MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. - There are a lot of golf courses in Myrtle Beach that boast Intracoastal Waterway scenery.
But none do it better than Grande Dunes Resort Course.
Opened in 2001 and designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s former apprentice Roger Rulewich, the Resort Course is the centerpiece of a massive resort and real estate project embarked upon by Myrtle Beach's largest land owner, Burroughs & Chapin, which also own courses like Pine Lakes International Country Club and Tidewater Golf Club up the road in North Myrtle Beach.
The scale of the entire project is colossal, estimated to be a 20-year, $20 billion endeavor.
But enough about the property's bells and whistles; you'll see plenty of multi-million dollar, Southwestern-influenced villas along the way that make you second-guess your decision to forego that college MBA and become a lowly (gulp) golf writer. Let's get to the golf course, because it's one of Myrtle Beach's top upscale plays with a slew of Waterway holes that will remain burned in your memory for quite some time.
Everything about the golf course is on a larger-than-life scale. From the championship tees, it's easily Myrtle Beach's longest golf course, stretching to 7,617 yards and a "no, that's not a misprint" 77.3 rating. It's hard to believe this set gets much action, considering the shortest par 4 is 365 yards (No. 7) and the par-3 14th, with practically no room in front of the green to run up a fairway wood, still plays 244 yards.
Of course, there are five other sets here, playing as low as 5,300 yards, and the set that makes common sense for the average resort player is the third-to-back set, playing just over 6,700 yards, which on a windy day is still plenty of golf course.
Back to the par-3 14th hole, it's hands down the best par 3 in Myrtle Beach and deserves mention with any par 3 along the Grand Strand. There are some beauties to the south in Pawleys Island and to the north around Little River, but in Myrtle Beach proper, this hole is as scenic and exciting of a par 3 as you'll find.
There are numerous remarkable aspects to this gem. Despite Grande Dunes being located around the heart of Myrtle Beach, there's practically no housing or traffic around. It's peaceful, other than the boats passing by or a group of swimmers on the other side of the waterway splashing around drinking cans of beer.
But the best thing about the hole is that it takes a heck of a shot to hit the green, which sits perched above the waterway so close a tentative swing undoubtedly sends your ball swimming with the fishies. Water creeps in front and well below the elevated green, which makes for an even more embarrassing miss.
Nevertheless, this hole is the postcard moment from your Myrtle Beach golf vacation. Few holes along the eastern seaboard compare.
The rest of the golf course is no slouch. Nos. 8 thru 10 play along the waterway to the left, and the 15th continues along it as well. It makes for more waterway frontage than almost every other Grand Strand course.
The greens here are big enough to be a course unto themselves. They are very deep at points, about 40-45 yards deep on average, so consulting your cart GPS for pin position and yardage is paramount. This is a course where your approach shot looks good from the fairway, until you arrive at the green, and you're 50 feet below the hole with plenty of work left for a two-putt.
The biggest example of this is the par-4 16th hole that has a slim, long green that, from the 150-yard sprinkler head, could play anything from a 120-yard pitch shot to a 180-yard long iron, thanks to over 60 yards of depth front-to-back.
Grande Dunes Resort Course in Myrtle Beach: The verdict
The Grande Dunes Resort Course is one of those golf clubs that helped transform Myrtle Beach from a bargain basement destination into its current identity that can offer a luxury golf experience as good (and most would argue better - at least from a pure golf perspective) as Hilton Head Island down the road, from the clubhouse amenities and service to the golf course and scenery.
Even if you're staying at a dingy motel a few miles down for $50 a night, when you show up to Grande Dunes, you're a member for the day and have the run of the joint, from free range balls and short game area to access to a most comfortable and luxurious clubhouse.
It was built with a tasteful Southwestern motif (the architecture has Southwestern accents, but no one's wearing sombreros, don't worry) and as the kind of place you can kick your feet up for the day and enjoy your vacation.
While Grande Dunes' Members Course is closed to the public, a select number of hotels offer a small amount of unadvertised tee times for their guests.