Golf

Setting at Wedgefield Plantation Country Club brings past to life

Few courses on the Grand Strand can give you a sense of history more than Wedgefield Plantation Country Club.

From a drive into the club beneath the canopies of a number of moss-draped live oaks, to a restaurant in a brick plantation house, to a Porter Gibson and Bob Toski design that opened in 1972, the property emanates the area's past.

"All the live oaks and the history and all the old houses around are great," said Dennis Martin of Andrews, who took part in a review of the course in late December. "It makes it a lot different than a lot of courses in Myrtle Beach because they don't have the history and the [plantation] manor house."

Joining me and Dennis in the foursome were Dave Lopez of Myrtle Beach, a retired California corporal deputy sheriff with an 8.5 handicap, and Jake Wood of Winthrop, Maine, a snowbird and retired state department head with a 21 handicap. Martin, a Nucor Steel crane operator with a 23 handicap, was a late fill-in who left a duck hunt to join us.

"It's a very nice course with the old south charm of old oak tress and hanging moss," Dave said. "It's kind of neat coming up to that old plantation house."

The course can stretch to 7,034 yards for a tournament, and each hole is set off on its own. "One thing I like about this course is there are no real parallel holes so you're not hitting into somebody else's fairway," Jake said. "I think they did a great job of routing all the holes around the swamp and marsh."

There are a few holes along Clubhouse Drive, but "other than that it's just very peaceful," Jake said. "You can't hear a thing."

The presence of longstanding housing among trees lining fairways results in a lot of out-of-bounds stakes, though fairways are largely generous. Trees pinching sides of fairways and a number of ponds interspersed throughout the layout put a premium on accuracy.

"They like putting water right there in your landing area, don't they," Dave said. "The course is really tough for big hitters, as water hazards are placed in strategic landing areas. However, well-placed shots and layups will help you score better."

Course operators have opted to paint dormant TifDwarf Bermudagrass greens this winter rather than overseed, and Wedgefield's flat greens are ideal for the procedure because they can get fast without becoming unputtable. The dormancy makes the greens slick and eliminates the grain Bermuda typically has.

Our group played before the painting procedure. "I think I like putting on this [dormant] Bermuda more than I like normal Bermuda," Jake said.

The condition of the course has improved compared to recent years. "I would say the condition of the course for the time of year is great," Dennis said.

Though there are only three, the par-5s are easily the most interesting holes on the course. "The par-5s are very well-designed and attractive," Jake said. "All of them are above average."

Likes

The course runs a single tee year-round so tee times are available all day.

A new marketing partnership with Century Golf Partners, which owns and operates the five former Legends Group courses, has resulted in affordable specials that include 18 holes, a cart, breakfast, lunch and two drinks. In our experience, the club offered a good selection and quality food for both meals. "The lunch I had was very good," said Jake, who joined the rest of the group in appreciating the friendliness of the restaurant and golf course staff.

Jake and Dave enjoyed the course's Southern charm and the scenic entrance. "I thought the drive in was great, pretty special," Jake said.

Dave liked the consistency of the greens and tee areas. "For the time of year, the greens were actually in fairly good shape," Dave said. "The tee boxes were flat and in good shape."

Dislikes

There's a bathroom on the back nine, and Dennis would like to see the portable restroom on the front nine replaced by a permanent building. He also thought the par-3s were uninspiring.

Dave wanted more yardage markers on the course, and would have preferred electric carts to gas-powered carts. "I just don't like them," he said.

Par-3s

Three of the par-3s measure more than 200 yards from the back tees. "From the tips they were long," Dave said.

The 217-yard third hole measures 191 from the white tee and has bunkers front right, back right and left. The 208-yard sixth measures 201 from the white, has bunkers front right and back right of the green, and the area to the right of the green slopes down toward a pond.

The 203-yard 13th is 191 from the white tee and has bunkers front and right of the green, and the 175-yard 16th measures 145 from the white, has a thin area of wetlands to carry, and has bunkers left and right.

