PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- A renovation within the first two years of a course opening is usually an ominous sign, but not at True Blue Plantation, one of the best courses along The Grand Strand.
When True Blue first opened in 1998, the golf course had a hard time living up to the reputation of its gorgeous older sister just down the street, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club.
Comparisons between the two Mike Strantz courses were inevitable, and the brawny, 7,126-yard True Blue was deemed too penal by many players.
Begrudgingly, Strantz returned in 2000 to tweak nine holes, while the greens were converted to Tif Eagle Bermuda.
Changes bolster True Blue Plantation's ranking
Buoyed by its cosmetic changes, True Blue now ranks third on Golf Digest's list of the 60 best courses in the Myrtle Beach region, just behind No. 1 Caledonia and the No. 2 Dunes Golf and Beach Club. True Blue plays bigger, badder and bolder than Caledonia, a more scenic and intimate design on a much smaller parcel of land. Strantz used all 325 acres of the former rice and indigo plantation to accommodate True Blue's massive fairways and gigantic greens.
"There are a lot of reasons why people love True Blue," said Bob Seganti, the director of golf at True Blue Plantation. "The width of the fairways is tremendous. Most people hit it side to side and move on. The conditioning is always good year-round. Here, you get a wow factor when you get to most tees. What is unique is you get elevation you don't see in the area. Strantz was a master at visual deception."
Signature par 5s at True Blue Plantation
Five par 5s are True Blue's signature. The course attacks from the moment a player steps on the first tee, a par 5 that ranks as the No. 1 handicap. Like a lot of holes here, it's easy to get into position to score, yet hard to seal the deal. A creek and deep waste bunker ring the elevated first green.
The par-5 fourth boomerangs around a water hazard and a waste bunker so deep it requires ladders to get in and out. Not even Shaquille O'Neal can see out of the flash-faced bunker guarding the right side of the green of the par-5 ninth. The par-5 10th might be the best of the bunch. It doglegs right playing over the waste bunker that leaks into the heart of the fairway, finishing at a tilted green.
Strantz uses water for dramatic theater coming home on the par-3 16th and the long par 4s at No. 17 and No. 18. The finishing hole plays in the shadow of the clubhouse with its signature blue roof.
Blue might be the universal theme throughout the day at True Blue, but playing this dynamic design never leaves players feeling that way.
True Blue Plantation: The verdict
Caledonia might be ranked higher, but I actually had more fun playing True Blue. For such a huge ballpark, it still demands precision and proper angles of attack. There are plenty of risk-reward shots to keep the day interesting. The first four holes might be the best starting stretch in the Southeast.