Litchfield Country Club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and a mixture of old-school characteristics and Lowcountry charms gives the course a definitive place in the Myrtle Beach golf market.
The Willard Byrd design opened in 1966 as one of the first five 18-hole layouts on the Grand Strand.
Its traditional Lowcountry look and feel is accentuated by live oaks, small ponds and well-kept flower and plant beds that are predominant throughout the property.
Each tree-lined hole is isolated and out-of-bounds stakes make the course fairly tight “but houses aren’t on top of the course. The homes aren’t obtrusive,” said Mike Keiser of Myrtle Beach, who took part in a review of the course in late April. “I like the atmosphere here. The setting is unlike any other on the beach. The woods and trees give you the feeling that you’re on a really nice course.”
Joining me and Mike, an Absolute golf shuttle driver and 18 handicap, in the review foursome were Gregg Juster of Longs, a retired PGA club pro and scratch golfer, and Barb Azzaretti of Pawleys Island, a retired pharmaceutical executive and 31 handicap.
“It’s a very fun course to play,” Mike said. “It’s not too long and pars and birdies should be attainable.”
For our group’s visit, the layout had fully recovered from a wet winter and was playing dry and fast.
The course’s 6,692-yard length reflects an earlier era of golf equipment technology, but the length is made more formidable by holes that generally dogleg left or right and long par-3s that measure between 184 and 219 yards.
“It’s a good, solid old-style course,” Gregg said. “I like the old-style courses with a lot of trees and turns because I hit it straight and it suits my game. Great creativity is required especially on the tee shots. I think the key here is driving the ball. You need to know where it’s going off the tee. The second shots aren’t that difficult. There aren’t that many difficult pin position options.”
Doglegs with water hazards and bunkers force you to pay attention off tee, where driver isn’t always required. “A lot of doglegs require good target shots in order to reach greens in regulation. The ability to work the ball left or right is a substantial advantage,” Mike said.
Added Barb: “For higher handicaps some of the longer doglegs may be harder if you can’t reach the turn. Trees are strategically placed at the corners and you have to hit under them if you are short.”
Litchfield Country Club’s greens are relatively flat and feature Bermudagrass with a poa trivialis overseed in the winter. “I thought the greens were extraordinary,” Mike said. “They were fairly good-sized and inviting, they putted well, and they held approach shots pretty well.”
The course has five tee boxes, including a new forward tee that measures just 4,096 yards. “It’s well-designed for ladies with the two red and gold forward tee boxes,” Gregg said, “and I think it has a good variety of yardages from the men’s tees.”
Also a throwback: the layout is generally flat and lends itself to walking because all tee boxes are just off the previous green, and walking is allowed anytime.
Frequent visitors to Litchfield CC have come to look forward to being greeted by amiable bag drop workers who have worked at the club for two or three decades.
Barb found water to be well-marked, appreciated the club/ball washers on carts, and liked the course’s playability, which she found to be woman-friendly. “There are no water carries off the tee and bunkers are not difficult to hit out of,” Barb said. “There’s not much trouble for women to get into as water is not usually in play, and the course is in good shape and the women’s tee boxes are in good shape. The greens are in good shape and there are no unnecessary challenges like tiers.”
Litchfield has several food options either at the turn or after a round, including specialty sandwiches like Italian subs and pimento cheese burgers, and large hot dogs. “I judge a course by the quality of their hot dogs and this place has a good hot dog,” Gregg said. “It’s part of the little things that make for a great experience.”
Renovations have been made to the pro shop and separate Players Grill and banquet room since the course was acquired by owner/operator Founders Group International last year.
The group was disappointed that we saw the beverage cart just once in our 18 holes, and Barb pointed out that the driving range was a good distance from the clubhouse.
Mike also found club selection off the tee to be challenging for a first-time visitor. “It’s hard to play this course for the first time because it’s hard to know how far it is to the water hazards and to drive it through the fairways,” Mike said.
Two par-3s surpass 200 yards, and even from the white tees they measure between 165 and 189 yards. “Par-3s have straightaway shots and could use more variety of distance,” Gregg said.
The 202-yard fourth hole has a pond to carry halfway to a green that slopes to the front and is protected by bunkers back left, front left and front right. The 186-yard seventh has a slightly elevated and flat green with bunkers front left and front right.
“I loved the par-3s,” Barb said. “Par-3s are all reachable for high handicappers [from the red tee] and there are no hazards to contemplate – just hit it up and in.”
The tough 219-yard 12th has bunkers back, left and front right of a green that slopes mildly to the right. “This is a very good par-3,” Gregg said. “It has good bunkering for the distance and the hole doesn’t need a water hazard.”
The 184-yard 17th has water short left and short right and bunkers front left and front right of a green that slopes to the front and has a false front. “Par-3s are very accessible besides the 12th, which is long and heavily guarded by bunkers,” Mike said. “Most are simple and straightforward.”
Just three par-4s measure 400 yards or more, capped by the 425-yard third hole, which features water down the right side and a slightly elevated green that slopes to the front.
“I found the par-4s to be very accessible,” Mike said. “A solid drive should set most up for a good birdie opportunity.”
The 393-yard sixth turns left around a large tree that pinches the fairway and pushes drives toward a pair of small bunkers and water deep down the right side of the fairway. The 365-yard eighth is a dogleg right with a green sloping to the front that is protected by bunkers to its left, and the 358-yard ninth is a dogleg right with a flat green protected by bunkers front left and front right.
The 389-yard 10th is a slight dogleg left with a slightly elevated and flat green protected by three bunkers, and the 424-yard 11th is a sharp dogleg left containing a green with bunkers front left and front right. “This is a good driving hole with a narrow chute to hit through and an overhanging tree to the right of the [back] tee box,” Gregg said.
