Brierwood Golf Club was built in the late 1960s to give golfers in the Shallotte area a place to play without having to drive to North Myrtle Beach, and 44 years later it remains a viable option for locals.
A lot of courses have been built around the 6,643-yard Ben Ward design since it opened in 1969, and it has subsisted by catering to mostly local and member play.
Brierwood winds through a coastal forest and housing and features several ponds, open fairways, and bunkers primarily around large greens that challenge with slopes.
“From the tips it’s of average difficulty for single-digit long hitters,” said Jay Eriquez of Sunset Beach, N.C, a retired human resources director who took part in a review of the course in late January. “It’s a very playable golf course. There is not a lot of trouble to get into.”
Joining me and Jay, a 9 handicap, in the review foursome were Sunset Beach residents Tom O’Rourke, a retired truck driver and 11 handicap, and Jack Taylor, an Air Force veteran and retired General Services Administration customer service representative with a 22 handicap.
The course has adopted an unconventional but interesting overseeding practice, overseeding 428 Bermudagrass greens with poa trivialis and tees with ryegrass, but leaving fairways and rough alone and at least partially dormant for the winter. The fairways and rough were fine and it worked for the greens.
“The course was in very good condition, especially the greens, considering the time of year,” Jack said. “The course is very attractive.”
Greens were quick and had significant slopes that made putting anything but uphill difficult. “With the slickness of the greens the way they are now it’s imperative that you stay below the hole,” Jack said.
Brown sand in bunkers is ample and manicured, though bunkers aren’t edged.
The course has a few large ponds and several small ponds that are present on all but a few holes. Water must be crossed to reach the green on a few holes, but it is largely on the sides of fairways and greens.
“The water is there but it’s not really in play on a lot of holes,” Jay said. “Some courses you can hit a good shot and wind up in the water. Here you have to hit a pretty crappy shot to end up in the water. Fairways are wide.”
The large clubhouse has a back porch hanging over the lake that runs behind the 14th green and along the 15th fairway. “I like the pond setting,” Jack said. “I would recommend after a round you grab a beer and come sit back here and relax.”
Jay recommends the course to higher handicap players, with the exception of a few holes. “I think it’s a good course for beginners to play because there’s not a lot of trouble to get in off the tee and the fairways are fairly wide,” Jay said.
The entire group liked the greens. “You can’t complain about the greens,” Tom said. “They were a little slick but they were nice. They putt true and fast.”
Jay and Jack noted the Brierwood neighborhood had upscale homes and though some encroach upon fairways on a few holes, others are set back. “The houses do not come into play or distract the players,” Jack said.
The group thought the course was a good value with green fees ranging between $30 and $45 depending on the time of year. “It’s a good course for the dollar,” Jay said.
You have to tee off cold because the course has no driving range or chipping green, only a practice putting green.
Jay thought the clubhouse, though impressive from the outside, could use some updating.
Yardages appeared to be off on some holes and the card yardages didn’t always match the granite hole markers at tees. “The course seemed to play longer than yardages stated,” Jay said. “Maybe it was winter golf and soft turf.”
Several pin positions on the quick and undulating greens were unfair. “Some pin settings were on downhill slopes,” Tom said.
Par-3s measure between 158 and 211 yards from the back tees and between 148 and 172 from the white. “The par-3s are fair and not too difficult,” Jack said.
The 158-yard third hole has a pond that is well in front of the green and has rock-lined banks, and a bunker to the left of a two-level the green that is higher in the back.
The 211-yard ninth requires a tee shot over water to a green protected on both sides by bunkers. The green’s slope to the front is more pronounced at the front. “It’s a long hole with a deep long green that plays into the wind,” Jay said.
The 175-yard 14th has a pretty downhill tee shot to a flat green backed by the pond behind the clubhouse and protected by bunkers left and front right. The 182-yard 17th has water in front of the tee and a green sloping sharply to the front with a bunker left and two bunkers right.
“The par-3s are very good holes,” Jay said. “They have good length from the tips, are well trapped and are pretty holes.”
