At The Witch, you’re going to see something a little different – both in the layout and the surroundings.
There are no other courses on the Grand Strand that can be compared to the Dan Maples design that opened in 1989, and the property contains some of the most diverse wildlife and nature in the area as well.
“It’s one of my favorite courses down here,” said J.P. Longueil of Murrells Inlet, a touring pro who took part in a review of the course in late April. “It’s got a lot of good holes, a lot of diversity and different looks. They differ in length and style. You can’t say every hole looks the same.”
Joining me and J.P. in the review foursome were John D’Angelo of Murrells Inlet, a disc jockey and retired oil company media relations executive with a 21 handicap, and Linda Eleuteri of Cherry Grove, who works in human resources and promotions for Bass Pro Shops and also carries a 21 handicap.
The clubhouse is just off S.C. 544, but a drive of about 300 yards precedes a front nine deep in the woods and swampland of eastern Conway, where much of the wildlife can be found. “It’s secluded and quiet on the front nine,” J.P. said.
Our group saw alligators and numerous types of birds, including wild turkeys, and it’s not uncommon to see foxes, deer and other wildlife at The Witch. “I loved the course,” Linda said. “I liked the beauty of the nature, variety of wildlife and oak trees with Spanish moss. You need to know the golf course to know where you are going on a lot of the holes. Other than that the course is absolutely beautiful and fun to play.”
The 6,796-yard par-71 layout with three par-3s on the back nine has about 4,000 feet of wooden bridges through wetlands and swamps.
There are no houses on the course and every hole is set off on its own. Only the par-5 11th along S.C. 544 and a few holes around the clubhouse are near any kind of commotion.
“You need to know the golf course. It’s a strategic course,” said J.P., who hit his driver five or six times. “It’s pretty short for a good player.
“The front nine is a little tougher because it has more doglegs that run out of fairway. It’s more of a thinking-man’s nine. You get to play a lot of different shots. It’s nice to have both [nines] and a good mix of holes.”
The group commended the condition of the course. “The course was in great shape. The greens were in good condition and decently fast,” J.P. said. Added John: “The fairways were like a carpet.”
The course’s greens are large and they have open fronts with any bunkers generally set to one side or the other, which Linda appreciated. The greens featured poa trivialis overseed that will persist through May before TifDwarf Bermudagrass takes over for the summer. “Those greens were the best ones I’ve played recently,” John said. “They were good and fast.”
Linda liked the course playability from the forward orange tees. “I was lucky not to have to worry about as much trouble as shooting from the men’s tee,” she said. “Even though the course can be challenging it is not that difficult [from the orange].”
John thought the course was a good value for locals, and enjoyed elevation changes from tee to green that rolled naturally through the course. “I love the elevation changes here,” John said. “It can trick the eye, which is part of the challenge that I like.”
John also enjoyed the challenge the natural property presented. “The wetland carries and narrow fairways require shot-making,” John said. “I like the challenging approach shots.”
J.P. enjoyed the high and thick ryegrass rough that lined every fairway, though at 2 to 3 inches it was higher than the maintenance staff usually has it. “I like the rough high like this because it makes the course challenging,” J.P. said.
The course has only three tee boxes, so the senior tee is a hybrid between the white and orange tees. “If I’m playing against a senior I have no chance to be with them off the tee box on the holes where our tees are together,” Linda said.
Linda thought the women’s restroom needed a better cleaning.
John and J.P. thought the clubhouse and facilities could use an update. The driving range can only accept shots of about 200 yards and the practice putting green is sloping. “It just needs an overhaul,” John said.
“The practice facility left a little to be desired,” J.P. said. “The driving range made it tough to warm up with long clubs. But the course makes up for it.”
John would have liked a first cut of rough with the primary rough so deep, and he noted the course’s bridges need repairs.
Par-3s measure between 143 and 193 from the tips and between 129 and 170 from the white. The 169-yard third has a back tee with a long carry over wetlands to an elevated and shallow green with a bunker to its right, and the other two tee boxes to the right have a shorter carry to a narrow green with a bunker in the back.
