CALABASH, N.C. — Love it or hate it, youre going to have an opinion on the 767-yard par-6 18th hole at Farmstead Golf Links.
Youll remember it, said Karen Hertling of Carolina Shores, N.C., who took part in a review of the course in mid-May. Its a memorable hole.
Though Farmstead possesses the only par-6 on the Grand Strand, its far from being merely a course with a gimmick. The par-6 completes a solid and challenging Willard Byrd and David Johnson par-72 design with enormous length at 7,242 yards, variety throughout the routing, a country feel with vast fields along holes, a fair amount of water hazards and bunkers to provide challenge, and very good and puttable greens.
Joining me and Karen, a retired Verizon software engineer with a 25 handicap, in the review foursome were Ray Fontaine of Myrtle Beach, the executive director of the Horry County Council on Aging and a 12 handicap, and Seth Nagle of Conway, a student and Bistro 90 dining room employee with a 4 handicap.
I liked how every hole had different characteristics, which made you take a different approach hole by hole, Seth said. Of the courses Ive played in Myrtle Beach, this is the longest. The course plays very difficult from the black tees. It plays closer to 7,450 when you take the wind and other conditions into account.
There isnt much rough on the 13-year-old course, and the outskirts of fairways are often trees or native-grass fields. Located a few miles west of U.S. 17 in Little River, the fields contribute to the courses rural milieu. Its not as far outside of Myrtle Beach as people would think, but its enough in the country that it gets you away from the hustle and bustle, Ray said.
And its devoid of housing. Its nice that its open and its not in a development with houses around, Karen said. You dont hear anything except nature.
The course was in excellent condition for our visit. The golf course was in great shape, Ray said. The condition of the golf course from tee through green is impressive. Theyve done some good things out here.
Added Karen: The bunkers are nice and the greens are marvelous. I didnt see a boo boo on a single green.
The greens feature TifEagle Bermudagrass, are of average size and are fairly flat. The greens were very true and forgiving, Seth said.
The sand isnt too fluffy and its not hard pan, Seth continued. Id say its right where you want it.
The group found the staff to be professional and friendly. The clubhouse is immaculate and the people in there were so nice, Ray said.
Karen appreciated the location and condition of the womens tee boxes. They pay a lot of attention to the ladies tee boxes. Theyre flat and theyre nice, she said.
From the red tees this is a ladies friendly course, she added. I didnt really have a carry over water off the tee.
The group also liked the large back patio with rocking chairs overlooking the 18th green, and Karen appreciated flowering, including rose beds, throughout the course.
The group was impressed with the layouts conditioning. The maintenance crew does a great job, Seth said. And it enjoyed a setting thats unusual on the Strand. The course has visually appealing holes, Karen said. There are nice changes in fairways and attractive approaches to greens.
Players can find a comfortable yardage with five sets of tee boxes.
Ray found some fairways, including the par-4 16th, to be difficult because of slopes and undulations. You cant miss target areas or you will be penalized due to fairways running away to trouble, Ray said.
Seth found precision was required off the tee. Most fairways have ample room, but their outskirts have tree lines, water or native-grass fields, and though fairway bunkers arent abundant, all but one par-4/5 has at least one. Theres not much room for error, Seth said. Regardless of the hole there seemed to be trouble on the left and the right.
The course has a yardage card rather than a full book, and Ray found it could have been more descriptive. It didnt depict a tree in the middle of the fairway on the ninth hole, for instance.
Karen thought there was one tough and quirky pin placement during our round in a slope on the 12th green.
Just one of the courses five par-3s was shorter than 190 yards from the back tees, and two were longer than 220. They were a more reasonable distance from the other four tees, with just one longer than 180. The par-3s played difficult from the back tees, Seth said. I enjoyed the challenge but they seemed to be monotonous.
The 209-yard third hole has mounding and sparse trees to the right of a mildly rolling green and bunkers left and front left. The 223-yard sixth is nearly all carry over water from most tee boxes to a wide but shallow flat green, with a bailout area to the left and an area of rough between the green and water.
The 192-yard 12th requires a carry over water to a green that slopes to the front and back from a middle ridge and is protected by bunkers front and back. The 246-yard (not a misprint) plays slightly uphill and often into a prevailing wind and has a green that slopes mildly to the front with bunkers left and front right. That hole is very difficult, Ray said.
