A round at Pine Lakes Country Club involves more than just 18 holes.
The property oozes with Myrtle Beach golf history.
The Granddaddy of Myrtle Beach golf is the oldest course on the Grand Strand, is considered the birthplace of Sports Illustrated as the site of a meeting of Time Inc. executives during which the creation of the magazine was discussed, and more recently, it has become the site of the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame.
History Hall in the clubhouse details much of the club’s past.
“It’s a special place to play,” said Sandy Rogers of Green Sea, who took part in a review of the course in early July. “We’re in the middle of Myrtle Beach right here. They essentially built the town around this place. It’s a great, old-style, historic course.”
Joining me and Sandy, a retired Hilton Hotels marketer with a 16 handicap, in the review foursome were Brooks Jackson of Green Sea, a retired tobacco farmer with a 12 handicap, and Jarrin Josue of Myrtle Beach, an area golf director and 2 handicap.
Pine Lakes was originally designed by Robert White for a 1927 opening and has seen several changes. It was partially redesigned into a 6,675-yard par-70 with only two par-5s by Craig Schreiner in 2008-09.
It has minimal use of bunkers with a maximum of three on any hole, several holes have either wetlands or water to avoid and there is mild elevation change throughout.
“There’s not a bad golf hole out here,” Sandy said. “It’s a great old-style course with no tricked up holes or blind shots. Everything is fair. I could play it every day. I like the old-style courses where it’s right in front of you and like, ‘Here it is, see what you can do with it.’”
It’s a largely forgiving course: “It has wide fairways and the woods are pretty sparse so you generally always have a shot,” Sandy said.
Pine Lakes reopened in 2009 as the only Strand course with SeaDwarf Paspalum wall-to-wall, and is also the only area course with Paspalum on all 18 of its mid-sized and gently rolling greens. The grass is known to be tolerant of salt and minimal watering.
“The greens have beautiful grass but they’re a little slow,” Jarrin said. “I guess they’re protecting them from the shock of the summer heat. I don’t think you get as much grain in this grass as Bermuda. I’d like to see them when they’re mowed down.”
Pine Lakes’ four tees are numbered rather than color-coded, with No. 4 being the back tee and No. 1 being the forward tee. “It’s a great golf course with a challenging layout for the Myrtle Beach golfer,” Jarrin said.
A highlight of Pine Lakes is the clubhouse, which features Classical Revival architecture and regularly hosts weddings, wedding receptions and other functions. “The clubhouse looks like an old plantation house,” Sandy said. “The exterior is beautiful. They’ll never build another like it around here.”
Brooks and Sandy found the Paspalum easy to hit off in the fairway and forgiving as rough. “I don’t believe I’ve played a course where the ball sits up more in the rough than this one,” said Brooks, who played the course for the first time. Added Sandy, “That’s the best turf I’ve hit off in a long time.”
Brooks also liked the greens. “The greens roll well and they’re not too fast. I’m not fond of fast greens,” he said.
Jarrin liked the fact that many fairways weren’t flat. “The undulating fairways can present the challenge of not always having a flat lie,” he said. “That gives you the opportunity to hit different types of shots.”
The group acknowledged Pine Lakes’ lack of a driving range as a drawback. A warm-up is limited to two practice chipping and putting greens.
Operators have largely abandoned the Scottish theme adopted by former owner Sandy Miles and chowder is no longer served on the course, which was another staple perk. “I miss Sandy Miles and the Scottish theme,” Sandy said. “That was special.”
Brooks thought the course was maybe a little too easy from the No. 1 tee.
Jarrin would have liked to see the fairways cut a little lower. “I thought the tee boxes and fairways could be cut a little tighter,” he said.
Par-3s measure between 155 and 212 yards from the tips and between 145 and 187 from the No. 3 tee. “As a back tee player I like the par-3s,” Jarrin said. “Some are long that can pose a challenge but also some are in the 150-160 range with a chance to score.”
The 195-yard second hole requires a tee shot over water to a large green protected by bunkers front and front left. The rolling green generally slopes to the left and falls off back left. “That’s a good-looking golf hole,” Brooks said.
