Courses in the Myrtle Beach market are always looking for ways to separate themselves from the masses.
The owners of Founders Club at Pawleys Island accomplished it when they hired former Gary Player Design lead architect Thomas Walker to rebuild Sea Gull Golf Club.
The resulting 7,007-yard par-72 layout that opened early in 2008 features waste bunkers that surround nearly every hole and a lot of elevation change and rolling terrain for a beach course.
“I think with the waste area that’s all around it, there’s no other course like this around here,” said Steve Denney of Shallotte, N.C., a retired real estate develop with an 8.6 handicap who took part in a review of the course in late October. “It’s very unique. I think that’s a drawing point for someone to come back to. It’s an enjoyable course.”
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Joining Steven and I in the review foursome were Lanny Correll of Pawleys Island, the owner of Dr. Golf and a 5 handicap, and Tony Simpson of Loris, the owner of T’s Landscaping and also a 5 handicap.
“This is a course I could play every day,” Lanny said. “It has a good flow and design with a lot of unique holes. I would recommend it to everyone for playability.”
The waste bunkers provide a challenge, particularly for higher-handicap amateurs; the rolling fairways that can leave downhill, uphill or side hill lies at times; the greens have quite a bit of undulation; and the course also has water hazards, greenside bunkers, greenside hollows, wetlands, tree lines and out of bounds stakes along some fairways to navigate from its five sets of tee boxes.
“The golf course is a great layout,” Tony said. “It’s fair from the back but it’s a tough golf course. When they say 1 to 4 handicap to play the back tees they mean it.”
“ I don’t think it’s a golf course you’re going to show up and play your best the first time. A lot of course knowledge is needed. There are some blind areas off the tee and into the green, and there are some places you don’t want to be. It’s a position golf course.”
The waste bunkers can be a player’s friend, as well. “With the waste bunker areas surrounding the holes it keeps ball in play that used to roll into people’s yards,” Lanny said.
The course was in good shape for our round, including Emerald ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens. “The greens are great,” Tony said. “The speed was great and they’re tough to read.”
The greens and fairways won’t be overseeded this winter, so players will potentially be playing on dormant Bermuda.
Purpletop tridens and pampas are among the ornamental native grasses and plants that enliven the layout.
The men’s and women’s restrooms have nice lounges as entryways, though they are without televisions since they were stolen many months ago.
Steve appreciates the professionalism and friendliness of the staff. “The staff is always first class, from the cart lady, bag guys, pro shop and lunch counter,” he said.
Tony enjoyed the course’s firm and tight fairways. “It helps for hitting quality iron shots,” Tony said. “I like the way an iron shot comes off the fairways. You can do anything you want with irons off the fairways because of the soil.”
Lanny liked the variety the course offers. “All the different tees and the different green complexes allow holes to play differently day to day,” Lanny said. “And there are several holes that are risk-reward to cut corners or fly lakes to par-5s.”
The course doesn’t have a driving range, though it has nets to hit into as well as an otherwise extensive practice area with putting green and separate chipping green with both traditional bunkers and a waste bunker. It was also temporarily out of yardage books.
Getting from the third green to the fourth tee requires a drive down sections of a couple roads, including Kings River Road.
Neither Steve nor Lanny appreciated the small pot bunkers placed sparsely throughout the layout, including on the right side of the 10th fairway, down the middle of the split-fairway 12th, and to the left of the eighth green. “These things probably look good from the sky, but they don’t belong on the golf course,” Lanny said. “If you get in them you can’t go toward the green, you have to pitch out sideways, and I’ve had balls in them and not be able to stand in the bunker.”
Tony noted that lies in the waste bunkers can be luck of the draw because they often double as cart paths. “You can have bad lies in the waste bunkers because of carts, but you should not be there in the first place,” Tony said.
“I like the variety of the par-3s,” Tony said. “One was 209 yards and one was about 150.”
The 190-yard third hole measures 166 from the white. A wide green that slopes to the left from a right side plateau is fronted by water and a bunker front right, and is backed by a quartet of bunkers, mounding and ornamental grasses.
The 209-yard fifth measures 158 from the white and has water short-right of a green that slopes from a ridge protruding from the front to the middle of the putting surface. Four large bunkers in mounding behind the green frame the hole.
The 186-yard 11th is 166 from the white and features a slightly uphill tee shot to a two-tiered green with a lower right side that slopes to the back. Trouble surrounds the green with waste bunkers right and left and a pot bunker middle front.
The 146-yard 16th is 135 from the white and has a slightly uphill tee shot to an elevated green that falls off to waste bunkers left and right.
