The developers of Ocean Ridge Plantation didn’t have to venture far to find a designer to provide them with one of the better courses in North Carolina.
Designer Tim Cate, whose office is located at Ocean Ridge, created the 7,014-yard Tiger’s Eye Golf Links in 2000 featuring what has become one of his signature design characteristics using coquina boulders for aesthetics and to line the banks of many water hazards.
“When you come in the ambiance is nice,” said Tony Hurst of Myrtle Beach, a retired plastics company president with a 12 handicap who took part in a review of the course in early April. “It feels good, it looks good, it plays good. The course is very picturesque and has some very interesting holes.”
Joining me and Tony in the review foursome were his wife, Amy, a retired executive assistant and 15 handicap, and Mike Daniels of Murrells Inlet, a 3 handicap and owner of Gifts Fore the Golfer collectibles and memorabilia.
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The course has dramatic, high-lipped, fingered bunkering and the rocks line most water hazards, even some that aren’t in play, such as near the 10th tee box. The course also has a lot of manicured flowering plants and other vegetation and a small waterfall over rocks to the left of the 18th tee box.
“They spared no expense on the aesthetics of the course with the huge boulders,” Mike said. “To see it later in the spring it’s probably a really pretty course.”
The layout is cut through pines and hardwoods, features 40 acres of water and plays through upscale housing that remains on the periphery of the layout. The course has a fair amount of elevation change, including some elevated greens.
Tiger’s Eye has been as high as No. 41 in Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses.”
“There’s a nice flow to the golf course,” Mike said. “I like the layout. The fairways are well-defined by the variety of bunkers and there are no tricks off the tee. The fairway shapes and contours are nicely done.”
G2 bentgrass greens were very firm and a decent speed for our group. “Not too many courses around here have bentgrass anymore,” Tony said. “I’m not used to putting on bent. It’s nice to putt on them. I think they roll more true than Bermuda.”
The course is fairly open off the tee, but highly undulating greens add difficulty on the back end of holes. “The layout is pretty straightforward but you really need local knowledge of the greens for your second shots,” Tony said.
Added Mike: “If you know the contours of the green you can use them in your favor to get to tough pin placements, but you have to know the greens.”
Tiger’s Eye’s routing sets holes off on their own so “you don’t have to worry about getting hit,” Amy said. “I love the look of the course. I always enjoy playing here and always leave feeling like I’ve had a good day on the course.”
Amy found the entire staff to be cordial, particularly starter/ranger Geoff from Great Britain, and appreciated the options for women. “The red is extremely lady friendly, and the [5,136-yard] gold tee is challenging but fair,” said Amy, who believes the 4,502-yard red tees are short for any woman with about a 16 handicap or less.
Amy and Tony appreciated the bentgrass on greens. “I love the greens,” Amy said. “They roll nice and true, and undulations are quite difficult and unexpected.”
Tony also found the clubhouse facilities to be “great” and the course to be in good shape. Mike liked the shaping of the bunkers.
Mike was frustrated with greens that sloped from ridges to the back. “Some greens have spines across the green with slopes that kick some very good shots over the putting surfaces,” Mike said. “It would be more fair if the greens were tiered. The greens are a little severe for public play. Pin placements are limited.”
The group found previous knowledge of the greens to be almost imperative, and greens on some longer holes to be too severe. “It’s definitely a course you need to know about some greens,” Amy said. “They’re very severe if you don’t know where to place your shot.”
Though there are five tee boxes, the near-1,000 yards between the gold and white tees at 5,136 and 6,120 leave many senior men and low-handicap women without an ideal choice. “There’s too much separation from the gold and white,” Tony said. “I would have enjoyed a mixture of the white and gold but there would have been no way to post a score [for handicap purposes].”
Par-3s measure between 165 and 208 yards from the tips and between 128 and 165 from the white, which is the second tee up from the back after the blue.
The 190-yard second hole requires a drive over a rock-lined pond to a very elevated green rising above fingered bunkers left and front left. A bailout area to the right is well below a green that slopes steeply from the back.
The 178-yard sixth has small, low-canopy trees in a waste bunker that protects the front, left and back of a heart-shaped green that has three mild pockets to the front, back right and back left. “It’s a double hazard with the trees and waste bunker,” Mike said. “You should have one or the other but not both.”
The 165-yard 11th has a near-island green surrounded by coquina boulders, and the putting surface has a mild slope to the front from a back-left plateau. The green on the lengthy 208-yard 17th angles to the left along water and has a pair of bunkers to the right buffering the green from more water. The green slopes off a large mound back middle and has a false front on the right side. “The par-3s are very friendly and picturesque,” Amy said.