The 212-yard eighth hole has a slightly elevated green that is rolling with a mild false front. The 155-yard 11th has water to the front and left of a green that plateaus in the back and has a mild swale in the middle.
The 180-yard 16th has a slightly downhill tee shot to a green that slopes to the front and sharply to the right off a left-side plateau. Water lurks to the right of the green. “All of the par-3s are fair, from short to long,” Sandy said.
The par-3s are between 89 and 131 yards from the forward No. 1 tee. “I liked the par-3s,” Brooks said. “Most of them were straight ahead and weren’t awful hard from my tee box.”
While four par-4s are at least 435 yards, five are 380 or less. “There are some challenging par-4s on the longer side and lots of par-4s with an opportunity to score if you can get the ball in the middle,” Jarrin said.
The 343-yard first hole has water left and an elevated green protected by two front bunkers. “It’s a good mid-length par-4 to get things going out of the gate,” Jarrin said. “It’s not too demanding and the pond presents some trouble you can get into.”
The 359-yard fourth hole turns left around wetlands and only requires a long iron or fairway wood off the tee. “The fourth hole is a good opportunity to score,” Jarrin said. “You’re three holes in and it’s time to make a move.”
The 402-yard sixth and 381-yard seventh holes turn slightly right, the 415-yard 12th has water lined with vegetation to the left of and below the green complex, the 437-yard 13th turns slightly right around water off the tee, and the 438-yard 14th has a downhill tee shot and uphill second shot over water to a green sloping to the front with bunkers front left and front right.
The 378-yard 15th is a dogleg right that can be considerably cut with a drive over a waste bunker at the corner, setting up an approach to an elevated green that slopes to the middle from the left and right. The 415-yard 17th has a drive over water and a large and relatively flat elevated green protected by three bunkers. The 450-yard 18th has water to the right off the tee and a green protected by front left and front right bunkers.
“The par-4s were fair with wide driving areas, though three holes that are longer than 400 yards from essentially a senior tee is a little long,” Sandy said.
There are only two par-5s and they are different, with one requiring strategy and the other a long, straight-forward hole.
The 529-yard fifth measures 498 from the No. 3 tee and is the strategic hole. It’s a dogleg left around wetlands and distance can be considerably cut off the tee to make it very reachable in two shots. A bunker in the right side of the fairway about 80 yards from the green and a wide and deep bunker fronting the green require a decision on the second shot. The green is relatively flat with a collection area behind.
The 554-yard 10th hole is 529 from the No. 3 tee and is straight forward with a wide fairway and a slightly elevated green that is protected by bunkers left and right and a right-side bunker 40 yards from it.
“I love the challenge of the par-5s,” Jarrin said. “One is a no-doubt three-shot par-5 but also with a solid drive the chance is there to make the eagle.”
Brooks’ favorite hole was the par-4 first, which measures 257 yards from the forward tee. “It wasn’t too long, and my ball flight is left to right so it keeps me out of trouble,” he said of the hole with a left-side water hazard.
Sandy’s favorite hole was the 369-yard par-4 ninth, which measures 299 from the No. 2 tee and is a mild dogleg left around a pond with a fairway that slopes toward it and a sparse tree line to the right side. The green is protected by bunkers front left and front right and has a hollow on its front-left quadrant.
“It’s short with risk-reward over water,” Sandy said. “The tee shot is risky. You can try to cut the distance and get close to the water, and it’s a pretty hole.”
Jarrin’s favorite hole was the 463-yard par-4 third hole, featuring a slightly downhill approach with water to the front-right and right of a deep green that generally slopes to the water. There is some bailout room to the left.
“It’s by far the best hole on the golf course,” Jarrin said. “It’s a long par-4 with trouble everywhere. You have to hit two great golf shots to even sniff a par.”
Least favorite holes
Both Brooks and Sandy chose the par-4 third hole as their least favorite. It measures 408 yards from the No. 2 tee. “It’s long with an approach with water in front,” Sandy said. “It almost makes you miss the green on purpose up the left side to play away from the water.”
The hole was a punishing 370 yards from the forward tee. “It has difficulty and length,” Brooks said.
Jarrin’s least favorite hole was the 195-yard par-3 second. “I think the green is just way too big and it needs a back bunker as well to take away the bailout,” he said.