Each of the four upscale courses at Barefoot Resort & Golf offer something a little different. If it’s beauty that you want, the Norman Course is for you.
Greg Norman’s design is the layout that takes most advantage of the property’s proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway, with a handful of holes along its banks.
“I love the look of the course, even the holes that weren’t on the water,” said Clint McCoy of North Myrtle Beach, a branch manager for Hertz Equipment Rental who has a 6 handicap and took part in a review of the course in late October. “There was a lot of vegetation and native grasses. I like that look as long as I don’t hit into it, and there weren’t too many traps but they were in the right places.”
Joining me and Clint in the review were Brandy Newman of North Myrtle Beach, the general manager and director of sales for Hampton Inn Harbourgate who has a 30 handicap, and Sean Eggert of Little River, a 28 handicap and design consultant for More Space Place.
The scenery isn’t limited to the natural surroundings. “They spend a lot of money on landscaping and they keep up with it year-round,” Brandy said. “Even in the offseason the courses look nice.”
The Norman course opened simultaneously with the other three Barefoot courses in 2000. It has five tees to choose from, and offers particular options for women and seniors with three tee boxes between 4,800 and 5,600 yards.
One change to the course that will be new if you haven’t played it recently is the redesign of the 18th hole from a 552-yard dogleg-left par-5 to a more straightforward 405-yard par-4 to make room for what is expected to be residential or commercial development.
The hole remains intact other than the shifting of the tee boxes. The 18th green remains nestled behind wetlands and fronted by a bunker, and shots from the right side of the fairway can be impacted by intruding trees.
The alteration of the 18th has changed the course from a 7,035-yard par-72 to a 6,888-yard par 71.
The course’s difficulty comes from greens that are predominantly mildly crowned, and some tight tee shots with trees, sand lining one or both sides of fairways, the Waterway and out-of-bounds stakes.
“This is a great course,” Clint said. “The shape and condition were excellent. It was a tough test but fair.”
The course features Champion Ultradwarf Bermudagrass that was installed a few years ago, and neither the greens nor fairways are being overseeded this winter, so conditions should be firm and fast barring an abnormal amount of rain.
“The greens putted true and quick,” Clint said. “Most do run off in all directions, especially around the edges, but they were receptive to almost any approach shot.”
Barefoot Resort has a high level of service. Rangers drove around the course with complimentary ice and water to keep players hydrated; carts were equipped with an interactive GPS that allows players to pinpoint distances to hazards and areas on each hole; and carts also had club/ball washers and coolers containing ice. Complimentary club cleaning and shoe shining follows a round.
“It’s a great facility with great course conditions,” Sean said. “It’s one of the best courses I’ve played.”
The driving range is a short shuttle ride away and is impressive with lighting, an extensive short-game area, a Golfsmith Callaway Performance Center with a pro shop and fitting center and Putters Pub restaurant.
Sean liked the GPS in carts, course conditions, and offerings including a golf school and academy. “The facility was great,” Sean said.
Clint was impressed with the service. “They take the time to make sure everyone is good,” Clint said. “The cart attendants are real nice and the starter was nice. The water guys coming around the course was nice.”
The beverage cart attendant allowed credit card tabs, which was especially important because the Norman Course doesn’t turn near the clubhouse. “What was really nice was they let you start a tab on the beverage cart,” Brandy said. “They don’t let you do that everywhere: if you don’t have cash you don’t get a beer.”
Three members of the group were more than 30 minutes early for the tee time but the shuttle didn’t make it back from the driving range in time for them to warm up before our round.
Small rocks in and around bunkers sometimes make their way onto greens.
Clint and Brandy noted there were tee boxes that did not get sun, and other areas of the course that were heavily shaded also had a tendency to be damp.
Pace of play is always a touchy subject. Our group fell a hole or two behind the foursome in front of us and let a speedy twosome play through, and Brandy was annoyed by the “constant alerts on GPS that we fell behind in addition to the visit asking us to speed up due to members complaining,” she said. GPS messages warn you’ll be asked to skip a hole if you don’t catch up on time, and Brandy took it upon herself to skip a couple.
There were too many bunkers for Sean’s liking. “There seemed to be so many it was a little intimidating,” said Sean, who also found the green fees to be high.
Par-3s measure between 170 and 203 yards, and between 148 and 176 yards from the black tees. “Other than being a little long they were fun to play and very par-able,” Sean said.
The 194-yard third has wetlands to carry to the right-front of a green that slopes to the left and front and is protected by a back left bunker. The 175-yard seventh has bunkers on both sides of a fairly flat heart-shaped green.
