Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a golf destination that hangs its hat on choice. Four golf groups could visit the Grand Strand at the exact same time and their itineraries could all be different. Not only would they not cross paths, but they'd feel like the others were in an entirely different destination.
So in honor of the Grand Strand's infinite ways to plan an ideal trip, we're not going to give you just one opinion on the best in Myrtle Beach, but four: Matt Ginella, Jason Scott Deegan, Mike Bailey and myself all have spent plenty of time here, whacking the ball around on fairways from Pawleys Island to Calabash, and stopping off at a few bars and restaurants along the way.
Here are some of our favorite picks for Myrtle Beach golf, dining and off-course activities:
Favorite high-end golf course on the Grand Strand
Ginella: Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. From the driveway -- through a long tunnel of oak trees -- to the subtle charms of a Mike Strantz design, and the betting that takes place after the round on the back porch, I can't get back to Caledonia soon enough.
Tucker: The Dunes Golf & Beach Club. Sorry, Caledonia, I'm a sucker for the classics.
Deegan: Caledonia. I didn't feel welcome the day I visited the Dunes Club. I hope others who pay big bucks to play there aren't treated with the same vibe.
Bailey: Love Dunes Club, but Caledonia's my favorite. Has an Augusta-like feel, though it's a totally different course.
Best bargain golf in Myrtle Beach
Ginella: Legends Golf & Resort's "Three Fore Four" buddies-trip package: Pay for three nights and three rounds and get another night and another round for free. The deal also includes breakfasts, lunch and two drinks. Prices range between $275 and $396 per person, depending on time of the year.
Deegan: Many Dan Maples designs -- there are seven along the Grand Strand -- won't wow you, but dollar for dollar, golfers are well served. The Heritage Club is the best one, but Sandpiper Bay Golf & Country Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., might be the best bargain.
Tucker: The handful of courses designed by the lesser known architect Tom Jackson -- including the River Club and Aberdeen -- are all great bang for the buck. The best of the lot may be River Club and River Hills, which has a pleasant, gently rolling layout that few other courses in the area have, and lower green fees to boot.
Best course for the money
Deegan: Tidewater Golf Club & Plantation prices out among the top tier of courses along the Grand Strand, but I still think it's worth every penny to play those great holes along the tidal marshes.
Tucker: The green fees for Myrtle Beach National's King's North Course check in a little less than the highest priced courses in Myrtle. But in terms of fun factor, this Arnold Palmer design holds its own with any of them, especially if you can hit a reliable right-to-left tee ball.
Best golf resort on the Grand Strand
Tucker: It doesn't get much classier than Grande Dunes' Marina Inn. In addition to some of the best guest rooms on the Strand, you've got access to the Grande Dunes Members Club Course, which is a great, under-played course if you need a respite from busy tee sheets.
Bailey: I have to go with Barefoot. Four terrific golf courses designed by four big names: Tom Fazio, Pete Dye, Greg Norman and David Love III. The Barefoot Love Course is surprisingly good.
Deegan: The ground-floor room at the Barefoot Resort tower I stayed in felt bigger than my home in California. No kidding.
Best place to play 36 holes in a day
Deegan: You can't beat the contrast of Caledonia and True Blue. They're both by the late Mike Strantz, yet couldn't be more different, amazing considering they're right across the street from one another.
Bailey: When it comes to variety it's hard to beat Legends Golf & Resort's three courses. Best of all, the collection includes a Tom Doak design, Heathland, and I've never played a Doak design I didn't like. This one is molded after British Isle links courses. The others -- Moorland and Parkland -- are also very different from one another.
Tucker: What's great about Barefoot Resort is that because it's higher end, the tee sheets aren't packed like sardines, and being able to choose from four courses means there's usually an open tee box ready for your afternoon round.
Ginella: Caledonia and next door True Blue for a double dip of Mike Strantz.
Best place to watch the game
Ginella: With 20 different specialty sauces, Fat Jack's Wings & Things has been a popular locals hangout since the '70s.
