Eagle Nest Golf Club has plenty of admirable qualities.
The course has a ballyhooed tough three-hole finish including an attractive par-3 18th, has very little out of bounds with homes on just a few holes, provides seclusion without adjacent fairways, and is balanced with a fair amount of holes that move left or right or are straight.
Those qualities of the 6,900-yard 1972 Gene Hamm design are now more evident with the improved condition of the course and property in recent years.
“It’s an excellent golf course with all the improvements in the past couple years,” said Tom Schneider of Longs, who has played the course since the 1990s, including as part of a course review group in mid-January. “This course and course condition are significantly improved from what it has been. The ownership and management have put some money into it and you can tell.”
Joining me and Tom, a 14 handicap, retired Navy captain and owner of a power equipment sales company, in the review foursome were snowbird Ned Johnson of Bethlehem, N.H., a retired insurance manager with a 23 handicap, and Scott Canto of Carolina Shores, N.C., a customer service specialist and 6 handicap.
The course is cut through mature trees – some hardwoods but mostly tall pines – and has a fair amount of elevation change and a number of curling holes or mild doglegs.
“The pine trees give it a Pinehurst, N.C., or New England feel, and the golf holes are well-shaped,” Scott said. “You want to have a good mixture of right to left and left to right and length, and this course has all that. The ability to shape the ball off the tee is beneficial.
“Eagle Nest is a solid test from the blue tees. The 6,900 yards will test your average low handicap golfer.”
Water comes into play on a handful of holes but bunkers and trees are Eagle Nest’s primary defense. All but one green is protected by multiple bunkers, though many holes have front openings.
“Each green has at least two greenside bunkers, which is good,” Scott said. “They aren’t always on the front so they give people access to the green, but they at least have them on the right and left and they’ll be in play depending on where they put the pin.”
The course was in good condition for our visit despite wet conditions. “Course maintenance was really good for the time of year,” Scott said. “The greens were in very good condition compared to other courses in mid-January this year.”
Eagle Nest has MiniVerde ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens with a light overseeding of poa trivialis this winter to give them a little green color. They were fast and smooth. “The greens were outstanding and the ball rolled true,” Tom said.
The greens are challenging as they’re pushed up and elevated, and are generally very undulating. “Most greens are tricky because of their crowned nature,” Scott said.
The difficult finish consists of the 449-yard par-4 16th, 616-yard par-5 17th and 185-yard 18th. The yardages from the white tees are 416, 576 and 164.
The 16th has a peninsula green and requires an approach shot over water to a green with bunkers left, right and back. “This is a three-shot par-4 for me from the back tee,” Scott said. “From the back this is one of the toughest par-4s at the beach.”
The 17th has a small tree in the fairway on the right side that can affect downhill second shot lay-ups in front of a water hazard that must be carried on the approach to a green that slopes mostly to the right. The 18th has water and a wide bunker in front of a green that slopes to the left and front.
“You really have to have a good score coming into the last four holes because of yardages and where the water is placed on the last three holes,” Scott said.
Added Tom: “More golf shots are required on the back nine than the front nine.”
The group was impressed by the property’s manicuring that includes plant and flower beds, and the general course condition. “It’s vastly improved over what it used to be when I lived here in the 1980s and ’90s, as is the clubhouse,” Ned said. “It’s more attractive, stocked with merchandise and the restrooms are nice. It’s a top of the middle class golf course in the area, and I wouldn’t have said that years ago.”
Ned liked the ample landing area on most holes. “Fairways are wide enough to let you determine how to play the holes,” Ned said.
Tom found every hole to be reachable in regulation from the gold tee. “It was within reason for a 10-plus handicap,” he said.
Scott found the practice putting green, though small, represented the holes on the course as it was also crowned, and he appreciated the formidable length on many par-4s and par-5s.
There is no yardage book, though a free phone mobile app at eaglenestgolf.com offers GPS distances and hole flyovers.
Some of the smaller blue, gold and red tee boxes need to be leveled. “Some grass on tee boxes was on the thin side and some were crowned so you couldn’t find a flat lie,” Scott said.
Scott wanted to see more yardage plates on par-3 tee boxes and would prefer not having a par-3 18th hole. “To finish on a par-3 is awkward and diminishes the very hard holes 16 and 17,” he said. “Holes 16 and 17 are great finishing holes, and the 18th hole is a good hole, but my personal preference is I don’t like finishing with a par-3.”
Tom found some bunkers were lacking sufficient sand.
Par-3s offer scoring opportunities as three are approximately 185 yards and the other is 176. The yardages from the white tees are between 150 and 164. “Par-3s were average, though they were bunkered and had crowned greens,” Scott said.
The 186-yard fourth hole has a tee shot through a narrow chute between trees and a green that slopes off the front and back is protected by bunkers left and right. On the 187-yard seventh, bunkers left, back, right and front right, as well as water to the right, protected a green that slopes mildly to the front.
The 176-yard 12th has bunkers front left and front right of a green that slopes sharply to the front from a back plateau.
“The par-3s were just straightforward and not difficult,” Tom said. Ned liked the par-3 yardages between 100 and 139 yards from the red tee. “They were great for me,” he said.
Six par-4s are shorter than 395 yards and three are longer than 420. “There are good length par-4s, and if they aren’t long, they are shaped left to right or right to left,” Scott said.
The 348-yard second hole curls mildly to the right and has a deep green with a mild middle depression, and the 429-yard sixth turns left around a tree line and has a wavy green with a false front.
