The Grand Strand might be better known as a budget-friendly golf destination, but Myrtle Beach can still go top shelf to impress even the most spoiled country clubbers.
At least eight different area courses have earned "top 100" honors from either Golf Magazine or Golf Digest over the years. Seven of these clubs have banded together to create the ultimate getaway.
The new "Honors Package" from the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes features rounds at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, two of Barefoot Resort & Golf's three top-100 layouts (the Dye, Fazio or Love Courses), the Grande Dunes Resort Course, Tidewater Golf Club and True Blue Golf Club.
The package starts at $1,195 with breakfast each morning at the inn, the Myrtle Beach area's only AAA Four Diamond property eight years running, daily lunch at each course and a pair of dinners at the inn's acclaimed WaterScapes restaurant. For a surcharge, the Marina Inn staff can arrange transportation to and from the courses, eliminating the hassle of driving.
Bob Seganti, director of operations at True Blue and Caledonia, calls the package "a dream golf vacation." There are many great itineraries to be had along the Grand Strand, but this might be the best.
Here's a look at each course:
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, Pawleys Island
Playing Mike Strantz's first solo design is a great experience from start (the drive through Oak Alley leading into the course) to finish (drinks on the verandah overlooking the 18th hole followed by lunch or dinner). Tight fairways shrouded by mossy oaks and pinched by wetlands are the calling card of Caledonia, ranked 73rd in Golf Digest's Top 100 Public Courses You Can Play for 2016-17.
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club, North Myrtle Beach
This Robert Trent Jones Sr. design -- renovated in 2013 by Rees Jones -- is the home of tournament golf in Myrtle Beach, having hosted six Senior Tour Championships from 1994-99, the 1962 U.S. Women's Open and the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship. The 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball Championship, a two-person event run by the USGA, is on deck. The best stretch starts at the par-3 ninth hole, offering up a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. The infamous Alligator Alley comprises holes 11-13, followed by a bonus hole, an extra par 3 called "14a." The glorious par-5 13th hole wraps around Lake Singleton.
Barefoot Resort & Golf, North Myrtle Beach
Which of the four Barefoot courses is best? You could get three different answers. The Dye Course, which operates out of its own clubhouse, annually hosts the Hootie & the Blowfish Monday After the Masters Celebrity Pro-Am. It's a minefield of bunkers and mounding. The Fazio Course, televised during the Golf Channel's Big Break Myrtle Beach, incorporates the best mix of playability and scenery at the resort. My personal favorite is The Love Course by Davis Love III DLIII design. The faux ruins on the fourth hole are memorable.
Grande Dunes Resort Course, Myrtle Beach
Seven holes play along the Intracoastal Waterway at this Roger Rulewich design that co-hosted the 2014 PGA Professional National Championship with The Dunes Club. The surrounding scenery, plus the course's proximity to the inn, might make this gem a favorite of golfers who book the package.
True Blue Golf Club, Pawleys Island
Strantz designed True Blue to be distinctly different and unique from Caledonia, even though they're across the street from each other. Everything at True Blue is supersized -- the greens, fairways and bunkers. The par-5 first, which Golf Advisor named one of the scariest opening holes in golf, begins an epic round.
Tidewater Golf Club, North Myrtle Beach
Tidewater architect Ken Tomlinson's work remains masterful, but a renovation completed in 2014 modernized the greens and improved conditioning. Four fantastic holes play along the scenic Cherry Grove Inlet that leads to the ocean. Several others, such as the par 5s at nos. 8 and 16, flow along the Intracoastal Waterway. The scenery and shotmaking at Tidewater are a superb combination.