CALABASH, N.C. - Crow Creek Golf Club is one of the first golf courses you come to when you cross state lines, coming from Myrtle Beach, S.C., into Brunswick County. What you'll encounter is a family-style, casual golf club. It's also independently owned rather than by a bigger golf or real estate conglomerate.
Because of this, Crow Creek receives a fraction of the amount of ink and advertising space of some of Myrtle Beach's more dominating resort companies. You're probably only going to hear about the place by hearing about it from a friend or driving past its entrance on Highway 17 or simply by accident.
So, you can't help but root for the facility a little in that sense, an underdog that relies on word-of-mouth, steady local play and repeat tourists.
It's set on property owner Jerry McLamb's 500-acre plantation, once home to tobacco fields. Today it features 18 holes, condos and a real estate development, along with several scenic spots rife with natural vegetation and native wildlife.
Designed by Rick Robbins, a former Jack Nicklaus design associate, Crow Creek is a tale of two nines, with the front nine playing through old tobacco fields and vegetable gardens.
It's decidedly more wide open than the more wooded back nine which features rolling contours and a thrilling, long par 5 finishing hole.
But water is abundant throughout the course and in play on what can seem like every shot. Some of these hazards are natural, while others are man-made. Perhaps the most daring shot is also the prettiest, compliments of the par-3 eighth hole. It's a 170-yard shot from the men's tees entirely over water, which features a handful of bare trees sticking out in the middle. It looks bizarre, because this pond was in fact installed by the design team. Today, these bare trees serve as popular pegs for native bird life to gather. An old hunting cabin to the right off the tee box boosts the hole's aesthetics even more.
Robbins' design features some traits common in Nicklaus Signature courses. It's plenty long, over 7,100 yards from the championship tees, and from the blue tees it is still a man-sized 6,600-plus. Each of the four par 5s are especially meaty and won't allow for an easy reach in two shots, even for longer hitters. The par-5 seventh is the longest of the set, playing straightaway from an elevated tee longer than 570 yards, and water runs all down the right side.
There are scores of bunkers guarding fairway doglegs and surrounding greens, so you'll surely find yourself in a handful during your round here, and greens can be challenging to reach in regulation. The grounds crew also doesn't seem to be shy about throwing in a few difficult pin positions, even on a peak season Sunday. The land's wide-open spaces, especially on the front nine, can yield plenty a stiff breeze off the nearby Atlantic coast. It all makes for a course that can be sneaky-difficult - more so than it might first appear.
Crow Creek Golf Club: The verdict
Crow Creek is a solid round and worth a look if you're staying in the North Strand and looking for a good value course. Few aspects of the course will blow you away, but just about everything is solid. Though there is a slew of water, you shouldn't lose too many balls so long as your tee shot is cooperating with you that day.
A collection of wooden bridges and the old hunting cabin off the eighth hole also adds charm to the course. The club is currently in the middle of building a brand new clubhouse, which is scheduled to open sometime later this summer, though a temporary facility has a small pro shop and dining room. Crow Creek also prides itself on its service. There are bag boys and starters seemingly at every turn here directing traffic and answering questions.
The L-93 bent grass greens at the time of my visit were especially firm and quick, making short game shots even more delicate.