The 186-yard seventh requires a tee shot over water that is to the front, front-right and left of a mildly crowned green with a deep bunker in front. The straightforward 193-yard 12th has a largely flat green, and the 143-yard 14th has a hill on the left side of a deep narrow green with a bunker front-left and thin bunker along wetlands to the right.
The 177-yard 17th is downhill with a tree hanging over a right-front bunker and the right side of a green that slopes mildly to the front. “The challenging, elevated greens on the par-3s require some pre-shot risk-reward thinking,” John said.
Four par-4s are 420 yards or more, and the other five are 390 or less. The 425-yard first hole turns slightly right with a deep bunker front-right of the green, and the 420-yard second has a pond 300 yards to the right that pinches the fairway and a tree behind it that can interfere with shots to a green that slopes to the front from the middle with bunkers right and left.
The 386-yard fourth turns right around a pair of bunkers and has water down the entire left side that cuts into the fairway behind the bunkers 80 yards from the green. The 450-yard sixth has water right and a bunker left of a green sloping to the middle from both sides. The 376-yard ninth turns left over wetlands beyond a tree line to a shallow green with bunkers front and right and trees behind.
“You get to work the ball different ways and the par-4s have challenging second shots,” J.P. said.
The 390-yard 10th has a slightly downhill tee shot over wetlands and turns slightly right to a green with a front-middle ridge.
The 432-yard 15th is a dogleg right that doesn’t require driver off the tee because the fairway ends at the dogleg. The second shot is downhill over wetlands and a creek, and a pair of bunkers and trees are behind a green that slopes sharply from the back. “This is one of the better golf holes out here,” J.P. said. “It’s tight and it’s a nice looking hole with the water cutting across the front of the green and trees as a backdrop. If they made it 20 yards longer and made you hit driver it would be really tough.”
The 390-yard 18th turns slightly left and has a downhill second shot to a green with bunkers front left, front right and back right, a hill to the right and trees just to the left. The green slopes to the left and anything left of the green bounces into the woods.
Par-5s are lengthy at between 533 and 599 yards from the tips and between 509 and 569 from the white tees.
The 574-yard fifth is a double dogleg turning right then left around trees and bunkers at both turns. A benign green slopes off mildly to the back and wetlands are to the left and back of the green. The 599-yard eighth turns right around trees and has a green that slopes to the front from a flat back.
The 562-yard 11th has S.C. 544 running along the right side, a green sloping to the middle from the left and right sides – more pronounced from the left – and a bunker front-left. The 533-yard 13th tees off near the clubhouse with a downhill drive toward a thin area of wetlands 310 yards from the back tee. A pond is amidst trees and vegetation to the left of the fairway 70 yards from the green and bunkers are short right and right of a green sloping to the front and back from a middle ridge.
“There are risk-reward par-5s to the better players, and all different lengths make them a good place to make up shots,” J.P. said.
Both J.P. and Linda enjoyed the par-3 17th and par-4 18th as closing holes. “They are great holes to finish and not too difficult to play [from the orange tees],” Linda said.
“They’re great closing holes and very difficult and demanding [from the tips] but rewarding to a good shot,” J.P. said.
John’s favorite hole was the par-4 15th, which measured 396 from the white tee and 301 from the green and orange tees. “It requires forethought,” John said. “The marshland forces you to reach or lay up.”
Least favorite holes
Linda’s least favorite hole was the par-4 ninth, which played 217 yards from the orange. “You have to set yourself up with a very good tee shot, then you have the marsh to go over,” she said. “It’s difficult to see where you are hitting to.”
J.P.’s least favorite holes were the par-4 ninth and 382-yard par-4 16th, which turns right around a large oak tree, with little room in the fairway beyond the tree to set up a short downhill shot to a large, flat green. He thought first-time players wouldn’t know exactly where to hit it and could be blocked out.
He also thought the par-3 14th was too short at 143 yards. “It’s just an afterthought par-3,” J.P. said. “It’s very short with a pretty flat green.”
John’s least favorite was the par-4 16th measuring 355 yards from the white and green tees. “The tree placement does not give you enough room on the right to approach the green,” John said. “The hole is not forgiving.”