PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. - The Tradition Golf Club in Pawleys Island south of Myrtle Beach is a benefactor - and victim - of its neighborhood.
Sure, this golf course gets plenty of traffic in Myrtle Beach's golf-rich South Strand. But it's also located just a stone's throw from three of Golf Digest's "Top 100 Places You Can Play:" Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, True Blue Golf Plantation and the Heritage Club, not to mention the area's newest golf course, the Founders Club, and other mainstays like the marshy Pawleys Plantation.
Suffice to say, it takes a lot to stick out from the pack in this area. And while the Tradition Golf Club isn't the first golf course to cross many golfers' minds when they head south, it's worthy of any group's short list.
The course is a Ron Garl design built in 1995 that plays just under 6,900 yards from the championship tees. Like all the courses on the lowcountry coast, it's set on 16th century, scenic plantation property that dishes up easy-going, lemonade-sippin' tranquility.
"Visually, it's very scenic," said Harry Albright, a 15-handicap visiting from Pennsylvania. He and his playing partner both agreed Tradition was the best of the three courses they'd played on their long weekend trip in February, which included nearby Wicked Stick and Wachesaw Plantation East.
"The par-3 15th hole over water, with the split rail fence behind the green, is one of my favorites. I also thought the par-5 ninth hole was very well designed," Albright added.
Most holes are generously lined with trees on either side, so you won't be O.B. all day long. The water carries aren't as easily avoidable. The Traditon has its share of long carries on par 3s, 4s and 5s. You'll pass the sternest one on the drive into the golf club - the par-4 seventh, which has a peninsula green with no margin for error.
Otherwise, the aforementioned ninth hole demands a confident swing to carry marshland on the second shot leading up to an uphill green - certainly the Tradition's trickiest hole on an otherwise player-friendly, straight forward layout where driver can be used 14 times - so above-the-hole approach shots aren't advised.
Tradition Golf Club: The verdict
There's really no such thing as a Grand Strand "hidden gem," not when four million rounds are played annually on the 100-plus golf courses in Myrtle Beach each year. But to some degree the Tradition Golf Club flies under the radar because of all the competition nearby and the fact that it's not part of a larger golf course company like Myrtle Beach National, Burroughs & Chapin or Legends Golf Group, which all have more marketing muscle.
In late February the Tradition's greens were outstanding: fast, firm and true, an utter blast to putt on. In fact, tee-to-green, conditions were as good as you're going to find this time of year in the Carolinas, when the rough is still dormant and the fairways and greens are over-seeded.
The facilities here are top-notch as well. The beautiful clubhouse, designed to look like it's been there awhile, features a pro shop, a grill serving lunch and breakfast and a locker room with a small changing area.
There is a large driving range, golf school, practice bunker and a massive, 43,000-square-foot putting and chipping green.
The Tradition's green fees sit comfortably in the Grand Strand's upper-middle tier and are a real bargain compared to some neighboring courses. Peak season rates are $120 but fall to as low as $50 in the off-season. As with most Grand Strand golf courses, it can be booked cheapest through a Waccamaw Golf Trail package.
Stay and Play: Litchfield Golf & Beach Resort
Located just across the street from the Tradition Club, the Litchfield Golf & Beach Resort is easy to spot driving south on Highway 17. Just look for the massive, live oak tree with a fallen branch, a favorite photo op for visitors and area wedding pictures.
The resort is a sprawling, 600-acre facility with numerous lodging options, both on golf courses or lake and beach view rooms. There are weekly golf happy hours most times of the year, and resort guests also receive free golf for kids at River Club, Litchfield Country Club and Willbrook Plantation with a paying adult.