If you’re looking for a course that captures the essence of Lowcountry golf in a Southern charm milieu, Heritage Club is it.
Marsh on the site of two former rice plantations along the Waccamaw river, mature tall pines, magnolias, cypress and Spanish moss-draped oak trees, freshwater lakes and stately homes are the backdrop for a quality and challenging layout.
“With the rice plantation and the scenery, this makes you think of Pawleys Island,” said Jeff Mezzanotte of Myrtle Beach, a senior sales manager for Bluegreen Vacation Club and 0.1 handicap who took part in a review of the course in early October. “All the courses in Pawleys Island have a similar look and feel with old oak trees, tree-lined fairways, rice field and plantations.”
Joining me and Mezzanotte in the review were John Brasier of Greenwood, a 15 handicap and the public relations outreach coordinator for the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Jody Hazzard of Myrtle Beach, the publisher and editor of Grand Strand Magazine and an 18 handicap.
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Heritage Club is a Dan Maples design whose greens were completed by former course owner Larry Young and the Legends Group. The course has been ranked among America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses by Golf Digest several years.
“Heritage Club is without a doubt one of the top courses in Myrtle Beach,” said John, a former Sun News golf writer. “The scenery, especially the live oaks and wetlands, are spectacular.”
Fairways are generally generous, though trees can often block shots from the wrong side of fairways. “I liked the way each hole was framed with very mature trees and gorgeous homes,” Jeff said. “It has some character to it.”
Green undulations are extremely severe, perhaps the most severe of any course on the Grand Strand. “Challenging is one thing and penalizing is another,” Jeff said. “A green in regulation is not an automatic two-putt. Some pin placements were unfair. There were quadrants and almost like several different greens blended together. It didn’t flow.”
The 7,118-yard par-71, which opened in 1986, can challenge with its length alone and also has doglegs to gauge. Bunkers don’t dominate the layout, but they are a complement to the course’s other hazards and are often deep and penalizing. “There’s a tremendous variety in the holes – short and long par-3s, par-4s and par-5s,” John said.
Familiarity with the course helps, and the complimentary yardage book and GolfLogix GPS available for $2 are imperative. “If you’re going to score on this course, with the doglegs and green undulations, it helps to have played it,” Jeff said. “You have to know it to be able to attack it.”
Course conditions were good, including consistent bunkers and Champion Bermudagrass greens. “The greens are good,” Jeff said. “They’re smooth and the speed isn’t too fast or too slow.”
The course’s scenery includes manicured flower and plant beds, and a multitude of natural plants and wildlife. We saw alligators on several holes, including the eighth and 10th, and a wide array of birds. “It’s a beautiful course,” Jody said.
Jody appreciated that some red tees were moved up to lessen distances, including on the par-4 15th that measures 390 from the red tee box. To do so, some tees were moved into fairways. “They moved the front tees forward and I enjoyed the course more this time because of that,” Jody said. “But in that case you need the GPS, because if all I had was the scorecard it would be tough.
“I liked that on many holes the forward tees were placed at different angles than the other tees, for example Nos. 9, 7 and 14,” Jody added. “However, I didn’t like the tee box on the par-3 13th. I would have preferred the angle the white tees had.”
Five tee boxes allow golfers to find a suitable length; John appreciated the generous landing areas off the tee, and the group was impressed with the course’s value, as it features an inexpensive local program instituted by Arnold Palmer Golf Management.
The entire group thought the green undulations were overdone, and we had some tough pin placements in or on the crest of ridges. “There’s so much about the golf course that is great, if they just tempered the greens a little bit,” John said. “They have to be careful where they place the pins. Too many putts are along ridges with putts almost impossible to get close.”
There are a limited amount of yardage markers in fairways, and maintenance workers have allowed some to be overgrown by grass.
Jody thought a couple hazards were in inopportune places for women. “Some forced carries were in locations that made it necessary to lay up from the forward tees, such as on the second hole [which measured 497 yards from the red tee],” Jody said. “I don’t like that hole because there’s nowhere to go on your second shot unless you’re a long hitter. It’s a four-shot hole and it’s all carry on one of those shots.”
Par-3’s measure between 155 and 228 from the back tees, and between 125 and 175 from the white. “The par-3s are scenic and offer a variety of looks from each tee,” Jody said.
The 203-yard sixth has bunkers left and right of a green that slopes to the front from a mild middle tier. The 155-yard eighth is over water with bunkers right and front left and a tree in front of the left bunkers that can impact shots to a back left pin. A very undulating green has a plateau back left and collection areas back right and front right.
