10 Tips for Visiting the "Golf Capital of the World

You've probably noticed that taking the kids to Disney World has become a rite of passage for all parents.

It’s gotten to the point where if you haven't done it, other parents start looking at you funny.

Well, if you love golf, and enjoy traveling to play it, a visit to Myrtle Beach (or two, or three...) is a rite of passage, too. At some point, you have to go.

After all, there are nearly 100 golf courses to choose from, spread across some 70 miles of coastal South and North Carolina, known as the "Grand Strand."

Like a Disney World excursion, planning a Myrtle Beach golf trip can be intimidating for a first-timer. Heck, even if you've been a few times, you still have a lot to learn and discover.

But if you take a deep breath and follow a few basic principles, a great time is guaranteed. That's why visiting golfers play millions of rounds there each year.

(Full disclosure: I lived and worked in the Myrtle Beach golf industry for close to three years, so I may be a bit biased, but I also spoke and dealt with enough visiting golfers to know the ins and outs of the area.)

So here are my top 10 tips to help you get the most out of a Myrtle Beach trip:

1. Location, location, location. Whether it's your first Myrtle Beach golf trip or your tenth, the single most important rule to obey is: minimize driving times between where you stay and where you play. There are enough quality courses in the area that even if you're staying for a week and playing 10 or more rounds, you still won't have to drive more than a half hour to a quality course. Myrtle Beach's traffic is notorious - the building of the Highway 31 bypass road has helped some, but not enough to make driving more than 10 or 15 miles to a course less than a fool's errand, most times of year. For example, if you're staying in the quieter southern end of the Grand Strand, do not schedule rounds at Barefoot Resort or Grande Dunes. Likewise, if you're staying in North Myrtle Beach, do not put Caledonia and True Blue on your itinerary. Driving an hour to and from a course just adds a big hassle to what should be a fun and relaxing time.

2. If you fly, fly right. Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) does have a shiny new main terminal, and serves more cities via direct flights than you might think, including Chicago, Detroit, Toronto and Dallas. That brings hundreds of cities within a single stop of the Grand Strand. If you're in California, chances are you can still get to Myrtle Beach pretty easily.

That said, if you're planning on flying in, it may not be the best option, especially if cost is as much a factor as convenience. Flying into airports in Charleston (CHS), South Carolina and in Wilmington (ILM), North Carolina can be much cheaper (we're talking hundreds of dollars, sometimes) and still quite convenient if you're going to be staying in the southern or northern end of the Grand Strand, respectively.

MYR to Ocean Ridge Plantation: 36 miles/47 minutes ILM to Ocean Ridge Plantation: 45 miles/53 minutes

3. Know how to arrange private showings (no, we're not talking about the strip clubs). There are a few private courses in the Myrtle Beach area, but some can be accessed if you stay at the right hotels. The famous Dunes Golf & Beach Club is the main example of this, but the quiet Surf Club and, farther south, the Tom Fazio-designed Wachesaw Plantation, can also make worthwhile escapes from the crowds. A call from your home club will usually do the trick at both these clubs.

4. It's easy to add an extra level of intrigue to a round. The Caddy Girls are known nationwide for their offerings of attractive accompaniment to your round - they've been featured on the TV show Shark Tank and after getting their start in Myrtle Beach, they're now active in more than a dozen states. Rates start at $159 per caddie per foursome, with gratuity being extra.

5. To package or not to package? Myrtle Beach is the birthplace of the golf package, so it stands to reason that there is no more appropriate place to work with a third-party provider, especially given the size of the region and sheer breadth of golf and lodging options available. If you've never been before, it can be dizzying, and in such a case I think working with one of the area's packagers is well worth the minimal extra cost. In fact, many of those package companies pride themselves on having worked with some customers for a quarter-century or more. Which is not to say that you need to go that route over and over again. But if you're a first-timer? Best not to go it alone.

6. Chain restaurants are so 2008. For a long time the Myrtle Beach food scene has consisted of chain restaurants and not much else. But the last few years have seen the rise of solid-to-excellent one-off eateries that are more worthy of your patronage. There's the great Frank's, which is a must for dinner if you're looking for something upscale in Pawleys Island. Farther north, casual but substantial Maggi D's is as authentic a red-sauce-Italian joint as you'll find in South Carolina (the cannoli are amazing, too) and tiny Sobaya is an excellent option if you like non-sushi Japanese (i.e. stir-fry noodles and ramen soups). There are solid Thai and Lebanese options and even an Austrian restaurant not far from the vaunted Dunes Club. Bottom line: you can easily stay in the area a week or more and never need to fall back on Applebee's.

7. If you crave friendly competition, there's no place better. Myrtle Beach is home to the Myrtle Beach World Amateur, which wrapped up a few weeks ago. But that's far from the only fun, competitive opportunity on the calendar. If you're wanting some milder weather on your trip, the Myrtle Beach Fall Classic, a four-round, two-person event coming up this November 17-20, is a ton of fun. And each July, the Father & Son Team Classic welcomes hundreds of pairs, including grandfathers and grandsons and even father-and-daughter and mother-and-daughter divisions. And every Thanksgiving Weekend, numerous juniors descend on the area for the George Holliday Junior Tournament, which will be played for the 47th time this year.