Par-4-s are generally manageable in length, with two longer than 425 yards and six at 400 or less. “It’s easy to stay in play and out of trouble on the par-4s,” Amy said. The first is just 377 but has a carry over water off the tee and a slightly uphill second shot.
The fourth is a dogleg left with an option to play safe to the right or carry water 227 yards from the tips to set up a pitching wedge or less to a two-tiered green that is lower in the back. A multitude of bunkers and water short and long of the fairway come with the risk. “I like that hole,” Tony said. “If you pick the right tee it’s a real challenge.”
The 401-yard fifth is fairly narrow with water down the entire right side along with fairway and greenside bunkers that flow into the water. The green has a middle ridge and is fairly severe. The 396-yard eighth is a dogleg right around a bunker with water to the right of the green.
The 415-yard ninth has a slightly downhill approach over a rock-lined water hazard to a green that slopes mildly to the front and left from a mild middle-left ridge. “This is one of my favorite holes,” Tony said. “It’s a pretty approach and an intimidating approach with the water in front of the green and possibility for a slight downhill lie.”
The 356-yard 10th is a birdie possibility with a relatively flat green, and the 390-yard 13th and 381-yard 14th have bunkers to avoid on both sides of the fairway and greenside. The 452-yard 12th and 447-yard 16th are the course’s two longest par-4s, though both play downhill. The 12th has an elevated green that breaks sharply to the front from a back-left plateau and has a deep bunker right and front right, and the 16th has a creek crossing the fairway 90 yards from a green protected by bunkers front left and front right.
“The par-4s are good, though some approaches have limited options,” Mike said. “Tee shot placement is crucial to give you the correct angles to go at most pins.”
Par-5s are formidable from the tips at between 531 and 592 yards, which drops to between 467 and 525 from the white tees. “The par-5s flowed nicely with the shaping,” Mike said.
The 551-yard third hole has a long waste bunker up the right side and another closer to the green on the right side, and a bunker left of a green that slopes to the front from a ridge about 40 feet from the back edge. The 562-yard seventh has water and a few bunkers down the right side and a green that has a mild middle ridge and generally slopes to the front. It is protected by bunkers on all sides but the front.
The 531-yard 15th is very narrow on the second shot over a high-lipped bunker that hides the rough and fairway behind it, with water on both sides but more room on the right than you can see. The green slopes to the front and back off a middle ridge. The 592-yard 18th features a drive over a creek that continues 50 yards up the right side with bunkers left and right, a second shot to a fairway that turns slightly to the right and has a bunker left and waste bunker right that extends to a wave-like green with few flat pin placements. The green is also protected by a bunker front left and water back.
“I like the layout of the hole, but for a 600-yard hole the green is too difficult,” Mike said. “I think it’s an excellent hole tee to green.”
Mike’s favorite holes were the 190-yard par-3 second and 415-yard par-4 ninth. “The second hole is a strong par-3 from the blue or black tees with little room for error,” Mike said. “No. 9 has a nice feel from tee to green and flows nicely down to the water, and the green is not too severe.”
Amy’s favorite hole was the par-5 18th, which measured a testy 434 yards from the red tee and 460 from the gold. “The view from the tee on 18 is a beautiful picture,” she said. “There are a sufficient amount of hazards with sand, water and trees, but they’re not hard to navigate.”
Tony’s favorite holes were the par-4 ninth, measuring 370 from the white and 308 from the gold tee, “because of the visual intimidation,” and the par-5 15th, which measured 467 from the white and 392 from the gold. “I really liked No. 15 both technically and visually, and because of the variety of shots available on the second shot,” Tony said. “I like holes where I stand over a shot and know I have to make good contact.”
Least favorite holes
Mike and Amy chose the 531-yard 15th as their least favorite hole. “It’s a hard hole to feel comfortable on,” Mike said. “If you don’t place the tee shot far enough out there is no area to lay up safely. The first two shots are crucial on that hole. It’s a problem hole for seniors and women.”
The 15th measured 355 yards from the red. “It doesn’t belong on the course,” Amy said. “It’s the most difficult hole on the course and placement off the tee and on the second shot is key. Seventeen holes are awesome then 15 bites you.”
Tony found the par-3 sixth hole to be bland – it measured 140 from the white and 107 from the gold – and found the par-5 18th, measuring 525 from the white and 460 from the gold, to have an unfairly difficult green. “The green and pin placement were diabolical and probably contributed to slow play because people struggled with putting it,” Tony said.