The Grand Strand has its share of open resort courses that allow players to haphazardly bomb it off the tee.
Carolina Shores Golf & Country Club is not one of those.
The 6,755-yard Tom Jackson design was cut through the trees of then Calabash in 1974 and requires ball control. Pines and hardwoods line both sides of just about every hole.
“I like the definition of the fairways set up by the tree line on both sides,” said Jim Walker of Myrtle Beach, a retired IBM mechanical design engineer who took part in a review of the course in late June. “It gives you a good aiming point. I thought they had a pretty good mix of left-to-right and right-to-left doglegs.”
Joining me and Jim, a 16 handicap, in the review foursome were Lee Abrahall of North Myrtle Beach, a retired NYPD detective and 19 handicap, and Jon J Van Etten of North Myrtle Beach, a handyman and bag drop attendant with a 10 handicap.
“I play a lot of open resort courses around here, so it’s nice to play one of these tight, tree-lined courses,” Lee said. “It reminded me of several courses back home on Long Island.”
Water, bunkers and out of bounds markers along some of the tree lines contribute to the tightness of holes. There is considerably more water in play on the back nine, as holes 10-15 all have water hazards to be avoided.
Every hole has some bunkering and they are the primary defense on many holes, with eight traps on the 16th hole and six each on the ninth and 13th holes.
“It’s traditional and cut from the trees, the way I like,” Jim said. “Most of the holes are interesting and there is a reasonable amount of bunkering and water, most of which can be avoided.”
The course’s greens vary in depth from 21-35 yards and are generally relatively flat, though a few have mounds in them that make two-putting difficult if you’re on the wrong side of the hole, including the first hole. The TifDwarf Bermudagrass putting surfaces were plush but a bit slow. “The greens were a little slow for my liking, but not too slow,” Jon said. “They roll nice.”
The course still shows signs of poor conditioning in the recent past, but new general manager Philippe Bureau and his staff are making efforts to improve the conditions.
“The golf course was in pretty good shape,” Jon said. “I liked the course overall and it was a good test. There are a lot of different doglegs to shape shots and some of the greens were small targets. You have to hit it in the fairway.”
Jim thought the complimentary yardage books were good and informative, and appreciated carts being equipped with club washers and club covers in case of rain. “I like the ball and club washers on the carts,” Jim said. “They’re convenient and not that expensive, but it’s surprising how many courses don’t have them.”
Cart paths run along both sides of some holes. “That’s a time-saver,” Jim said.
The course has a comprehensive practice area complete with a chipping green and bunker, and Jon thought the quality of bunker sand was good.
The course’s age is evident in many places. Cart paths have become bumpy because of intrusive tree roots, some tee boxes weren’t level and the silver tees sometimes slanted forward. “Some of the tee boxes were a little rough and uneven,” Jon said.
A couple yardages on the scorecard were typos, and the dogleg right second hole is mistakenly described as a dogleg left in the yardage book.
Lee and Jim both found the bunker sand to be thin in places and wanted more yardage markers on both fairway sprinkler heads and tee boxes.
The 173-yard third hole measures 133 from the white and has three high-lipped bunkers protecting the front, left and right of a fairly flat green – the middle bunker is particularly difficult.
The 170-yard seventh hole is 130 from the white and has water from the front left around to the back of a deep and narrow green and a long bunker on the right of the green.
The 155-yard 12th measures 125 from the white and requires a carry over water that continues along the left side of a big and fairly flat green, and a trio of bunkers reside on the right side and back of the green. “It’s a pretty hole and a test,” Jim said. “It’s mostly carry.”
The 150-yard 17th is 119 from the white, and there are bunkers front, left and behind an elongated green that slopes mildly to the front.
“I thought there was a good mix of par-3s,” Lee said. “All were different distances and challenging.”
Accuracy is the key to scoring on the par-4s, as nine of the 10 measure between 377 and 402 yards. Jim liked the par-4 senior silver tee yardages between 266 and 353 yards.
“There was a lot of variety with some longer and shorter holes and a lot of doglegs to shape shots,” Jon said. “Yardage books helped to know where to hit it.”
The 385-yard first hole is tight with a pair of bunkers on the left side of the fairway and a pair of bunkers right of a green with a large middle hump. “So this is where Jimmy Hoffa is buried,” Jon said.
The 424-yard sixth hole is perhaps the toughest on the course with a pond fronting the green from the left side and a pair of bunkers to the right of a flat putting surface.
The 390-yard 11th requires a carry over water from the two back tees, and the second shot turns left over water that begins 120 yards from the green and can’t be seen behind a tree line from the tee. Water is left of a green that slopes mildly to the front and has a trio of bunkers to its right.
The 402-yard 13th has a pond 100 yards from the green on the right, and the green is surrounded by five bunkers. The green on the 377-yard 14th slopes slightly toward a pond to its right and has a bunker to its left.
The 386-yard 18th turns left and the green is well-protected by a trio of bunkers front, back right and short right.
“The par-4s played well with varying distances,” Lee said. “The hazards were fair. You could score well but also find yourself in deep trouble.”
The par-5s are generally long from all tee boxes. They measure between 538 and 571 from the gold tees, 519 and 548 from the black, 500 and 521 from the white, 458 and 498 from the silver, and 423 and 455 from the red. Jim thought they were long for seniors.
“I thought the par-5s were fair and strategic,” Lee said. “Any of them would be tough to get home in two, even for big hitters.”
The 538-yard fourth hole turns right around a bunker 100 yards from the green, and has bunkers on either side of the landing area off the tee and a bunker to the left of a green that slopes mildly to the front.
The 571-yard ninth has a bunker 130 yards from the green, which is narrow and is surrounded by four large bunkers and a pot bunker. “The green is certainly well-protected,” Lee said.
The course has back-to-back par-5s, as the 558-yard 10th curls slightly left and has water taking up the left half of the fairway beginning 110 yards from the green and continuing through its left side. The flat green is backed by a bunker, and a bunker 60 yards from the green on the right can catch second shots avoiding the water.
The 544-yard 16th has a group of four bunkers on the left side of the fairway between 140 and 75 yards from a flat green with bunkers front right and back.
“I really liked the par-5s,” Jon said. “They were long from the tips but reachable with two good shots. Bunkers are placed strategically if you’re going for the green.”
Jon’s favorite hole was the par-5 16th. “You could reach it in two, but the fairway bunkers came into play if you didn’t hit a good second shot,” he said.
Lee particularly enjoyed the par-5 ninth, which played 521 yards from the white tee. “It was a pretty hole to finish up the front,” he said. “I liked the look of the green surrounded by the four or five bunkers.”
Jim liked the 380-yard second hole, which measures 309 from the silver tees, turns right and features a horseshoe bunker that protects the left and left-front of the green. “It’s short and left-to-right – my kind of hole for my controlled fade,” Jim said.
Least favorite holes
Jon wasn’t overly fond of the par-4 opening hole. “The first hole was pretty tight to start out the round with,” Jon said.
Lee’s least favorite hole was the par-4 15th, measuring 335 yards from the white tee. The hole had water down the entire left side, out of bounds just off the cart path on the right, and a green tucked behind the water with a middle mound and bunkers front and back.
“It just had no room for error off the tee with OB right and water left, and not much room for error on the approach shot,” Lee said.
Jim thought the par-5 16th hole, which measured 468 yards from the silver tee, “gets tight as you near the hole.”
To view Blondin’s blog, Green Reading, go to MyrtleBeachOnline.com.