Golf

International Club of Myrtle Beach has a layout that holds its own

MURRELLS INLET

The International Club of Myrtle Beach is a solid course that has an established place among the collection of layouts on the Grand Strand. Nothing extravagant, yet leaving little to crave for.

"It's an enjoyable but not too difficult course," said Scott Pavkovic of Myrtle Beach, who took part in a review of the 10-year-old Willard Byrd design in late May. "It's a very nice course. It's not the [best of the beach] but it's up there a little bit."

But the layout is bolstered by other offerings, distinct amenities and specials that few other courses offer, helping boost the layout's stock.

Carts are equipped with GPS systems that measure distances to the front, center and back of each green, stylish restrooms on the course are heated and air-conditioned, and the beverage cart offers Jello shots. The special running when our group played was free unlimited range balls and lunch, including a beer or non-alcoholic beverage, with any round that wasn't booked through a discounted package. The local rate was $35.

Joining me and Scott, an 8-handicap who works in the golf industry, in the foursome were Jim Wickers of Murrells Inlet, a 14-handicap and former Johnson & Johnson shipping and receiving clerk, and Gene McDonald of Sunset Beach, N.C., a 16-handicap and retired Lucent Technologies service manager.

"I enjoyed the course very much," Gene said. "It was a challenging test from the gold tees. The sand traps were in good condition, the fairways were in very good condition, the greens were super with [many] accessible pin locations, and the putting green and practice range were accessible and in good shape."

Other than isolated spots that were struggling on a few greens, the TifEagle Bermudagrass putting surfaces that have mild undulations were full, consistent, and a puttable speed. "It's in great condition with the exception of a few spotty areas on greens," Scott said.

Some pin placements were very difficult, such as the par-4 15th, which has a very large green yet the pin was tucked five paces off the far front left over a bunker. "I'd say they are in a very tough spot today," Scott said.

The course is consistent, maybe to a fault. "A lot of the holes are very similar," Scott said. "I had about four clubs I did not need to use."

Likes

The group appreciated GPS systems on the carts that didn't show a hole layout but gave yardages to the front, middle and back of the greens. Gene enjoyed the condition of the entire course and driving range.

Jim appreciated the course's honesty. "The course is fair," he said. "There's no trickery and it's straightforward, and it plays good from all tees."

Scott appreciated the rare vodka-based Jello shots on the beverage cart priced at $2 each or three for $5. "I've never seen Jello shots on a golf course in my life," he said. "It's just something new that you don't see."

Dislikes

Hole diagrams were available only in $3 yardage books. "My only recommendation is that every hole needs a map either on the scorecard or the tee box," Scott said. "If you don't buy a yardage book you don't know where you're going on some holes."

Scott thought some of the houses around the course were in play, flags were needed to signify the boundaries of water hazards, and the greens were a little too hard for his liking. "It was hard to get spin on the greens," he said.

Jim thought there were areas of bunkers that could use more sand, and was disappointed the beverage cart service ended at 2 p.m., about the time we made the turn on a hot day.

Gene was irked by having to remain on cart paths on two par-4s.

Par-3s

The 174-yard third hole measures 156 from the white and has a pond and wide bunker fronting a deep green. The sixth hole is the longest par-3 on the course at 200 yards from the tips and 172 yards from the white tee and has water in front of and snug against an extremely wide green with a bunker back-left.

"There's trouble to avoid on the par-3s, and if you hit bad tee shots you pay the penalty," Gene said.

The 180-yard 11th measures 154 from the white and features a peninsula green with two bunkers front-right and right, and a third bunker back. The green slopes to the front and the green surrounds slope sharply to the water. The green on the 192-yard 14th hole, which measures 165 from the white, is rolling, nearly surrounded by bunkers and backed by palm trees.

"The par-3s were good overall and had good lengths from the white tees," Jim said.

Par-4s

The par-4s measure between 352 and 436 yards from the tips. The 398-yard slight dogleg right second hole has water deep down the left side of the landing area, and the 410-yard slight dogleg right seventh hole has water on the left that is reachable off the tee.

The 398-yard dogleg-left eighth has a middle fairway bunker that can be carried from the 360-yard white tee, as well as trees left and water right.

The 436-yard 15th measures 406 from the white tee and features water to the right off the tee, and water and two large bunkers to the left and front-left of the green. "It's a good strong par-4," Jim said. "The length is fair and it requires a strong second shot."

The 400-yard 16th turns slightly left with water and a house to the right of the landing area off the tee, and the 410-yard 17th turns slightly right and is tree-lined on the right and open on the left.

"There was a good assortment of par-4s," Gene said. "From the gold tees I hit driver on all but one par-4 and second shots were anything from a 4-rescue to pitching wedge."

Par-5s

The par-5s measure between 487 and 552 yards, and three are less than 510 yards from the white tees. Both nines end with a par-5. "The par-5s were my favorite," Scott said. "They were a little bit challenging but gave you the opportunity to reach the green in two."

The 532-yard fifth hole has a bunker in the middle of the fairway about 60-70 yards from the green. "The fifth hole, with the bunker about 60 yards in front of the green, is the only hole on the course that can trick you," Jim said. "From the fairway you can't tell that bunker is that far from the green."

The 512-yard ninth hole measures 486 from the white tee, and the green is tucked behind a pair of bunkers on the right side and water that pinches the fairway in front of the bunkers and continues to the right side of the green. Water lurks on the far left side of the green as well.

The straightforward 487-yard 12th has bunkers on both sides of a green that is very reachable in two shots, and the three-shot 552-yard 18th turns slightly left and right, has water to the right on the first two shots and a green surrounded by five bunkers.

"The par-5s are strong," Jim said. "There are good chances to make birdies and a possible eagle, especially on holes 12 and 9. The other two are true par-5s unless you hit it at least 270 yards off the white tee."

Favorite holes

Jim liked the par-5 12th and ninth holes because of their scoring potential and appreciated the slight dogleg right 380-yard, par-4 first hole. "It's a good starting hole," he said. "There's no trouble and it's wide open."

Scott's favorite hole was the 352-yard par-4 fourth hole, featuring an extremely tight drive and water to the right and front-right of the green. "To me it was the most challenging hole on the course despite its length," Scott said. "It involved a straight tee shot and ability to lay off your driver. If the green were smaller it might be the No. 1 handicap hole."

Gene was partial to the 14th and 16th holes because he birdied them, and liked the fourth hole because of the strategy required off the tee.

Least favorite holes

Jim thought the par-4 fourth was too tight and took away too many options, particularly off the tee. "There's no bailout area," he said. "It takes fairway wood and driver out of your hands and forces you to hit long irons, and not everyone is a long iron player."

Scott's least favorite hole was the 512-yard, par-5 ninth because of potential uncertainty off the tee. A green nearly straightaway was visible but it wasn't the ninth green. "If it was not for the book I bought, I would have hit my tee shot toward a different green on the course," Scott said.

Gene thought the 426-yard par-4 10th, measuring 358 from the gold, was too tight for its length, and thought the tee shot on the par-3 sixth, measuring 160 from the gold, was deceiving. "The yardage seemed off and club selection was difficult," he said. "Next time I will be sure to take an extra club from the gold tee."

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