Beachwood a golf course you can count on

ablondin@thesunnews.comJanuary 11, 2014 

JANET BLACKMON MORGAN — jblackmon@thesunnews.com Buy Photo

— You generally know what you’re going to get at Beachwood Golf Club, and you have for most of the years since the 6,820-yard Gene Hamm design opened in 1968.

It offers affordable, no-frills golf, and is a product you can count on.

“It’s not about getting brunch in the clubhouse; you come here to play golf,” said Conway High teacher and golf coach Kyle Cavallini of Longs, who took part in a review of the course on a very cool day in early January. “It seems like they know their customer and they try to match what they offer to their customer.”

Joining me and Kyle, a 10 handicap, in the review foursome were Cherry Grove snowbird Anja Pieper of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada, a retired information technologies manager with an 18 handicap, and Tom Harper of Myrtle Beach, the owner of ICF Builders with a 30 handicap.

Beachwood is an unorthodox layout in that it begins with a par-5 and ends with a long par-3. “Holes are relatively straightforward,” Tom said. “There are no risk-reward type holes. The only trouble comes from bad shots.”

The course has a couple sharp doglegs, a few mild doglegs and several straight holes. “It’s an old, southern, beach golf course,” Kyle said.

The course affords the potential for a low round with a manageable length – with the exception of a pair of par-5s – and fairly flat greens, though nearly all of them are well-protected by multiple bunkers. Water hazards are generally small and are factors on a handful of holes, usually on the sides of fairways or greens though occasionally jutting into fairways or in front of greens. “Just a couple holes required placement,” Anja said, “and most greens are visible from the tee.”

There are tree lines along many holes, but they are often sparse and there are often parallel fairways on at least one side of a fairway, allowing many offline shots to be found and played again. “Here you can be anywhere and you can still play on, and that’s enjoyable because those shots are fun,” Kyle said.

The fairways and greens were in good shape for our visit, and though the putting surfaces feature an older form of Bermudagrass in the summer, the poa trivialis winter overseed has been cut to a lower and faster speed by superintendent Kenny Meredith, who took over maintenance of the course in 2013.

“They have definitely put money into the shape of the greens,” Kyle said. “They rolled very true overall and were very consistent.”

“This place has always been consistent,” Kyle added. “You know what you’re going to get here. It’s been the same since I first started playing here 10 years ago. A lot of other courses of this level, you never know what you’re going to get with conditions.”

The practice facility leaves little to be desired. It includes a full-length grass driving range, two practice putting greens that allow chipping, and a separate chipping green with a bunker that allows shots to the green or driving range. Lights overlooking the practice area are expected to be operational by spring.

“People come here first when they get into town because of the practice facilities,” Kyle said. “They embrace having people come to practice.”

Likes

There are no cart signs in the fairways directing you to paths well in front of greens. “One thing I like about this place is they let you take the cart all the way to the front of the green,” Kyle said.

The course drains well. We were on all but one fairway two days after heavy rain. “It was a plus that we could ride the fairways,” said Tom, who also appreciated that the rough was cut short.

The group enjoyed the wide fairways, and Anja appreciated the fairness and yardage of nearly 5,000 yards from the red tees. “I think that’s a good yardage for most women,” she said.

There’s a manicured area of flowers, bushes, carved stumps and statuettes of animals and an angel between the 16th tee and restrooms near the 15th green.

The ability to find balls combined with flat greens and tees always being close to the previous green can contribute to a quick round. “You know you’re going to have a good pace of play the way the course is set up,” Tom said.

Dislikes

Yardages are difficult to find in fairways, and Kyle lamented the lack of a yardage book, with only small hole depictions across the top of the scorecard to assist players. “A yardage book is how you learn to play the game,” he said.

There’s a vast difference in the bunker sand whether it’s wet and heavy or dry and light, and there were areas of both during our round because of rain in recent days.

Tom and Kyle found the tee boxes to be in poor shape and sometimes sloped. “The tee boxes were not very wide so I don’t see why the markers couldn’t be the entire width of the tee box,” Kyle said.

Tom and Kyle also would have liked faster green speeds, though course workers were unable to cut them for two days because of rain and cold.

Par-3s

Par-3s can be lengthy from the back tees at between 176 and 225 yards, and measure between 146 and 193 from the white tees. “Par-3s were long but not especially difficult,” Tom said. “I felt like they had different elevation.”

The 176-yard fourth hole requires a carry over water to a fairly flat green with bunkers front left, front right and back. The 192-yard eighth has water short right, a deep bunker front right and bunker behind a green that slopes to the left and front.

“I thought the eighth was pretty and it was fair for a par-3,” Anja said. “It wasn’t overly long but wasn’t too easy.”

