Diamond Back Golf Course at Woodland Valley Country Club has a local rule that all tree lines are played as lateral hazards.
Rest assured you will be appreciative of that edict.
With dense forest surrounding just about every hole, and several narrow corridors serving as fairways, the 15-year-old 6,907-yard Russell Breeden design on the east side of Loris requires unwavering accuracy to keep your golf ball in play.
“It’s almost like you’re out in the wilderness and they put a course in the middle of the woods,” said Tom Barber of Murrells Inlet, a retired Amtrak passenger train conductor who took part in a review of the course in late July. “I like that each hole is separated. You have all these trees surrounding the fairway and around the back of the green. It’s so peaceful.
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“I like all the nature and the country feel. It’s very, very nice. I like old-fashioned, old-style golf courses.”
Joining me and Tom, a 19 handicap, in the review foursome were Brandon Smith of Surfside Beach, a bartender with an 18 handicap, and Rob Rung of Conway, a graduating student at Coastal Carolina with a 2.5 handicap.
The location, style of the course and lack of housing give it a different atmosphere in the market. “It doesn’t feel like a beach course,” Brandon said. “Even courses with trees you often still have a shot. Here it’s forest. It’s thick. It’s nice and quiet and secluded out here. It felt different out here. It was enjoyable.”
Squeezed between the trees are ponds or wetlands on nearly every hole, minimal but well-placed bunkers and greens that provide a challenge in their slopes.
The lateral hazard rule is as much for safety as convenience. A sign on the first tee explains rattlesnakes may be found in the area, and they generally won’t attack but will defend themselves if disturbed or cornered. Rattlers are not alone in terms of wildlife on the course.
Our group saw a fawn, water moccasin and, strangely, a pair of sheriff’s deputies. In an odd moment, two officers popped out of the woods behind the fifth hole, adding to the day’s events.
Several tee shots have narrow openings, particularly from the back tees. “Back tee shots are tight,” Rob said. “There are a couple of terrifying tee shots.
“… You have to be a really good ball-striker to score well here and you have to hit it all three ways: left, right and straight. Target golf and course management is essential on the short par-4s and par-5s.”
Diamond Back’s back nine is a little more forgiving and is 135 yards shorter than the front. “It seemed like the front nine was very penalizing and the back nine there were a lot more scoring opportunities,” Rob said.
The course’s greens often have continuous slopes that offer a limited number of fair pin positions, and feature a Jensen Bermudagrass that is not readily available any longer, so course general manager and superintendent Tom Haddock tries to keep the grass hearty so there won’t be any areas in need of repair.
“The course was in great shape,” Rob said. “The fairways, tees, rough and greenside areas were in great shape, and that made it easier to get the ball close.”
Diamond Back is arguably the best deal on the Grand Strand, with a summer rate of $20 and annual high of $45. “It’s a great deal and it’s in great shape for a public course,” Rob said. “For $20 or even $45 you can’t find a deal better than that at the beach. The only thing that would affect the value would be the gas to get out here.”
The entire group appreciated the isolation of the course. “I really liked that it was so quiet out there,” Rob said. “If they had electric carts (the course has gas carts) it would be silent. You wouldn’t hear a thing. You’re not bothered by anyone or anything. You don’t see another group unless they’re on the same hole as you.”
For cat lovers, the course has two resident cats named Divot and Mulligan that hang around the outside of the clubhouse.
There was no beverage cart on the day we played.
Tom wasn’t fond of the forced carries on a handful of holes and thought there should be more yardage markings on the fairways and par-3 tee boxes, and said “my only requests are they have a cart girl and club washers on the carts. I think all carts should have those.”
Tree limbs and canopies on the par-4 fifth and even more so the par-5 10th hole force a cut or take away the middle and right sides of fairways.
Rob found the conditions to be “slow and soft,” and the greens to also be slow and somewhat bumpy.
Brandon would have preferred electric carts rather than gas carts.
Par-3s measure between 144 and 209, and from the white tees two are longer than 175 and two are shorter than 140. “I like that it wasn’t all just 150 yards,” Brandon said. “The par-3s were good.”
The 194-yard fourth hole requires a full carry over marsh to a green that slopes off a mild back-right plateau and is protected by bunkers front left, front right and right. “That hole has character,” Tom said. “I like everything about that hole.”
The 150-yard eighth has a tee shot over water and a front bunker that spans the width of a wide green that slopes to the right and slightly forward with a mild ridge running up the middle.