The 366-yard 14th has a creek running alongside a sparse tree line down the left side of the hole, and the 354-yard 15th turns mildly right with water down the left side that cuts in front of a green with a mild false front.
The 406-yard 18th is a funky sharp dogleg right with a pair of wide bunkers at the back of the bend and water around the back of the fairway. The bulkheaded water cuts in front of the green and a bunker resides where players would normally lay up before the water.
“There are a very good variety of dogleg par-4s,” Gregg said. “You need to know how far the water is and adjust the club you hit off the tee. Second shots are not difficult.”
Par-5s measure between 499 and 538 yards from the tips, and between 485 and 502 from the white, but doglegs often make them difficult to reach in two shots. “Most par-5s are not reachable in two shots and have challenging tee shots,” Mike said. “Some doglegs require layup shots to reach greens in regulation.”
The 519-yard second hole is a dogleg right off the tee around a tree line and live oak with a wide canopy on the inside of the bend. The green breaks slightly to the left and front. The 499-yard fifth turns left off the tee around a bunker with water lurking down the entire right side. A green that slopes to the front is tucked behind trees to the left with water to its right.
“Par-5s have fair lengths and fortunately you get a lot of roll on fairways to put you in better position,” Barb said.
The 520-yard 13th has water down the entire left side and turns slightly left off the tee. A green with bunkers left, right and front right slopes to the front. The 538-yard 16th requires a well-place drive between a bunker and water to the right and water to the left. The hole turns mildly to the left off the tee and right near a green that slopes sharply to the front with a dramatic false front.
“I really liked the par-5s,” Gregg said. “They have good variety, and I like that the second shots required accuracy rather than distance.”
Mike’s favorite holes were the par-5 fifth and 16th holes. The fifth measured 479 yards from the white tee. “It’s a picturesque dogleg and you have to keep your drive right to avoid trees on the left,” he said. The 16th measured 502 yards from the white. “It’s a big risk-reward hole and cutting the corner gives a big advantage,” Mike said.
Barb’s favorite hole was the par-3 12th, which measured 153 yards from the red tee. “It’s straight and reachable with a run-up opportunity in the front of the green,” Barb said.
Gregg enjoyed the three-hole stretch of holes 11-13. “It’s a good run of a par-4, -3 and -5,” he said. “It’s a long, tough par-4, there’s good bunkering on the par-3 12th and the 13th is a very good par-5 requiring precise shot-making.” Gregg also liked the par-5 fifth because “there is good risk-reward on the second shot.”
Least favorite holes
Mike’s least favorite hole was the par-5 second hole, measuring 501 yards from the white tee. “It’s a blind tee shot with trouble left and a tight landing area,” Mike said.
Barb’s least favorite hole was the 18th, which played 303 yards from the red tee. “You definitely need good course management on this one,” Barb said. “It’s a dogleg off the tee and with trees in the way on a short drive. You have to play second or third shots to the right if you can’t carry the water.”
Gregg’s least favorite hole was the 345-yard par-4 first. It turns slightly left with a raised ridge in the landing area and requires an accurate tee shot with a bunker on the right side of the landing area and water on both sides. “There’s water left and water right and I like first holes that give golfers a free swing,” Gregg said. “I like the hole, I just don’t like it as the first hole.”
Litchfield Country Club
21 Parkview Drive
Pawleys Island, SC 29585
DIRECTIONS: From Myrtle Beach, take U.S. 17 South into the Litchfield Beach area of Pawleys Island and turn right on Country Club Drive. Turn left on Parkview and follow to the clubhouse on the left.
COURSE OPENED: 1966
COURSE DESIGNERS: Willard Byrd
PRIVATE OR PUBLIC: Public
PRO SHOP PHONE: 843-237-3411, 1-800-344-5590
WEB SITE: www.litchfieldgolf.com
GREENS FEE: Ranges from $40-$80 (Primetime and course memberships available)
MANAGEMENT COMPANY: Founders Group International
HEAD PROFESSIONAL: Christa Bodensteiner
COURSE SUPERINTENDENT: Barry “Digger” Barthelman
CLUBHOUSE: Pro shop, restrooms, locker rooms with showers, banquet room, patio; separate Players Grill building has snack bar and grill, two dining rooms with TVs, restrooms.
PRACTICE FACILITY: Driving range, practice putting green, chipping green, lessons available from teaching pro Paul Contento.
SPECIAL AMENITY: Club/ball washers on carts.
COURSE RATINGS: Blue: 72.5; White: 70.6; Gold: 68.6-men, 74.4-women; Red: 71.1; Green: N/A
SLOPE RATINGS: Blue: 131; White: 128; Gold: 124-m, 130-w; Red: 124; Green: N/A
All scores are based on a scale of 1-5.
1-poor; 2-satisfactory; 3-solid/average;
4-very good; 5-the best
Birthplace: Minneapolis, Minn.
Occupation: Retired PGA club pro
Tees played: 6,692-yard blue
Highlight: Birdie with a hybrid to a few inches on the 520-yard par-5 13th hole.
Home: Myrtle Beach
Birthplace: Russell, Ky.
Occupation: Absolute golf shuttle driver
Tees played: 6,295-yard white
Highlight: Birdie on the 386-yard par-4 18th hole with a 25-foot putt.
Home: Pawleys Island
Birthplace: Jamaica, NY
Occupation: Retired pharmaceutical executive
Tees played: 5,252-yard red
Highlight: Making par on the 120-yard 12th hole with a 5-wood to 15 feet.
Home: Myrtle Beach
Birthplace: Lisbon, Maine
Occupation: Golf writer
Tees played: 6,295-yard white
Highlight: Hitting the 150-yard stake on one bounce with a 3-wood off the tee on the 363-yard par-4 sixth hole.