shot because there’s a tree to avoid [in front of the water on the left] and small area of fairway,” Denny said, “and if you go too long there’s a bunker on the other side of the fairway.”

Least favorite holes

Both Craig and Denny chose the 320-yard par-4 13th, which measures 288 yards from the white tee, as their least favorite hole. A fairway knoll hides water that begins deep on the left side of the fairway and extends around the left and back of an extremely difficult green. “The green is not fair as its slope is severe from back to front,” Denny said.

“Severely sloping greens on 13 and a few others are almost a certain three-putt,” Craig added.

Larry’s least favorite hole was the 416-yard par-4 eighth, which measures 337 yards from the gold tee. It’s a straightaway hole with an elevated tee, and water takes up the right half of the fairway 140 yards from an elevated green with a bunker front right. “It requires a good tee shot with water on both sides of the landing area,” Larry said.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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