PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- Pawleys Island lies about 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach, but it certainly feels farther away. This part of the Grand Strand is more sparsely populated and has no high-rise buildings along the beach.
Also gone are the outlet stores and large shopping centers. This is where the Carolina Lowcountry emerges, and mossy oaks help give the golf courses a timeless vibe, whether they were built in the 1960s or 1990s.
Pawleys Island is a household name to most golfers because of two Mike Strantz designs, located side by side: True Blue Golf Plantation and Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Both regularly rake in the top spots in the Grand Strand. They're also two of the priciest plays on the beach.
But just because you might not be up to booking these two golf courses doesn't shut you out of great golf in the South Strand. Here are some of the top bargains around Pawleys Island.
Architect Tom Jackson has built a handful of the top bang-for-your-buck golf courses along the Grand Strand. His only South Strand design, River Club, is also a good deal. The River Club not only has a great diversity of holes, but also bentgrass greens that are pure and better than many of the area's premium golf courses with bermuda greens.
Litchfield Country Club
One of the area's oldest golf clubs dating back to the 1960s, Litchfield Country Club is one of the area's least expensive courses. And you won't find Lowcountry charm better anywhere else other than possibly Caledonia. The holes are tightly lined with mossy oak trees and dotted with finger lakes, and it might just tempt you to ditch the golf course and take the shady walk.
Tradition Golf Club
Thanks to a lesser known golf designer in Ron Garl and less marketing power compared to its neighbors, the Tradition Golf Club flies under the radar in the South Strand -- and it shouldn't. The golf course is traditionally laid out with five sets of tees to choose from. It's also kept in prime shape, including some of the purest greens in the area. Amenities, including a large clubhouse and practice area, are also fit for the highest-end clubs in town.
Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
When Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club opened in 1988, it set the bar for golf in Pawleys Island. Today, with many newer golf courses in the area, you can play the Jack Nicklaus design for a bargain. The golf course, out in the saltwater marshes and a sniff away from the Atlantic Ocean, features numerous contenders for Myrtle Beach's signature hole.
The Heritage Club is about the closest course you'll find to Caledonia's Lowcountry setting, from the entrance lined with oaks and a stately clubhouse overlooking the Waccamaw River. Each nine features numerous scenic holes, while the large, undulating greens take on a life of their own.
Save money playing Caledonia and True Blue
Spring green fees at Caledonia and True Blue can creep toward $200, but that's not the case at all times of the year. One of the best times to save money in Myrtle Beach is between Thanksgiving and a week after New Year's. Green fees dip to nearly as low as the summertime, and condos are cheap, too.
The discount is not because of golf course conditions or weather. Most golf groups tend to bypass a golf trip because they're using their vacation time to visit family.
December rates at Caledonia peak at $102 and $91 at True Blue -- about half off their spring rates.