Glen and Beth Sible have a strategy every time they head south for a spring golf trip. The couple from Carson City, Mich., seeks out courses designed by Dan Maples.
Maples has done some fine work in his career, especially in his backyard of the Carolinas. But he's no big name, like Jack Nicklaus, Pete Dye or Donald Ross, and his courses rarely land on coveted "best of" lists.
So why are the Sibles so bullish on Maples? It's because of the playability factor.
Golf Digest ranks seven courses by Maples among its top 60 along the Grand Strand, which is more than any other architect.
"We try to play as many Maples courses as we can," Glen Sible said just minutes after finishing a recent round at The Witch Golf Club in Conway, S.C., just minutes from Myrtle Beach. "They are always nice. If you hit a good shot, you are rewarded."
Beth Sible said Maples courses are always women friendly, the critical component that allows the couple to enjoy playing together.
"I like that you didn't feel over your head [playing the Witch]," she said. "I appreciated that. I am a pretty green golfer. We really enjoyed this course. We will come back again because we like it a lot."
Richard Kascsak, the assistant general manager at Sandpiper Bay Golf & Country Club in Sunset Beach, N.C., credits Maples for making his 27-hole course so friendly and fun. Sandpiper Bay was named the 2010 course of the year by the Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association after finishing a major three-year renovation that made a number of cosmetic changes, including new MiniVerde Bermuda grass greens.
"[Maples] kept all skill levels in mind. He didn't make it too long," Kascsak said in 2011. "The bunkers are placed well. He kept the greens playable, and there are many pin locations. He just did a good job thinking about the average player."
Sandpiper Bay isn't the only worthy Maples course in Sunset Beach, N.C., a northern outpost of the Grand Strand. More water and wetlands, along with cavernous bunkers and some wicked greens, create dramatic theater at Oyster Bay Golf Links . Two island-green par 3s showcase the freshwater lakes and marshland surrounding the par-70, 6,700-yard course. The Maples Course at Sea Trail Golf Resort & Convention Center features five holes along the Calabash Creek. It is the oldest of the resort's three courses, dating to 1986.
The Pearl's East Course and West Course in nearby Calabash, N.C., complement one another. The 7,006-yard West aims for a links feel and finishes triumphantly along the Calabash River, while the 6,793-yard East winds through the pines for a more traditional look. Crowned green are its greatest defense.
Dan Maples Central Strand courses
Closer to Myrtle Beach proper, Wizard Golf Club and Man O' War Golf Club , sister Maples courses to The Witch, are part of the Mystical Golf family and share the same 100-acre lake. The Man O' War's back-to-back island greens and The Wizard's watery two-hole finish will be intimidating for some beginners, but couples who have some game will soak up their challenges.
Dan Maples South Strand courses
Maples' best work along the Grand Strand belongs at the southern tip in Pawleys Island, S.C., home to two highly regarded courses, The Heritage Club and Willbrook Plantation Golf Club . The par-71 Heritage Club drips of the Lowcountry, framed by 300-year-old oaks covered in Spanish moss, lakes and marshes. The Southern Colonial clubhouse overlooks the Waccamaw River. A slave memorial grave site lies beside the fifth green. Willbrook serves up the most difficult opening hole in the region and a signature island green at the 155-yard sixth hole.
When it comes to couples golf along the Grand Strand, Dan Maples is the man.