“The course has a good combination of par-3s,” Steve said. “They’re not really long but not short with bunkers in play on several.”
“All the different lengths and shapes of the par-4 holes make for good flow of the course,” Lanny said.
The 381-yard first hole is fairly benign with waste bunkering surrounding all but the front of the green. The 395-yard fourth has a road to its right and OB left, and has a drive over pampas grass. The 427-yard eighth has water left, a waste bunker and tree line right, and a crater surrounded by pot bunkers to the left of the green.
“None of the par-4s look the same and all have pleasant views,” Tony said.
The 372-yard 13th is a dogleg left that doesn’t require a driver to avoid reaching a waste bunker crossing the fairway, and the 392-yard 15th has a downhill tee shot with penalizing bunkers and mounding coming into the fairway from the right in the landing area off the tee.
“There is a good combination of par-4s with a few risk-reward and three or four very tough holes,” Steve said.
The 449-yard 14th is a dogleg right that can be cut off from forward tees. A waste bunker crosses the fairway 50 yards before a very elevated and narrow green with penalizing bunkers well below the putting surface to its left and back right. “I think 14 is the hardest hole on the golf course,” Lanny said.
The 373-yard 18th is narrow with OB on both sides of the fairway and water fronting a rolling green that angles to the right along the water. “I like 18 because the clubhouse is the background and the water is in front,” Tony said. “It’s just a calm setting and a cool second shot. Maybe it’s because you know you have a cold beer waiting for you.”
The course has an unusual combination of three par-5s in four holes on 9, 10 and 12, and they measure between 511 and 559 yards from the tips, and 491 and 518 from the white tees.
The 546-yard sixth turns right along a bunker and tree line with water running up the entire left side. A ridge separates the higher right and lower left portions of the fairway on the second shot and two bunkers are front left of a green that angles back left.
The 559-yard ninth is a double dogleg that turns left then right, with U.S. 17 on the left. A driver can go through the fairway or catch back fairway bunkers from some tees, water and a waste bunker line the left side of the hole, a waste bunker protects the right side of the green and deep bunkers in mounding protect the back.
A long downhill drive on the 542-yard 10th can reach a waste bunker crossing the fairway, and an uphill second shot is toward a green tucked behind mounding. Wetlands and a waste bunker line the left side of the fairway and green after the drive, and the green slopes from a mound on the right. “You don’t want to miss the green long or left because it’s dead,” Lanny said.
The 511-yard 12th has a split fairway separated by pot bunker-pockmarked mounding and a lake fronts an elevated, shallow and wide green with a mild ridge running up its center, pot bunkers middle front and mounding behind.
“The par-5s have good risk-reward,” Lanny said. “Some can be reached with a good tee shot.”
Steve’s favorite holes are the par-5 sixth and 12th holes. “Both are normally three-shot holes with hazards, OB and water in play,” he said.
Tony liked the par-3 third and fifth holes in particular. “I like the length of the fifth hole, though par-3s don’t need to be any longer than 209 yards,” Tony said. “The third had the bunkers in the back and was pretty, with nothing intimidating about it despite the presence of water.”
Lanny enjoyed the 396-yard par-4 seventh hole, a dogleg left with a drive over water and bunkers on both sides of a green that slopes from the middle to the left and back. Shots to a left pin can catch the slope and roll off the green. “It demands a good tee shot and precise second shot,” Lanny said.
Lanny also liked the 18th as a finishing hole – “You can easily make 3 or 6,” he said – and par-3 third hole. “From the back tee it’s just a great look across the lake to the green.”
Least favorite holes
Steve’s least favorite holes are the par-4 second and 14th holes. The 432-yard second measures 358 from the gold and is a slight dogleg right with water right and OB beyond mounding on the left side. A narrow green angles to the back right with a thin bunker along its right side. “No. 2 has a very difficult tee shot usually leaving a long iron or hybrid second shot,” Steve said. Of 14, he said “the second shot on 14 is usually in the range of 180 yards and it’s uphill with traps surrounding the green.”
Tony’s least favorite hole was the par-4 17th, measuring 501 yards from a back tee that is elevated and just behind the 16th green. It’s a dogleg left that turns around a waste bunker that pinches into the fairway 140 yards from a kidney-shaped green that turns around a bunker front left. “It’s too long at 501 yards,” Tony said, “and I don’t like where that back tee box sits either because you’re right behind the green of a par-3. The tee was up some and I still had 200 yards to the green.”
Lanny’s least favorite hole is the par-3 11th, which measures 176 yards from the blue tee. “The hole is too long for a green that slopes away from your shot,” Lanny said.