None of the par-4s are longer than 420, but length is still a factor as seven are more than 390 yards. “Par-4s are pretty long for the average golfer, even from the gold tees on some holes,” Jack said. “They’re long, straight and ho-hum for the most part.”
The 395-yard first hole has a pocket of water that’s reachable off the tee on the left side and out of bounds on the left, but is otherwise straightforward and open. “It’s a nice starting hole because it’s open,” Jay said. “There isn’t water and traps everywhere.”
The 415-yard fifth is a sharp dogleg right with a tree to avoid at the bend and a pond in the fairway that can catch shots attempting to cut too much of the dogleg.
The 384-yard seventh turns slight right, has a tree line on the left than angles toward the fairway to force shots toward the right, and the green slopes left. The 332-yard eighth turns left and a green that slopes sharply to the front and left has no bunkers.
The 393-yard 10th is a sharp dogleg left with water to carry off the tee and on the approach to the green that slopes slightly to the front and has a bunker and water left and a bunker and water right.
“It’s a good hole,” Jay said of the 10th. “I like doglegs, for one. On the shot from the back tee there’s kind of a chute. You have to avoid trees in front of the tee on the right and if you’re left you have farther to the green. It’s a nicely bunkered green in the front, also. Holes 5 and 10 are neat doglegs and good holes.”
The 367-yard 11th has a downhill tee shot and turns slight to the left around a small pond. “It’s a nicely framed hole,” Jay said.
A pair of tough holes close out the par-4s. The 419-yard 15th has water down the entire right side and a green that slopes slightly forward with bunkers left and right, and the 416-yard 16th turns slightly left around a tree line and has bunkers left and right of a fairly flat green.
“Overall the par-4s are pretty straightforward,” Jay said. “What you see is what you get.”
The par-5s are all gettable with yardages of 518 yards or less. “The par-5s have good yardages for my game,” Tom said.
The 518-yard second hole is fairly tight with water on both sides of the fairway that can be carried off the tee. A tree impacts second shots from the right side of the fairway and a green with bunkers back and left is fairly flat.
The 456-yard sixth hole has a downhill tee shot toward water that crosses the fairway between 120 and 100 yards from the green, and an uphill second shot. A narrow and deep elevated green falls off back left.
The 518-yard 12th has a drive over a knoll to an open fairway. Pockets of water pinch the fairway about 150 yards from the green on the right and 100 yards from the green on the left, and the green slopes mildly to the front. The 503-yard 18th is straightaway, has pockets of water right and left off the tee and a flat green with two bunkers left and one right.
“The par-5s have open driving areas and are fair holes,” Jay said. “The ponds don’t really come into play.”
Jay liked the par-3 ninth, as well as the par-4 dogleg-left fifth and 10th holes. “These two holes are attractive and you must get your tee shot out far enough to see the green,” Jay said.
The favorite hole for both Jack and Tom was the par-5 sixth, which measures 470 yards from the white tee and 405 from the gold, meaning the water crossing the fairway is between 350 and 370 from the white tee box and between 285 and 305 from the gold.
“I like that hole because you have so many options,” Jack said. “As a long hitter you can be aggressive and reach the green and as a short hitter you can lay up and still get there in three and play for par. It’s very interesting.”
Said Tom of the sixth: “It has a great layout. It’s downhill to the water and back uphill to the green.”
Least favorite holes
Jay thought the majority of the par-4s could have offered more. “Most of the par-4s were straightaway and not much to look at,” he said. “They were: tee it up, hit it and hit it again. There wasn’t much to think about on the tee box.”
Jack’s least favorite hole was the par-4 10th, which measures 335 yards from the gold tee. “Unless you have played the course before this hole totally freaks you out because the water makes the hole appear to be extremely difficult,” Jack said.
Tom’s least favorite hole was the 397-yard par-4 fourth hole, which measured 379 from the white tee. A high-lipped bunker to the front right of the green is 15 yards from a putting surface that slopes slightly left. Tom noted the scorecard and hole marker for the white tee differ by 47 yards.