With each course Tim Cate has designed at Ocean Ridge Plantation, he has seemingly become more bold in creating striking scenery and memorable holes.
Leopard’s Chase Golf Links, his third solo design at Ocean Ridge that opened in 2007, reflects his more daring approach to fusing challenge with beauty.
The 7,155-yard course has multiple waterfalls to the side of the 18th green, huge coquina boulders throughout the property lining water hazards and hills, elevation changes, rolling terrain, undulating greens and dramatic bunkering.
“It’s a gorgeous course with a great variation of holes and scenery,” said Meghan Tarmey, who splits time between Myrtle Beach and New York and owns the Myrtle Beach Caddie Girls business. “It’s lovely and it’s well maintained.”
Joining me and Meghan, a 26 handicap, in a foursome that reviewed Leopard’s Chase in late March were Dennis Lang of Myrtle Beach, a cardiologist with a 10 handicap, and Bill Mannix of Myrtle Beach, a freelance cameraman and 16 handicap.
“There are no gimmicky holes. Every hole is solid,” Dennis said. “You had to place a lot of drives perfectly. It appears open but you have to place shots or you will pay.”
The course is expansive with no holes running parallel to each other, plenty of room around each hole and few homes in sight or interfering with play. “I like the fact it’s not crammed,” Bill said. “The houses that are out here aren’t on top of the fairways. It’s big, wide open, and has championship length, though it’s not built to be a championship course.”
In addition to pine tree-lined fairways on most holes, the course’s defenses include both waste bunkers and traditional bunkers, water, wetlands and elevation changes that include elevated greens creating difficult up-and-downs.
The front nine has a par of 35 with three par-3s and the back nine has a par of 37 with three par-5s. So if you like par-3s and par-5s, you get five of each and only eight par-4s compared to 10 at traditional par-72 layouts.
Leopard’s Chase is one of less than a dozen courses on the Strand that still feature the high quality bentgrass on greens. It has the L93 variety. The greens are rolling and were consistently quick without being too fast, and many greens fall off in multiple directions, so knowledge of the contours is beneficial.
“The greens are nice because they’re undulating but not ridiculously difficult,” Dennis said, “and they roll true.”
Though most greens are protected by bunkers, the front of nearly every green is open. “If the pins are in the front they’re very accessible because you don’t have to deal with undulations and there aren’t front bunkers,” Dennis said.
Bill appreciated having five tee boxes with a difference of nearly 2,300 yards. “There are plenty of tee options,” he said. He was also impressed because we never had maintenance workers behind or ahead of us, though they had obviously done their duties.
Meghan enjoyed the natural feel of the property. “The cart paths are incorporated into the bunkers. It’s all very natural,” she said. She and Dennis noted the friendly staff and quality service, and Meghan also liked the smooth cart paths, minimal housing and overall condition of the course.
She thought the ancient coquina boulders add a rare touch. “I like the boulders around the edges of the water that most courses in Myrtle Beach don’t have,” Meghan said. “They just look cool. They create a mini cliff-like effect.”
Dennis found the yardage books to be thorough and helpful, and appreciated the affordable $3 for a can of domestic beer. He was also agreeable to the firmness of the terrain. “The balls roll out to give you extra distance but they don’t roll you into trouble areas,” Dennis said.
The group believed one of the few shortcomings of the property is a small temporary clubhouse. “The practice facilities are nice, but the clubhouse doesn’t live up to the property’s beauty and potential,” Bill said.
A pin sheet has five pin locations. But the group was fooled when two pins on the front nine weren’t in the correct locations.
Bill recognized the clearcutting of the property at some point in time. “I don’t like the clearcutting,” Bill said. “It’s all straight tall pine trees. They should have left some hardwoods. It feels like you’re playing on a tree farm. Otherwise it’s a beautiful piece of property. You get rid of the tree farm look and I think it’s an amazing piece of property.”
Meghan and Bill were disappointed that the beverage cart carried beer but no liquor, though it was available in the clubhouse.
Dennis thought the course was worth the drive from even the south end of the Strand, though he found it hard to find with minimal signage. He also thought some areas of rough and fringe needed warmer weather to fully grow in.
Par-3s are dramatic and long from the back tees with just one – at 178 yards – less than 190. “Most par-3s are long with a carry of some sort,” Dennis said. “There are no easy birdie chances.”
They are between 141 and 157 from the white tees. The 178-yard second has water beginning front right of the green and continuing around the back, and bunkers front left and left of a green that slopes toward the water on the right. “It’s difficult with sand on one side and water on the other,” Meghan said. “When you hit it out of the sand it can go in the water.”
The 190-yard fourth has a near-island green inside a rock-lined water hazard with bunkers right and back right and a green that slopes to the front from a mild middle ridge and to the right in the back portion. The 192-yard eighth has water and a bunker to the right of a green that slopes to the left, then front and back from a middle-left ridge and falls off front left toward mounding.