The 170-yard 11th is slightly uphill with a pair of bunkers to the left and a rolling green with collection areas front right and back right.
The 228-yard 13th is among the toughest par-3s on the Strand, and “one of the best par-3s in the area,” according to John. It is all carry over water to a bulkheaded wide and shallow green that is split by a middle ridge separating the left and right sides. Water continues around the right side of the green and there are a pair of pot bunkers behind the green.
“Very challenging,” Jeff said of the par-3s. “The back tees made you use long irons. Two of the four par-3s were man-sized.”
The eighth and 11th holes measure 135 and 125 from the white tees, which John thought was too short.
All but two of the 11 par-4s are longer than 400 yards, and five are longer than 440. The distances are more diverse from other tees. “They have some man-sized par-4s,” Jeff said.
The 417-yard dogleg-right first hole has a nasty high-lipped bunker on the left side of the fairway, a tree on the right side and a deep, three-tiered green. The 440-yard dogleg-left fourth hole has a tree to be avoided on the inside of the dogleg. The 427-yard fifth is a dogleg left over four bunkers in a mound at the turn, and trees in front of the green on the right side can impact shots from the right side of the fairway. A tree overhangs the left side of the green on the 442-yard dogleg-right seventh hole.
The 354-yard dogleg-right ninth hole doesn’t require a driver, has a couple bunkers on the inside of the bend, and trees on the left side of the fairway that will impact slightly uphill approach shots to a left pin. “You have to hit a high draw or play away from it,” Jeff said.
The 426-yard 14th requires an angled tee shot over water to a right fairway. The water cuts into the fairway close to a green protected by a large bunker to its right. “The 14th is one of the best holes on the Strand,” John said.
The third, 15th and 16th holes are traditional and straightforward tree-lined holes, though the 16th has fairway pond that is reachable off the tee. The approach to the dogleg-right 454-yard 17th can be impeded by trees if the drive is too far to the left side.
“There were several doglegs that made you think off the tee, especially the par-4s,” Jeff said. “I couldn’t hit driver off the tee on some holes because of distance, which makes the course play that much longer.”
The course has three par-5s and two are around 600 yards. The 598-yard second hole measures 536 from the white and features a fairway split by a long pond for the second shot. The green is on the left side and is protected by four bunkers in front, and the right side is a layup fairway. Tall trees in front of the water can impact shots, and a two-tiered green is higher on the left and lower on the right.
The double-dogleg 606-yard 10th hole measures 507 from the white and is a three-shot hole because trees on the left force shots to the right side inside the 150-yard marker. The green is rolling and deep.
The 506-yard 18th measures 470 from the white and doglegs left off the tee, with water behind the fairway on the right and continuing down the right side. The water crosses the fairway beginning 100 yards from a wide green, which is tucked behind the water to the right and slopes from the back left with a middle ridge. “The 18th hole is a great finishing hole,” Jody said.
“The par-5s are unusual holes with options,” John said, “like the split fairway at No. 2 and the heroic option on the final hole.”
Jody enjoyed the variety of par-4 holes, particularly the 354-yard ninth, which measures 210 yards from the red tee, and 426-yard 14th, which measures 300 from the red. “I would like to have the tee shot [on 9] over again and take driver instead of the hybrid that I put in the bunker,” Jody said.
Jeff enjoyed the challenge of all 18 holes. “I like a challenge and the course challenged you,” Jeff said. “If you were out of position it was penalizing.”
John’s favorite holes were the par-5 18th because of the risk-reward aspect on the final hole, par-3 13th because of the setting and challenge, and par-4 14, which measures 381 from the white. “It’s a beautiful par-4 over water that allows you to bite off distance depending on your angle over the water,” John said.
Least favorite holes
Jody’s least favorite hole was the par-5 10th, measuring 388 yards from the red, because of the placement of the tee box on the right side of the fairway. “It’s a short hole, but the proximity of the tee box to a tree makes the tee shot difficult,” Jody said. “It would be better if the tee was on the other side of the fairway.”
Jeff didn’t like the green on the 367-yard par-4 12th hole. The hole is a dogleg right over water that continues down the right side of the hole and behind the green, and trees on the right keep players from taking too much off on the tee. The green has deep hollows to the back left, back right and front right. “The green was Mickey Mouse, literally,” Jeff said. “It was like four bowls put together.”
John’s least favorite was also the 12th, which measures 332 yards from the white, for similar reasons. “The green is too big with too many ridiculous slopes,” John said.