The left side of the fairway on the 422-yard eighth is blocked out by trees and bunkers left, right and back right protect the green. The 364-yard ninth turns right and has a downhill tee shot and uphill approach to a green that slopes toward a front-right bunker and also has bunkers front left and behind.
The 366-yard 10th is another benign hole to begin a side with a wide fairway and elevated green surrounded by three bunkers, and the 391-yard 11th is straightforward with a rolling green and bunkers right and back.
The 392-yard 14th has trees pinching the fairway on the left and a rolling green with a false front on the left side, and the 385-yard 15th turns slightly to the left and has an elevated green sloping mildly to the front.
“I liked all of the par-4s as there is a variety of difficulty and challenging shots needed for each hole,” Tom said.
Aside from the long 17th, par-5s measure between 515 and 545 yards from the tips and between 492 and 518 from the white tees. “The par-5s are very challenging but I enjoy playing them,” Tom said.
The course begins with a benign and straightforward 515-yard hole featuring a relatively flat elevated green with bunkers on all sides but the front. “It’s generally a pretty easy hole,” Tom said. “It’s a shorter par-5 and wide when you’re just getting started.”
The 545-yard fifth doglegs right at the 150-yard bush, leaving a largely blind second shot toward a pond that begins about 80 yards from a green that slopes to the right and front and is protected in the front by water and the other three sides by bunkers. “The fifth hole is a unique layout and has some character,” Tom said.
The 544-yard 13th turns left around a small pond and doesn’t require a driver unless you cut off a significant amount of fairway. A small pond awaits to the right on the second shot and the green is surrounded by four bunkers and is somewhat crowned.
“The par-5s have good length and you definitely have to drive the ball well in the fairway for the proper placement of a lay-up shot or to go for the green,” Scott said, “And be sure to keep the ball on the correct side of the green as the par-5 greens have a strong crowned effect with some false fronts.”
Scott’s favorite hole is the par-4 16th. “It’s a very long par-4 with a demanding long approach shot over water to a slightly crowned green,” Scott said. “From the blue tees the drive must be long and in the fairway.”
Tom’s favorite holes are the par-5 fifth and 17th holes, which measure 447 and 469 yards from the gold tees. “I have always enjoyed these two exciting holes,” Tom said. “The fifth requires good shot-making to be in position”
Ned’s favorite holes were the par-4 15th, which measured 307 yards from the red tee, and par-5 17th, which measured a challenging 419 from the red. “They’re good golf holes and fair,” Ned said. “They’re attractive and well-designed and challenging. They’re not easy.”
Least favorite holes
Scott believes the 401-yard par-4 third hole, which turns left slightly around a tree line with a right fairway bunker at the bend and a green that slopes off a mound behind a front greenside bunker, could use more obstacles. “It could be spruced up with perhaps another fairway bunker,” he said.
Like Scott, Tom said he’d prefer a par-4 or -5 to close out a round. “I didn’t particularly like a par-3s as a finishing hole,” Tom said.
Ned’s least favorite holes were the par-4 sixth and 16th holes because of their lengths of 339 and 344 yards from the red tees. “They’re long holes that are difficult for older golfers but great for good golfers,” he said.
Eagle Nest Golf Club
3820 Fairway Drive
Little River, SC 29566
DIRECTIONS: From Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 17 North into Little River and look for Fairway Drive, the entrance road to Eagle Nest, on the left. Follow to the clubhouse.
COURSE OPENED: 1972
COURSE DESIGNERS: Gene Hamm
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Public
PRO SHOP PHONE: 843-249-1449, 1-800-543-3113
WEB SITE: www.eaglenestgolf.com
GREENS FEE: Ranges from $25-$55 (local rate $29-$40)
GENERAL MANAGER: Rick Moran
HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Aubrey Apple
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Mark Duzenski
WALKING: Not Permitted
GREENS: MiniVerde ultradwarf Bermudagrass, light poa trivialis winter overseed
FAIRWAYS: Bermuda, ryegrass overseed
CLUBHOUSE: Pro shop, snack bar and grill, rotunda lounge, TVs in pro shop and snack bar, restrooms.
PRACTICE FACILITY: Driving range, practice putting green with chipping allowed, lessons available.
SPECIAL AMENITY: Free GPS mobile app through eaglenestgolf.com offers flyovers and GPS yardages.
COURSE RATINGS: Blue: 72.2, White: 69.9, Gold: 65.9, Red: 69.3
SLOPE RATINGS: Blue: 126, White: 120, Gold: 112, Red: 117
All scores are based on a scale of 1-5.
1-poor; 2-satisfactory; 3-solid/average;
4-very good; 5-the best
Home: Bethlehem, Pa.
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Occupation: Retired insurance manager and hotel owner
Tees played: 5,105-yard red
Highlight: Making par on three of the four par-3s and putting well.
Occupation: Retired Navy capt., owner T.H. Schneider power equipment and technical sales
Tees played: 5,594-yard gold
Highlight: Several up-and-down pars and being in position for pars on holes 5, 16 and 17.
Home: Carolina Shores, N.C.
Birthplace: Somerset, Mass.
Occupation: UPS and customer service
Tees played: 6,901-yard blue
Highlight: A couple good up and downs on tricky crowned greens.
Home: Myrtle Beach
Birthplace: Lisbon, Maine
Occupation: Golf writer
Tees played: 6,417-yard white
Highlight: The inspiration of playing with a man twice my age who regularly shoots his age. Ned missed by 2 shots with a second-nine 45.