The 144-yard 12th has S.C. 9 as a backdrop and has water front, left and right, a cavernous back bunker and green that slopes to the front and slightly right. The 209-yard 16th requires a lot of carry over water to a deep green sloping to the front with bunkers front left and front right. “The 16th is tough for a shorter hitter like me because it’s all carry,” Tom said.
“The variety of short and long par-3s make you work for your par,” Rob said.
Four par-4s are longer than 420 yards, while five are less than 400. “The par-4s are fair and reachable in two,” Tom said. “I liked them all.”
The 432-yard first hole is a dogleg left with a fairly wide fairway and water and a bunker to the left of a wavy green with a middle swale. The 442-yard fifth is a dogleg right with tree limbs protecting the right side of the fairway. A deep green is flat in the back and otherwise slopes to the front. The 378-yard ninth is benign with a rolling green protected by three bunkers.
The 423-yard 14th has a fairly wide fairway with a rolling green that generally slopes to the front and right. The 384-yard 17th has water deep off the tee to the right that later crosses the fairway 75 yards from a green that slopes sharply to the front off a back plateau. The 370-yard 18th is a dogleg left with a creek cutting 40 yards in front of a green protected by bunkers left front and right front.
“The par-4s were somewhat average but you can still get yourself in trouble easily,” Brandon said. “There’s a fair amount of water.”
Three par-5s are 540 yards or longer. The second hole is the longest at 591 and even 555 yards from the white tee. It’s a long, narrow, winding hole that turns slightly right on the first and second shots, has a 70-yard pond on the left beginning 235 yards from a green that slopes to the right away from a left-side bunker.
“The par-5s give players a chance to score well except for the second hole,” Brandon said. “It’s super tight with very little room for error.”
The slightly downhill 500-yard seventh has a bunker and tree line that pinch the fairway from the left and are reachable from all tees. A pond lined with native grasses along its banks guards the front and left of the green and is buttressed by a front bunker.
The dogleg-right 540-yard 10th has a very narrow opening off the tee and turns around water and a large tree at the bend. Water continues up the right side to a green that slopes off the back on the back third.
“On the par-5s you can take a few risks to get in position then you have another risk shot,” Rob said. “They’re not very long holes, but course management is key to set you up for a birdie.”
The 542-yard 15th is a dogleg left with bunkers on the inside and outside of the bend, and a creek crosses the fairway between 110 and 60 yards from a kidney-shaped green that curls around a front bunker and slopes mildly to the front and right.
With three par-5s longer than 480 yards from the gold tee, including the 531-yard second hole, Tom found the par-5s to be long. “They’re too long for me,” he said.
Rob’s favorite hole was the 439-yard par-4 sixth, a mild dogleg left with a carry over marsh beginning 120 yards from a green protected on the right by a pond and a large bunker. The hole shortens to 370 yards from the white tee. “There are a great variety of tee positions,” Rob said. “From the tips, 3-wood or driver is needed and the second shot is difficult because of the protected green. The water, sand and marsh in front of the green are intimidating for a mid-iron or short iron shot.”
Brandon was fond of the 406-yard par-4 11th hole, which measures 388 from the white tee. It’s a dogleg left with a fairway bunker at the bend on the right, and small trees on the inside of the dogleg provide a rare opportunity at Diamondback to cut the corner toward a green that slopes sharply to the front with a false front. “A reasonable tee shot leaves you in good shape to wedge in close,” said Brandon, who birdied the hole.
Tom’s favorite hole is the 368-yard par-4 13th, which measures just 265 from the gold. It’s a sharp dogleg left with bunkers on the inside and outside of the bend and front-right of the green. “I like a short par-4, and it’s a nice break from the tight, hard par-4s,” Tom said.
Least favorite holes
Rob’s least favorite hole was the 591-yard par-5 second. “It’s very long and narrow and the slope of the fairway is to the left,” Rob said. “But the trees on the right protect it so you cannot easily use the slope to your advantage. With the length, any mishit leaves you with a long approach to a green protected by a large bunker.”
Brandon’s least favorite hole was the 395-yard par-4 third hole, which is 370 from the white tee. The mild dogleg right has a carry over wetlands off the tee and water behind and to the left of the green. “It’s not an overly hard hole but with a long forced carry off the tee, being the third hole it can get into your head if you’re struggling with the driver at all,” he said.
Tom’s least favorite hole is the par-5 10th, measuring 487 yards from the gold tee. “That tee shot on 10 is tough through the chute. They should cut the tree line back,” Tom said.