SUNSET BEACH, N.C. - Few Grand Strand golf courses please the eye like Oyster Bay Golf Links, just north of Myrtle Beach, S.C., in Brunswick County.
For starters, its maritime setting just off the ocean coastline is exceptional. You'll play through shaded forests and around open marshes and lakes.
Its design, by Legends Golf developer Larry Young and architect Dan Maples, takes it up a notch. Little is subtle about the course, and you can't help but wonder what kind of maintenance budget goes into keeping up such a property. Oyster shells accent tee boxes; most other courses use wood chips. The bunkers are plentiful, severe and in many cases enormous.
And on the par-4 third hole, one green simply will not do. Alternate greens (both large) were built on opposite sides of a pond - so don't hit to the green until you see a flagstick.
Oyster Bay Golf Links' greens actually take on a life of their own here. Just about all of them are massive and severely sloping (much like Legends Golf Group's other Young design also set along marsh, the Heritage Club on Pawleys Island).
"The greens were a little undulating," said Chris Bailey, a regular visitor to Myrtle Beach from Virginia who was playing Oyster Bay for the first time. "And some of the pins were very tough, especially for a weekend. But otherwise, the course is beautiful and very playable."
It's true, you'll notice the group ahead of you is taking its sweet time, playing hockey around the cup for a few minutes. You curse them a little for not scooting off the green - until your foursome is doing the exact same thing 10 minutes later.
It makes you wonder if Young has taken one too many trips to Augusta National or Oakland Hills, both boasting some of the world's most severe greens.
The 18 (actually 19) greens at Oyster Bay Golf Links are going to chew up your card if you're not careful, and finding yourself above the pin spells doom. Perhaps their only player-friendly characteristic is being too sloping to ever cut the Bermuda grass tight enough to be lightening fast.
But chances are you'll be talking about the greens secondary to some of the other boldly designed holes.
The back side's two par 3s are both island greens, including the very short, delicate 17th hole (on this hole, you'll be wishing for the larger greens of the 16 previous). But it's the short, par-4 13th that's going to be the chatter amongst your group in the 19th hole.
Just 330 yards from the back tees, it plays tightly along a large lake to the right before heading to a green steeply elevated (with a tall concrete wall lining the right side) and guarded by an enormous, rugged bunker in front, which must be reckoned with on both the drive and the approach shot.
Oyster Bay Golf Links: The verdict
If you're a sun-starved, land-locked Northerner headed down to Myrtle Beach and want to be smothered in postcard-worthy golf holes, the kind that swim through your head when you're packing up your golf bag the night before your flight, Oyster Bay Golf Links is a more than worthy selection.
It's got island greens, lakes, marshes and even plenty of large alligators lounging along banks (rather big fellas, too). Some of the holes, like No. 13, will be cause for standing on the tee for a moment and marveling.
The course yardage is on the short side at just 6,685 yards, but that's misleading, because the course is a par 70, and the par 3s are on the short side (except for No. 15, which plays 215 yards entirely over water. But relax guys, the men's tees are a modest 135 yards). There are also a handful of long par 4s playing over 440 yards.
Oyster Bay Golf Links is home to a large clubhouse with a full bar and grill, plus a pro shop with plenty of apparel and some golf equipment. There is a large driving range and putting green.
Part of the Legends Golf Group umbrella, peak season rates at Oyster Bay Golf Links are $130, though they drop as low as $70 in the off-season. As with all Myrtle Beach-area golf courses, it's best to book through a golf package.
Stay and play: Tilghman Beach & Golf Resort in North Myrtle Beach
If you're looking to make the North Strand your base and are looking for a beachside resort, head to the Tilghman Beach & Golf Resort in North Myrtle Beach. The resort features 220 two and three-bedroom condominiums with full kitchens and modern appliances and amenities, including flat screen, LCD TVs. Each room also comes with large balconies that overlook either the ocean or the Surf Golf & Beach Club.