The 15th can measure between 187 and 205 from the tips depending on the tee selection. Bunkers are front left and front right of a green that slopes to the front and water to the right is generally out of play. The green on the 225-yard 18th is accessible in front with a slight false front and bunkers front right, front left, back right and back left.

“I liked that I was able to use different clubs for the par-3 holes,” said Anja, whose par-3s measured between 109 and 157 yards.

“No par-3 from the tips was under 187 [to the pin the day we played] so they are all long,” Kyle said. “But there are no crazy tough bunkers or major sloping greens. They’re very fair in terms of the trouble you can get into.”

Par-4s

The 377-yard second hole has water to the right off the tee and a wide high-lipped bunker fronting a fairly flat green. The 402-yard fifth turns slightly right and water begins on the right side about 110 yards from the green and continues alongside a long bunker on the right side of the green. “The 287-yard fifth hole from the red tee was the most difficult par-4 with a long carry from the right side of the fairway,” Anja said.

The 425-yard sixth has water short right of the green and bunkers on either side. The 327-yard seventh and 360-yard 12th are potential birdie holes with a pair of bunkers around each green.

“You are able to hit driver on every par-4 and -5 without hesitation,” Kyle said. “You are never penalized for hitting a good shot and the course is very forgiving for off-target misses.”

The 320-yard 10th is a short dogleg left around trees and a bunker with a green protected by three bunkers. The 411-yard 11th features a back tee to the right behind water and plays 345 from the white to the left of the water. A narrow and very deep green has high-lipped bunkers front right, front left and left.

The 410-yard 16th is a slight dogleg left with a green that slopes left and is surrounded by four bunkers, including one that is high-lipped and fronts the left side of the putting surface.

“There’s a good variety of shape overall in par-4s. Some are straightaway, some have some semi-doglegs and some have water,” Kyle said. “They definitely reward a good drive from all angles in.”

Par-5s

Par-5s account for much of the course’s yardage, as all four are more than 510 yards and two are more than 570 from the tips as well as 540-plus from the white tees.

The 534-yard first hole is straightaway with mounding on both sides of the fairway. There is a bunker on the left side in the second shot landing area and a bunker front right of a green that slopes from a back middle mound. The long and wide 573-yard ninth plays to the clubhouse and has deep bunkers front left and front right of the green and a pair of bunkers behind it. “When you look down No. 9 it’s like, ‘That’s a ton,’ ” Kyle said.

The 581-yard 14th is a true three-shot par-5 that turns left in the shape of a fish hook. A good drive is needed to clear the initial bend around a bunker and trees to set up a layup second shot that clears trees on the inside of a second bend. The green slopes to the front and in from both sides in the back and has bunkers front left and back right. The hole measures a long 468 yards from the red tee. “It was long but fun to play,” Anja said.

The 512-yard 17th is perhaps the course’s most reachable par-5. It’s a slight dogleg right with water coming into play on the right side of the fairway beginning 150 yards from a green protected by bunkers front left, front right and back.

“Some par-5s had some water and small fairway bunkers but for the most part you can rip drivers and 3-woods,” Kyle said. “Holes 14 and 17 do require a little thinking as they are tough shaped and have more trouble.”

Favorite holes

Anja was partial to the par-3 eighth hole, which measured 129 yards from the red tee, and the par-5 ninth, which measured 413. “I thought No. 8 was a good looking hole from the tee and No. 9 was a classic golf hole,” she said.

Tom also enjoyed the eighth, which measured 168 yards from the white tee, and par-4 10th, which measured just 294. “The water and vegetation on the eighth made for a nice looking hole and the 10th was a short but nice, challenging hole,” Tom said.

Kyle appreciated the par-4 fifth and 13th holes. The 386-yard 13th has a slightly elevated green that slopes to the front. “No. 5 is a tough hole because of the water shaping around the green,” Kyle said. “It’s one of the only holes on the course where you can get into trouble if your shot is off target just a few yards.

“No. 13 just reminds me of a good old southern par-4 with a ton of pine trees.”

Least favorite holes

Anja’s least favorite hole was the 404-yard par-4 third, which measures 277 from the red tee and features a pair of fairway bunkers and mounding to the right off the tee, and water coming halfway across the fairway from the left about 50 yards from a green that slopes to the front and has bunkers left and right. “I was a little unsure of the yardage to the hazard,” Anja said.

Tom found the par-3 18th to be a difficult hole to par at 193 yards from the white tee, and the par-5 14th to be “long and difficult. It’s shaped like a fish hook and is very hard to reach in three shots,” he said.

Kyle found the dogleg-left par-4 10th and curling par-5 14th to be out of place. “Both holes seem to be so much different from the other holes on the course the way they set up off the tee box,” Kyle said.

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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