Par-4s

The par-4s are generally long, with six measuring 425 or more yards. "They've got some lengthy par-4s from the back tees," Dave said.

The 440-yard fifth hole has a pond on the left portion of the fairway beginning 150 yards from a green surrounded by four bunkers and fronted by another pond.

The 436-yard seventh hole has a small tree on the inside of a pond on the right side of the landing area, a tree on the left side that impedes shots from the left side of the fairway, and water on the left side of the fairway beginning 100 yards from the green.

Bunkers on both sides of the fairway pinch the landing areas of both the 434-yard eighth and slight dogleg-left 416-yard ninth, and the ninth has water front right of the green.

"The par-4s are all surrounded with water and sand," Dennis said. "They make you have to think about every shot."

The 10th is barely 300 yards and straightforward, and the 425-yard, dogleg-left 11th has trees in front of the tee encumbering shots from both the back tees and a left tee box sometimes used for the gold tee. The 455-yard 12th hole has water down the right side beyond a tree line, and a white tee box is on a right-side peninsula.

The 372-yard 18th has bunkers front left and front right of the green.

The par-4s are long for just about every tee, with eight measuring between 350 and 397 yards from the gold tees. "I liked them all but they played very long for an old man," Jake said.

Par-5s

"All of the par-5s are great," Dennis said. "They're long but not too long, and they can make or break you."

The 523-yard first hole measures 512 from the white tee. Following a drive close to the edge of a wide creek crossing the fairway, the hole turns slightly right but the second shot must either carry or work around a tall and wide oak overhanging the right half of the fairway. There's a red-staked drainage ditch off the left side of the fairway that can be played from but adds to the difficulty of the second shot.

"I think the first hole is a really good and attractive hole, but I think it's a little too difficult to start," Jake said. "I'm of the belief a first hole should be relatively easy, and you have to shape it right off the bat here."

The 536-yard fourth hole measures 508 from the white. A road is to the left of the fairway and OB is right, water must be carried off the tee, a pond is to the front right of the green and a bunker is front left.

The 482-yard 17th hole measures 475 from the white and is the only par-5 on the back nine. It's also the most attractive hole on the course. The fairway narrows like an hourglass deep in the landing area of the drive, leaving only a sliver of fairway between tall reeds in marsh before widening again closer to a green that is backed by marsh and has bunkers left and right.

"The par-5s are very fair, and from the blue tees you were better off laying up and trying to just get on in three," Dave said.

Favorite holes

Dennis' favorite hole was the 433-yard 14th, which can be set up between 398 and 426 from the white tee. The dogleg left requires two shots over water. A drive with a 3-wood or less to a fairway on the right is followed by a mid-iron to long iron to a green sloping to the front with two bunkers left. "This is the intimidator," Dennis said. "You have to hit it over the water twice. It's one of the most challenging par-4s I have ever played."

Jake enjoyed the layouts of both the par-5 first and 17th holes, which measured 449 and 402 yards from the gold tees, respectively. "The 17th looked good for a straight hitter like me," he said.

Dave was also partial to the 17th. "It's fun and challenging," Dave said.

Least favorite holes

Dennis' least favorite hole was the par-3 16th, which has been shortened in the past couple years to 145 yards from more than 200, and the tees have been moved to the right, creating an opening to the green between bunkers left and right. "I'm not a fan of the par-3s and the hole is not very well designed," he said.

Jake thought the par-3s on the front nine, the third hole measuring 145 yards from the gold tee and the sixth measuring 177, were too demanding. "The par-3s were a little too long for me," he said.

Dave would have liked an easier opening hole. "It required an absolutely perfect left-side drive and long shot to reach in two," he said. "It's a very tough hole to start your round. The smart play is lay up and play for a bogey."

To view Blondin's blog, `Green Reading', or Q&A Forum `Ask Al,' go to TheSunNews.com.

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