Late in 2015, the owners of Prestwick Country Club decided to eliminate memberships and free up all tee times for daily fee play.
A foursome that reviewed the once entirely private course in late January found the members’ loss is the public’s gain.
“It’s one of the best courses on the beach,” said Patrick O’Brien of Myrtle Beach, program director for The First Tee of the Grand Strand and a scratch golfer. “It’s a fantastic layout that is in good condition with shot variation. Each hole is very visually appealing and there’s never a dull hole. Each hole is a new adventure and a new obstacle or hazard to navigate.”
Prestwick is a 7,086-yard layout co-designed by Pete and son P.B. Dye that opened as a private course in 1989 and had been semi-private for several years until 2016. It has many features commonly found on Pete Dye courses, including dramatic and penalizing bunkers, complex greens and surrounds including low collection areas, railroad ties and some angles off tee boxes.
“The course is fun and challenging,” said First Tee of the Grand Strand executive director Rich Abraham of North Myrtle Beach, who carries a handicap index of 4. “There are lots of challenging and unique shots around the greens with deep trenches and bunkers. There is a great variety of holes and shots. It challenges your creative short game skills.”
Joining me, Rich and Patrick in the review foursome was Cindy Greenwald of Pawleys Island, a realtor and 10 handicap who is also involved in The First Tee youth development organization as a volunteer coach.
“I like every hole to be interesting and different and each hole here is quite unique and there are a fair amount of holes turning left and right,” Cindy said.
Rich believes Prestwick’s defining characteristic is the green complexes. Greens vary in undulation from relatively flat to severely sloped, and they’re often elevated above water, penalizing bunkers, mounding and collection areas that are as much as 10 feet below the putting surface.
“The green complexes are very dramatic,” Rich said. “You have steep drop-offs with some railroad ties, trenches and pot bunkers on some holes. It’s not your typical bunker left and bunker right greens. I like severe golf courses.”
Added Patrick, “Like all Dye courses, you have to pick the right parts of the greens to hit.”
Because of the green surrounds, the course requires accurate approach shots. “The course tightens as you get closer to the green, and there are severe penalties for near misses because of deep bunkers and trenches,” Rich said.
The course was well conditioned for our round, including TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. “The greens were immaculate,” Patrick said. “The greens are smooth, in great shape and rolling quick.”
The greens were not overseeded and are colored with a pigment, and rough was also not overseeded. “The views from the tee are pleasing, and with the contrast between the overseed and dormant rough you can see the contours of the fairways,” Patrick said.
Regardless of which side you play first, you will have a challenging finishing hole along a lake leading to an impressive clubhouse, as the par-5 ninth hole and par-4 18th holes wrap around the lake.
“It has a beautiful finishing hole with the grand clubhouse whether you play 9 or 18,” Cindy said.
With six tee boxes, players should be able to find a distance that suits their game.
Though Prestwick is situated between busy roads U.S. 17 bypass and business and S.C. 544 and is built out residentially, it still provides a tranquil round. “Homes are set far enough from the fairways and there is only minimum road noise from 17,” Cindy said.
Cindy appreciated that many of the bunkers were waste bunkers rather than traditional sand traps.
Patrick enjoyed the elevated tee boxes on many holes from the tips, though he wanted the tee box on the 15th hole to be elevated as well.
Prestwick is among the majority of courses on the Strand that have changed their greens to a variety of ultradwarf Bermudagrass. “The nice thing about so many courses along the beach redoing their greens is no matter where you play you’re playing on pretty much the same greens,” Rich said.
The group would have appreciated the practice facility being closer to the clubhouse, as it is a short cart ride away. “The driving range is too far from the clubhouse and the first and 10th tees, so it’s hard to meet with your group prior to a round,” Rich said.
Rich found conditions to be good with the exception of two or three soft fairways.
Cindy found the prices for basic sandwiches to be high, would have appreciated ball and club cleaners on the carts, and found some greens to be overly penal.
“Some greens are so crowned that a good shot falls off and it costs you a stroke,” she said.
Par-3s measure between 152 and 246 from the back tees, and between 135 and 193 from the white tees, which are two boxes up from the tips.
“The par-3s are very memorable,” Rich said. “There are four great and difficult par-3s that all have different lengths and challenges and have good bailout areas.”
The 195-yard fifth has a bulkheaded water hazard to the front and left of its green, and bunkers, trees and mounding to its right. The green has a severe ridge cutting diagonally from front right to back left, leaving a back right plateau. The 246-yard eighth hole has bunkers or waste bunkers to the left, left front and right front of a green that generally funnels to the middle front.