The 190-yard 13th requires a carry over wetlands to a green that slopes to the right and front with a front right-bunker and left bunker. The 215-yard 16th has a slightly uphill tee shot over wetlands to a green that slopes to the front from the middle and to the right in the back, and is protected by bunkers front left and front right.
“I love the variation of the par-3s. They’re well done with challenging approaches,” Meghan said. “I like the water and boulders and difficulty of them. They’re harder than most courses I’ve played.”
From the back tees, only the 361-yard first hole is less than 410 yards and four are 435 or longer. “They require a good drive from the tips or a long iron into the green is required,” Dennis.
The first hole has water to the left and a pair of fairway bunkers to the right, and the green is tucked behind the water and a bunker. “It’s short but it’s tight down there,” Dennis said. “Driver is enticing but it can be dangerous. You have to place your drive perfectly or you can start with a 5 or 6.”
The 425-yard fifth requires an accurate tee shot with water left and two fairway bunkers right, and has a mildly rolling green and small amount of fairway in front of it that are an island surrounded by waste bunker.
The 435-yard sixth has a 200-yard carry over water from the tips and a long bunker behind it on the left, with mounding and native grasses just off the cart path on the right. The 418-yard 10th has a waste bunker down the entire right side of the hole, fairway bunkers to the left and a waste bunker to the left of the green.
“The par-4s are challenging yet playable and fair for all skill levels,” Bill said.
The 435-yard 15th has a carry over water off the tee, bunkers short left and long right in the landing area, and a two-tiered green tucked behind water and a long bunker to its front left.
The 439-yard 18th has water and a bunker left and a waste bunker right, and water front left of the green features a few waterfalls. The green is rolling with a swale on the left side. “What a great 18th hole with the tranquility of the glistening water and majestic waterfalls, and a glimpse of the clubhouse ahead,” Meghan said.
The five par-5s are beasts from the back, measuring between 542 and 585, and they measure between 484 and 532 from the white tees. “The par-5s are not reachable for the average golfer,” Bill said. “Usually a course has at least one reachable par-5.”
The 576-yard third turns right around water and a long bunker along its banks, with bunkers on the left in the landing areas for the first two shots and to the left of a rolling green that falls off in multiple areas including back right and back left. “It’s difficult to determine how much to cut off it if it’s your first time playing the course,” Dennis said.
The 569-yard ninth has a tight drive with water left, a pair of bunkers on the right side of the fairway landing area and native grasses just to the right of those. The green is tucked near water to its front left and has a higher back, lower front and right bunker.
The 542-yard 11th has a pair of island fairways between wetlands – one off the tee and one on the second shot – before an approach to a green protected by bunkers left and front left.
The 543-yard 14th is a sharp dogleg left around a low level of native grasses, wetlands and bunkers with water to the right of the landing area and an uphill second shot to an elevated green with danger abound, particularly down a hill to the left toward trees. “No. 14 was fun and the elevated green was hard,” Meghan said.
The 585-yard 17th has bunkers short left and short right in the landing area, water on the right 310 yards from the back tee, and a green with bunkers front right and right that slopes forward and right from the middle. The par-5s measured between 350 and 460 from the red tees. “Par-5s were challenging but the red tees were actually given a lot of slack with yardage and hazard placement,” Meghan said.
Meghan was partial to the par-3 fourth hole, which measured 94 yards from the red tee, most of which was carry over water. “The green is surrounded by water on all sides,” she said. “It’s fun when the reds must hit over the water too.”
Bill enjoyed the 18th because it was “beautiful, tough and very aesthetically pleasing,” as well as the island green par-3 fourth, which measured 156 from the white. “Hitting over the water always separates the wheat from the chafe,” Bill said. “It’s a tough hole.”
Dennis agreed with the group on the fourth and also liked the par-3 second. “It’s a great hole if you trust the yardage despite all the water,” Dennis said. His favorite hole was the 18th. “It has a nice landing zone and is a very pretty hole with waterfalls,” he said. “The green is tough depending on the pin. If you’re playing well it will be good. If not, good luck.”
Least favorite holes
Meghan’s least favorite hole was the par-5 11th, which played 351 yards from the red and required two carries over wetlands. “Only because it’s difficult,” she said. “You have to lay up if you aren’t skilled enough off the tee, then again onto the island fairway surrounded by wetlands, so realistically I feel it should be a par 6.”
Bill thought the par-4 first hole, measuring 303 from the white tee, was too narrow. “I like an easy hole to start,” Bill said. “No. 1 for a starting hole should be a little more forgiving.”
Dennis also thought the first hole was a difficult warm-up, and found the 11th with wetlands to carry on your first, second and possibly third shots to be a conundrum. “There’s just no hope of a good score either way,” Dennis conceded.