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Pine Lakes & Grande Dunes Enhance Myrtle Beach's Buffet of Great Courses


Myrtle Beach and its nearby golf-centric communities are, with more than 100 courses, a little like a sumptuous Mexican food buffet. There are so many great options available where a golfer can either gorge his favorite type of course or sample a bit of everything, from the mild to the spicy.

Aerial View of Pine Lakes CC

Using that analogy, two courses in the area - Pine Lakes Country Club and the Resort Course at Grande Dunes - would be placed at the opposite ends of the serving line.

Pine Lakes is a little like beans and rice, a solid staple that when done correctly can make the meal instead of just accentuate it. Grande Dunes' Resort Course is more akin to the flan and the Tres Leches cake brought out after the main course, sweet (but not too much so), soothing and full of flair and different flavors.

It's easy to separate the two courses because of their difference in age and varied challenges. Regardless, both belong on your short list when on the Grand Strand; each has charms that separate them from the pack.

Pine Lakes CC.

Pine Lakes Set the Pace

Built in 1927, Pine Lakes was the first course built in the Myrtle Beach area and is considered the "Granddaddy" that sparked the golf boom along this 60-mile-long stretch of shoreline in South Carolina's Lowcountry. Designed by architect Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America and a co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the course was built upon natural dunes less than a half-mile from the Atlantic Ocean's breaking waves and features numerous freshwater lakes and rolling fairways.

Pine Lakes was extensively renovated in the late-2000s by Craig Schreiner, reopening in 2009 with a completely new routing that allowed the course to keep many of the design characteristics from White's original course. The current Pine Lakes plays to a par of 70 and 6,675 yards from its back set of four tees; from there, the course is rated 72.3 and has a 134 Slope.

Schreiner retained just seven of the original holes, adding two new holes in place of the old 17th and 18th (which were eliminated when a new entrance was built). The renovation gave the place a shiny luster and enhanced playability.

Pine Lakes' Stately Clubhouse

Schreiner restored Pine Lakes' putting surfaces to their original size, an average of more than 5,000-square-feet each, considerably larger than before the redo. The fairways now have more movement, a means of defense for a layout dotted by about three dozen bunkers.

The course opens with two short and straight holes purposely designed to breed confidence at the start of the round. What's now the third hole (it used to be the 12th) is perhaps the toughest test at Pine Lakes. Formerly a short par-5, No. 3 is now a 463-yard two-shotter that requires a strong, accurate approach into a green guarded by water on the right and with little bailout space.

The 369-yard par-4 ninth really should be Pine Lakes' finisher. It's a dogleg-left over and around water and features a backdrop of the clubhouse and views of the Myrtle Beach skyline. It's short enough to tempt players to try and drive the green, but the steepness of the fairway's left flank forces many balls into the hazard when golfers are too aggressive.

The new 155-yard No. 11th - the seventh before the renovation - is considered the signature hole. A lake protecting the green was expanded and a false front adds to this shortie's testiness. When the azaleas bloom in the spring, you'll think you are in Augusta instead of South Carolina. This is one of the most scenic holes on the Grand Strand.

No. 14, a 438-yard par-4, is a valley hole with water at the bottom before it climbs steeply to a green with massive, walled bunkers in front and peripherally. It's both daunting and fun.

The 450-yard, par-4 closer has a crescent of water along the right that is near the tee; the hazard then reenters play near the green. This subtle hole is tough off the tee, especially when the wind in swirling.

Pine Lakes was the first Grand Strand layout to install SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum. Pine Lakes uses the saltwater-tolerant turf for all its surfaces, differentiating tee boxes, fairways, roughs and greens by grass height.

The clubhouse was also remodeled but retains a 1927 feel, now boasting restored wood floors and a new decor. The original white-columned Ocean Forest Hotel and Country Club is reserved for members and includes the Snug Pub. Attached to it and open to all-comers is a brand-new pro shop and the Robert White Pub.

In addition to its place in Myrtle Beach golf history, Pine Lakes is known for its role in the formation of Sports Illustrated. In the early 1950s, a group of 67 executives from Time-Life, Inc., including publisher Henry Booth Luce, came to Myrtle Beach by train to play the course and to plan a sports weekly. SI appeared on newsstands shortly thereafter.

For more information, visit www.pinelakes.com.

No. 3 at Resort Course at Grande Dunes

Grande Dunes' Resort Course Has Multiple Identities

There's a little bit of everything to like about the Roger Rulewich-designed Resort Course at Grande Dunes, one of two tracks that are the centerpieces of a 2,200-acred community alongside the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Resort Course is carded at a knee-buckling 7,578 yards from the tips, where it carries a rating of 77.1 and a Slope of 142; take my advice and don't dare play from here.

Opened in 2001, the course is windswept and rolling, with water abounding at nearly every turn. The golfer is faced with forced carries on eight holes; only three holes don't have water hazards. Seven play along the Intracoastal Waterway, but there are more than 34 acres of freshwater lakes sprinkled around the layout.

To be fair, Rulewich (who designed all the courses on Alabama's popular Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail) also gives the golfer elevated tees to assist with many of the forced carries, as well as wide Bermuda fairways and large bentgrass greens. The real test here is in hitting approaches to places that facilitate scoring.

The 9th at Grande Dunes' Resort Course

Nine of the course's 10 par-4s stretch 420 yards or more from the back tees and just one of the par-3s (the 190-yard 11th, with a series of waste bunkers and trees between the tee box and putting surface) is less than 209 yards.

But sheer yardage doesn't really define the Resort Course. Instead, accuracy is paramount. The 571-yard par-5 seventh is a perfect example: Water on both sides pinches first the landing area and then the lay-up spot; here it's like trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle.

The topography of Grande Dunes along the western bluffs of the waterway creates valleys and uphill and downhill shots, adding to its testiness. The putting surfaces are sloped, but most are not too severe and putts are makeable if approaches can find the right spots.

The 241-yard par-3 eighth is one of the prettiest and most deadly holes you're likely to play, falling 60 feet downhill to a shallow green fronted by a pond. Wind whips off the waterway, situated 50 yards behind it.

The 14th at Grande Dunes' Resort Course

But even that hole pales when compared to the 14th, a 220-yard one-shotter that starts at a tee box high above the waterway. The golfer must carry a steep ravine to reach a two-tiered green guarded front and right by a large bunker. The putting surface is long and narrow and slopes upward from the ravine.

Upon opening, the Resort Course at Grande Dunes was named a "Top 10 You Can Play" course by Golf Magazine and has since been recognized as the "National Golf Course of the Year" by the National Golf Course Owners Association of America.

Myrtle Beach locals consistently vote the venue as one of the "Best of the Beach," high praise because of the competition from the number of great courses in the area.

For more info, see www.grandedunes.com/golf.

Steve Habel is a freelance writer contributing Cybergolf news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, and is a contributing writer for Golfers' Guide and Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com) features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com) chronicles his many travels, including playing more than 600 golf courses since 2008. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.