The green on the 152-yard 13th is fronted by a bulkheaded pond with bunkers back left and back right, and it generally slopes off a back middle mound. The 199-yard 16th features a downhill tee shot to a relatively flat green with a hill to its right and creek running along its left side, pinching the front of the green as well.
“Holes 5, 13 and 16 are fantastic par-3s with very challenging and appealing tee shots,” Patrick said.
Par-3s measured between 83 and 136 yards and hazards are minimized. “They were good distances of 100-plus yards but I like to hit over water at least once in a round,” Cindy said.
Four of the 10 par-4s are shorter than 400 yards, while five are longer than 440 yards. “The par-4s had an array of yardages from short to long, giving the course a very good balance,” Patrick said.
The 383-yard first hole has a waste bunker to the right and trees to the left and a narrow green that falls off to bunkers on the left and a hollow in the back. The 448-yard second hole is a dogleg left around a deep waste bunker to a green set amidst mounding, a small bunker front left and deep bunkers right and front right. The 470-yard third hole is long and straight.
The 340-yard fourth features shots over water to both a narrow fairway and shallow green, and the 446-yard seventh is straightforward with a waste bunker to the right of the green.
The 451-yard 14th has a drive over water and relatively flat green surrounded by several pitfalls including a deep swale left and front left, a trio of bunkers right and collection area in the back. The 386-yard 15th has a lone tree in the right side of the fairway that must be avoided, and a green with a deep swale left and front left and a collection area in the back.
“There are always bailout areas to avoid hazards,” Cindy said.
The 441-yard 18th has water down its entire right side buffered by a thin waste bunker, and high mounding and several bunkers down the left side. It’s deep green has a crowned middle.
“There’s a good mix of short and long par-4s,” Rich said. “The short par-4s are excellent. Numbers 4, 11 and 15 force tee shot club selection and strategy.”
The four par-5s are relatively close in distance, measuring between 522 and 537 yards. “All par-5s were challenging and very well designed,” Patrick said. “There is risk-reward going for greens in two so it requires course management.”
The 522-yard sixth turns slightly right along a tree line and it’s green is slightly crowned with a front-right bunker. The ninth hole curls along the lake to its left and features mounding down the entire right side. Pot bunkers appear in the mounding around an elevated green, which also has a front pot bunker.
“The par-5 are attractive, especially No. 9,” Cindy said. “You need two good shots to have an iron for an approach, otherwise greens won’t hold.”
The 529-yard 12th has a drive over waste bunkers and downhill second shot toward a green protected by a long waste bunker to its right and a pair of bunkers left. The 531-yard 17th has a creek running down its left side that cuts across the front of the green at an angle and mounding and trees down its right side.
“Par-5s force good decision on whether to layup or have a very tough shot,” Rich said.
“They are not too long but they have tight second shots and well-defended greens. No. 9 is a beautiful hole.”
Rich’s favorite hole was the 412-yard par-4 11th, featuring a drive over a waste bunker that continues down the right side almost all the way to an elevated green that has a mild ridge cutting across the middle and hollow to its left side that is 10 feet below the putting surface. “The thing I like about this hole is the forced carry forces you to pick an angle and how much you want to the dogleg off the tee with the waste area on the right side,” Rich said. “The shot to the green must avoid the deep trench on the left, which I did not accomplish.”
Cindy enjoyed the closing 18th hole, which measured 336 yards from the red tee, and 83-yard par-3 13th and 108-yard par-3 fifth hole, which she said was “fun, fair and challenging.”
Patrick’s favorite holes were the par-3 fifth and par-5 18th. “No. 18 is one of the best, if not the best, finishing holes at the beach,” Patrick said. “It’s a beautiful finish coming into the clubhouse and challenging.
“No. 5 is simply a gorgeous looking shot-makers type of hole. Teeing off through what seems like a valley to an elevated and very undulating green with water to the left.”
Least favorite holes
Rich’s least favorite hole was the 398-yard par-4 10th, which is narrow with trees along both sides and has a green that falls off to collection areas on the right and left. “The 10th is straight and narrow without any dramatic features like the rest of the course.”
Cindy’s least favorite hole was the par-5 17th, which measured 405 yards from the red tee. “It’s a difficult third shot over water, so it requires a good first two shots to set up an easier approach,” she said.
Patrick’s least favorite hole was the long par-3 eighth. “I felt the yardage was too excessive,” Patrick said. “It could be 30 to 50 yards shorter and be a much more enjoyable and playable hole.”