8. No need to bring extra golf balls. Myrtle Beach is home to some of the biggest golf stores you'll ever see, headlined by multiple PGA Tour Superstore and Golfsmith locations. Covering hundreds of thousands of square feet, they're great for making an impulse purchase that will definitely turn your game around, generally killing an hour or two before dinner or after golf, or replacing lost golf balls or sweated-through gloves.

9. There are off-season deals galore. Myrtle Beach is relatively inexpensive in peak times (Mid-March to late-April; Late-September to early November), but if you are game to brave the heat of the summer or the potential for chilly conditions in the winter, it's just about the best dollar-for-dollar destination in golf. Visit in January or February and you could catch a couple days with temps in the 60s or 70s. When that happens, it really does feel like stealing. Similarly, the shoulder seasons can yield some great deals. May and early June generally have great, not-that-hot weather, and the latter half of November can be a great time to visit. Remember, though, to avoid the traffic nightmare of July 4th and if you do visit in May, you may bump up against the annual Bike Week festivities, scheduled for May 13-22, 2016.

10. Extra-curriculars abound (okay, now we're talking about strip clubs...and other things). Yes, Myrtle Beach is home to a number of gentleman's clubs. But there are less seedy non-golf activities in abundance as well. Want to ride go-karts? Broadway Grand Prix, right across the street from the popular drinking, dining and shopping spot Broadway at the Beach, is a great time. The revamped Family Kingdom amusement park is a popular destination for carnival-lovers. If it's a hot day and you need some cooling off, Myrtle Waves has more than 30 water slides and attractions. Two huge Tanger Outlet malls satisfy any shopping itches, and the beach is always an option for those who just want to chill for a few hours. Also, there's tons of fun to be had at one of Myrtle Beach's many mini-golf establishments. Where better to settle any tied bets from the course?

Give us your own Myrtle Beach golf trip tips and check out what your fellow readers are saying below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for Golf Advisor and the Managing Editor of the Golf Vacation Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
10 Comments
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Jeremiah

I’m going down in a few weeks but I’m having trouble finding someone to go with me. Will I be able to get a tee time for one?

JD in Ct

Been going to Myrtle for 30 years now. Adam should try TPC Myrtle. Pricy but nice layout and conditions. Tidewater also nice and very demanding.

Gary

A wonderful and beautiful course to play is Willbrook Plantation. It is one my must play every year when I go for two weeks at the end of every year.

Graham Cull

I live in London, England and cross the pond to MB as often as possible. There are so many good courses it's hard to single any of them out. We stay at Fantasy Island (and the excellent Boathouse bar between rounds!) so other recommended courses within easy reach would be Arrowhead, Legends, Wild Wing and the courses at Myrtle Beach National. At the latter, I would especially recommend the Kings North course which features "The Gambler" - a par 5 which you can only birdie by landing your tee shot on an island in the middle of a lake. If you go south towards Pawley's Island, see if you can get a round at the historic Heritage Club but, wherever you play, be sure to check out the restaurants and bars at Murrell's Inlet afterwards. My favourite is Drunken Jack's but there's plenty of others to choose from - all in a beautiful setting in which to watch the sun go down. Hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of going. Writing this has just made me want to go again right now!

TimGavrichGA Staff

Hey Adam--
If you're staying at Barefoot, be sure to allow at least an hour and 10 minutes to get from there to Caledonia and True Blue.

As for the other courses, I assume you'll be playing all four Barefoot courses over those next two days? If not, I'd fill in with whichever of those that aren't already on your schedule.

If so, the Dunes Club is always a great option, assuming you can arrange it. If not the Dunes, Tidewater won't be far from you. You'd enjoy Grande Dunes Resort Club, as well. A contrarian recommendation would be Pine Lakes, which is the oldest Myrtle Beach-area course. Largely old-school (with a couple newer holes that fit in okay), with a great clubhouse and bar.

Enjoy your trip; we'd love to hear how it goes!

--Tim

Adam

Have a package of True Blue, Caledonia on day one and then playing the barefoot courses the next two days. I am staying at barefoot resort.. I need to fill one more course. Any suggestions?

David Karre

Pat, don't be an idiot!! Unless you have Trump-like wealth and prefer - and can easily afford - St. Andrews, Bandon or Pebble - MB is a FABULOUS destination. There are SOOOO many world-class courses and locations! Yes, there are a few "less than wonderful" tracts, but with so many from which to choose, this a golfer's dream. I'm from Upstate NY and have gone with friends from all over the US for almost 20 years. It is a GREAT, fun location with great courses, restaurants and fun. BTW - have been to Pebble, Bandon and St. Andrews...but for the VALUE - I'll be back at Myrtle!

TimGavrichGA Staff

Gary--
Thanks for the feedback. If you're wanting those prime March times, especially for a multi-foursome group, we would definitely suggest you go the packager route. At some of the more sought-after courses in the area, even December may be too late to get your chosen tee times for a March or April visit.
Cheers,
--Tim

Gary (GRezGolfer) Rezendes

Great article. I have been down to Myrtle over 20 times. My only idea about either using a packager or not is most times booking a trip is done months in advance. Most courses will not commit to tee times until around one month before you arrive. Package companies have the ability to book those tee times well in advance of the one month time frame. When traveling with 12 to 16 players you really want to know your tee times are all together and early in the morning so you can possibly play 36 holes in a day. I always have used a package company but if you can give me a few pointers on how I can book the needed tee times for late March in December I would appreciate any help

Pat Hobby

I can think of dozens of golf trips I would like to take before going to Myrtle Beach.

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