The green on the 172-yard 17th slopes to the left and right from a mild middle ridge and has bunkers back right and front left and water well left and short. The 17th is a good par or birdie opportunity, Ray said.
Only the 384-yard fifth hole is shorter than 400 yards among the nine par-4s, though only two are longer than 400 from the next tee up the blue tees. The par-4s were the most enjoyable holes to play, Seth said. I got to play a couple that were forgiving and only had a wedge left, but also played a few that left me with a long approach shot.
The 420-yard first hole has a wide fairway and a green with a mild dip separating the front and back. The first hole is a good starting hole, a fair warm-up hole, Ray said.
The 446-yard second is a difficult dogleg right with water right off the tee and a creek angling across the fairway inside 100 yards from the green. The 409-yard 10th has water and a trio of bunkers to the left of the green and a bunker to its right, and the 412-yard 11th has water down the right side off the tee and a fairway bunker left as well as a large bunker front left of a green that slopes to the right.
The 433-yard 13th has water down the left side and a slightly elevated green sloping off mounds front left and back left, and the fairway on the slight dogleg-right 453-yard 16th slopes toward water on the right but also falls off to a creek down the left side.
The course undulation gave every par-4 hole a different look, Ray said.
The courses three par-5s measure between 540 and 550 yards from the tips, though just the fourth hole is longer than 500 from the blues at 516. The par-5s were reasonable, Seth said. For the most part they were three-shot holes but rewarding if you kept the ball in the fairway.
The 549-yard fourth hole has water, trees and a bunker pinching the fairway off the tee and a wide and shallow green that is fairly flat with bunkers front left and front right. The 547-yard ninth has an oak tree in the middle of the fairway off the tee, group of bunkers down the left side of the fairway on the second shot and a green that slopes right to left.
Its pretty cool to have that tree in the middle of the fairway, Ray said. I think it gives the hole depth perception and some character. If the tree wasnt there it would be a blah hole. Its in your head a little bit.
The 541-yard 14th crosses the border from S.C. to N.C. shortly past the tee boxes, has water bordered by a long bunker down the right side on the second shot and a somewhat rolling green with bunkers left and front right.
In addition to its length, the 767-yard 18th requires some thought. A pair of right fairway bunkers are in play off the tee, and a left fairway bunker is in play for longer hitters. Water on the left can come into play on the second shot, and on the third and successive shots the fairway turns around the water, which extends around the left and behind one of the courses larger greens protected by a front bunker.
Ray enjoyed the par-5 fourth and ninth holes. The fourth measures 516 yards from the blue and 501 from the white tee and you can cut yardage off the dogleg around the lake, he said. The ninth measures 487 from the blue and 461 from the white. The tree is a good target and you can get there in two with a long second shot, Ray said.
Karens favorite hole was the 420-yard par-4 eighth hole, which measured 302 from the red tee. The dogleg right has a tee shot over a long bunker on the inside of the dogleg to a green that slopes to the front and is protected by a deep bunker front right. Its a nice dogleg with a pot bunker peeking at you front right, Karen said.
Seth liked the 541-yard par-5 14th It has reasonable yardage but high risk and high reward if you can hit two good shots and the 453-yard par-4 16th. Its a very challenging par-4 coming down the stretch, he said. He also enjoyed the 384-yard fifth, featuring a pair of bunkers left-middle of the fairway 300 yards from the back tee, a front-right greenside bunker and water to the right of the green. Its a great looking hole, Seth said. Its not very challenging but scenic.
Least favorite holes
Rays least favorite holes were the 18th because its too long at 712 from the blue and 679 from the white tees, par-3 15th measuring 228 from the blue because its hard to reach with a 3-wood, and the par-4 seventh, one of the more difficult holes on the course measuring 396 from the blue and 382 from the white.
Its a slight dogleg right with a fairway bunker to the right and water along the left side that cuts in front of the green, leaving only a slender bailout area to the right. A good drive is required to set up the second shot over water.
Both Seth and Karen named the 18th hole their least favorite. I would have liked a more traditional approach but the par-6 does make the course unique, said Seth, who flew the green with his third shot from 240 yards. I think the course would have come off better without it. I would have been pleased to see a long par-5 to finish.
It measured a challenging 635 yards from the red tee. Its a long hole at the end of the day fun but a challenge, Karen said. Its a bombers hole.
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284 or follow him on Twitter @alanblondin.