Bailey: Wild Wings Cafe near Barefoot Landing. Sort of like Buffalo Wild Wings except better food and service.
Tucker: There's usually a good local crowd, tons of beer and a lot of games on TV at cozy Bumsteads in downtown Myrtle Beach.
Best restaurant in Myrtle Beach
Ginella: You can't and won't go wrong at New York Prime, but I'm also a fan of Greg Norman's Australian Grille.
Deegan: The Aspen Grille along Kings Highway serves great fresh seafood in a classy environment.
Bailey: The Library on North Kings Highway. Great soups, Caesar's salad and Duck L'Orange.
Tucker: Soho is a small, hip little sushi & Asian foods joint that's a block away from the beach and is about as urban-feeling as it gets in Myrtle.
Favorite off-course activity in Myrtle Beach
Ginella: Myrtle Beach Jetpack Adventures. Need I say more?
Deegan: My ideal escape from golf would be a family day at the beach, or if I'm not sparing any expenses, getting out on the water in a boat.
Bailey: Walk or run the beach. There's nothing like getting in two or three miles along the surf with your favorite tunes on the iPod (played low enough, of course, to hear the ocean.)
Tucker: The spectacle that is the 4th of July fireworks going on for miles along on the beach is an incredible sight to behold and a very festive atmosphere. If you're not there that weekend, see if the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-level minor league baseball) are in town.
Best place for a night out
Ginella: I recently had a good night at Hot Fish Club in Murrells Inlet, which included an outdoor patio, good scenery, live music and a dance party.
Bailey: Alabama Theater in North Myrtle Beach. Founded by the country music group Alabama, shows at this Grand Ole Opry-like venue include the long running "One The New Show" -- which is sort of like "Hee Haw" -- as well as special guest star appearances.
Tucker: The nights I spent at Molly Darcy's Irish Pub in North Myrtle Beach always had a nice mix of local and tourist patrons enjoying good party tunes in a great beachfront setting.
Favorite area of the Grand Strand
Ginella: I like the people, vibe, golf and pace of Pawleys Island.
Deegan: I, too, love the vibe of Pawleys Island.
Bailey: I like Pawleys as well, but some of my favorite courses (Barefoot and Tidewater, for example) and nightlife are in North Myrtle Beach.
Tucker: If I'm here to relax, I'd point my compass south towards Pawleys. But an honorable mention to Little River is in order, because it's a rare part of the Grand Strand with some hills and it's closer to more nightlife options.
Best Myrtle Beach travel tip
Deegan: Don't chase a star-studded itinerary by trying to play all the "ranked" courses. Chose the most convenient schedule for you and your buddies by playing near where you are staying. Driving up and down the strip will take more time and effort than you think.
Tucker: The best time to save money is in the late fall, particularly between Thanksgiving and New Year's, where green fees and hotel rooms align at near rock-bottom prices. And you should still be in the clear from the threat of frost delays.
Ginella: The facade that you see along Highway 17 can be deceiving. The more time you spend off the main strip that intersects The Strand, the better time you'll have.
Bailey: Myrtle Beach is a great blue-collar golf destination so if you shop around and use the internet, you can find some pretty good deals, no matter what time of year it is.
Most surprising thing about Myrtle Beach
Ginella: It's not surprising there are so many value-golf options along the Grand Strand, but not many people realize that the top courses here can compete with some of the best public golf in the country.
Bailey: Beachfront accommodations are very affordable, especially if you book golf packages, especially in the fall. Many of them aren't exactly luxurious, but you can't beat the location.
Deegan: I thought all the courses would be a steady diet of flat land, bunkers and water. There's a lot of that, but there's some nice variety, too, between the hills and pines of the north and the Lowcountry marshes of the southern end of the Strand.
Tucker: I was going to say "Canadians swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in February," but how about this: it's dang near impossible to find accommodations without a full kitchen, so make sure someone in your group can cook a mean breakfast.