The 203-yard 10th is a beautiful downhill hole with the Waterway to the right. A deep green slopes off a back-left plateau and anything right of the green is in the Waterway or the deep grass along its banks. The 170-yard downhill 16th has the Waterway as a backdrop and vegetation around a green that falls off back left.
“Every par-3 has a great view from tee to green,” Clint said. “They have average size greens so you were able to leave some make-able birdies.”
The par-3s are between 93 and 102 yards from the women’s tees (which was an appealing distance for Brandy). “The par-3s are great from the women’s tees and great for my 8-iron shot,” Brandy said.
“Most par-4s were challenging, some were narrow and some were rather wide so it was a nice mix,” Sean said.
The 377-yard tree-lined first hole is fairly tight, especially from the back tee, which requires a fade with trees encroaching from the right. The 403-yard second is wider with bunkers short right and deep left off the tee. It’s green is open, deep and narrow. The 427-yard fourth is a dogleg right with sand on both sides and a slightly rolling green that slopes predominantly to the right.
“Most holes favor a left-to-right shot shape, particularly the first few holes, and I try to work the ball right to left, so that works against me,” Clint said.
The 327-yard eighth has bunkers abound to maneuver off the tee and a crowned green that falls off mainly to the back and left. “Long hitters can risk hitting at the green,” Clint said.
The 420-yard 11th has a wide fairway and waste bunker coming in from the left side about 90 yards from a green that slopes mildly to the left. The 409-yard 17th has the Waterway down the entire right side, an elevated green and a long and very deep bunker to the right of the green.
There are only three par-5s remaining on the course. The first two measure more than 565 and the 15th is potentially reachable at 526. “A lot of different obstacles on the long holes made it challenging and fun,” Sean said.
The par-5s are all more than 415 yards from the women’s tees. “There are lots of bunkers and high grass, so be sure to stay in the fairway,” Brandy said.
The 571-yard fifth turns slightly left over an inside bunker and the green slopes mildly to the front and is protected by a fingered bunker front right. The 568-yard ninth has a fairway that slopes to the right toward wetlands, a number of bunkers down the left side and a downhill second shot. Wetlands angle across the fairway in front of a green that is raised behind them and slopes sharply to the front and left.
The 526-yard 15th is straightforward between condos. If you avoid bunkers on either side of the fairway you have an open shot to a deep, flat green. “From the back tees holes 5 and 9 are monsters,” Clint said. “You can get home in two on the 15th, which has a huge green and open tee shot as well as approach.”
Both Sean and Brandy cited the 387-yard par-4 14th, measuring 354 yards from the black tee and 274 yards from the front tee, and par-3 16th, measuring 160 from the black and 97 yards from the front tee, as their favorite holes.
“No. 14 was a fun hole. It offered a challenge but was one of the wider par-4s,” Sean said. “The 16th offered a challenge due to the green backed up to the Waterway and rough to the left and front of the green.”
The 14th has a rolling downhill fairway with the Waterway to its right and a thin bunker along the Waterway’s bluffs that expands into the fairway about 90 yards from a green situated on the bluff. The green slopes mildly to the front, has bunkers front left, front right and right.
“The 14th is an easy distance with a beautiful view of the waterway and a nice hard green,” Brandy said. “On 16, the waterway is in the background as you are teeing off with sailboats passing by.”
Clint cited the third, 10th, 14th and 17th holes as his favorites. “They are great holes for the view,” Clint said, “and the shot sight lines were easy to visualize.”
Least favorite holes
Brandy’s least favorite hole was the 448-yard par-4 sixth hole, which measured 315 from the women’s tee. The fairway has sand on the right and a tree line on the left, a thin area of wetlands crosses the fairway 80 yards from a slightly crowned green with a bunker front left. “There are lots of trees lining the fairway and I found the hole to be very moist,” she said.
Sean named the sixth, which measured 431 yards from the black, and par-5 ninth hole, which measured 533 from the black, as his least favorites. “The sixth is a long, tough hole with a creek crossing at the end that you must carry,” he said. “The ninth is very tough with [water] along the entire right side.”
Clint’s least favorite holes were the par-4 12th and 13th holes, both measuring approximately 440 yards. Wetlands pinch the landing area off the tee and green from the left side on the 12th, and the 13th has a deep waste bunker down the entire left side that cuts off half of the fairway 140 yards from a fairly flat green. A short but wide oak tree and bushes sit behind the bunker intrusion 70 yards from the green.
“They have tight tee shots from the back tees,” Clint said. “You have to hit one long and straight.”