(Written by Jim Allen) … Golfest 2006 turned out to be our most aggressive golf adventure to date. After reviewing the Golf Digest list, we discovered that South Carolina proudly plays host to nine of the Top 100 courses. This ties the state of Michigan for the highest number of premier courses. Who would’ve guessed? Now this trip would be walk in the park if all nine courses were conveniently located in the greater Myrtle Beach area. However, in this case, the courses stretch the entire distance of the states coastline. This trip would start on Hilton Head Island and work its way right up to the Barefoot Resort. just a few miles south of the North Carolina border.
If you ever want to fill up your recycle bin, send away for a South Carolina Tourism Guide. In the matter of weeks, you will receive literally hundreds of mailbox cloggers plugging every hotel, resort and golf course in the state. It’s way too much to comprehend. To help us out with our planning and accommodations, we incorporated the help of Linda & Colin Barker. They run a golf-travel company called Myrtle Beach Welcome. Linda, who is from England and sounds like the Queen over the phone, saved us the chore of sifting through the tourist hype and just got us to where we wanted to go. It may have been the best call we ever made — “Hail to the Queen!”
The destination for the first leg of the trip was the Hilton Head airport-hair care-and tire center. One of those tiny places where about five planes land each day and all of the people are just absolutely thrilled – in a southern sort of way — that we have actually come to visit. Their state slogan started to make some sense – “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places.” Too bad it wasn’t, “Longer Runways, Better Planes.” Hilton Head isn’t exactly the easiest place to get to from the left coast.
We were fixed up in some nice two-bedroom condos at the Sea Pines Resort. One unit hosted Jim Allen, Jim Dee, Jeffrey Adkins, & Mike Werner. Rickey Berger & Craig Decker took over the other, along with Mark Suzda and first time golfester Brian Birdwell. We would be joined by others on the second leg of the trip. Once situated in our rooms, our group wasted no time securing the necessary provisions that included – but were not limited to – Red Bull, Cigars, Vodka, Crown Royal, Tequila and margarita mixes. The Red Bull came in cases, and the alcohol came in gallon-sizes. After all, we had our priorities.
This excellent weekend would feature an 18-hole outing at the famous Harbour Town Golf Links, followed by a 120-mile drive up the coast to the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The two were ranked 14th and 8th, respectively on the list, so we were pretty pumped.
Harbour Town Golf Links was first up on Saturday morning. It was in pristine shape because it had hosted a PGA event the previous weekend. Some of the grounds crews were still in the process of dismantling the seating on the famous par-5 18th lighthouse hole. Despite the fact that 100,000 people had just trampled through it, the club house and pro shop were in excellent shape. It’s a classy place. After a breakfast burrito, we were off.
Harbour Town is a somewhat narrow, tree lined affair, especially when you look back at the locations of the championship tees. Strategically placed traps and water make shot accuracy a must. I‘ve never seen so many divots from 100 to 120 yards in on most holes, pointing out that the pros played to their strengths on the last shot. We wished we had that problem.
Two major improvements will happen to your golf game at Harbour Town. You will master the low punch-out shot from deep in the tree-line and you will know exactly where to look when your drives ricochet off a tree and lands in a trap. Rickey Berger had the best day, shooting a very respectable 74. Obviously, he avoided both scenarios.
We had a high-noon tee time at Kiawah Island on Sunday, so we got our troops rolling around 8:00 a.m. The featured movies in the DVD-players in the mini-van and Expedition were Bagger Vance and Caddyshack. Collectively, our group has seen both movies enough time to actually recite the script. Mike and Jeffrey willingly surrendered the front seat of their Expedition to play the kiddy DVD role in the back seat. They literally knew every word of the movie. Need a flashback? I thought so …
Al Czervik: “Last time I saw a mouth like that, it had a hook in it.”
Carl Spackler: I smell varmint poontang. And the only good varmint poontang is dead varmint poontang, I think.
Ty Webb: Remember Danny – Two wrongs don’t make a right but three rights make a left.
Al Czervik: You’re a lot of woman, you know that? Yeah, wanna make 14 dollars the hard way?
Carl Spackler: Wait up, girls; I got a salami I gotta hide still.
Ty Webb: Just be the ball, be the ball, be the ball. You’re not being the ball Danny.
Danny Noonan: It’s hard when you’re talking like that.
Carl Spackler: Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac… It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!
Lacey Underall: My uncle says you’ve got a screw loose.
Ty Webb: Your uncle molests collies.
With lines like that, it’s amazing that Caddyshack didn’t win an Academy Award, putting itself in the same category as “Gone with the Wind. After all, the best Scarlett O’Hare could come up with was, “Great balls of fire. Don’t bother me anymore, and don’t call me sugar.”
We were greeted at Kiawah Island with 20-mile per hour winds, which is normal for courses with the word OCEAN in their name. But it didn’t matter, because we were happy to get out of the car and the movie was over. More importantly, we were at the course which made its big screen debut (Nov. 2000) in the movie – “The Legend of Bagger Vance.” How about that for a DVD tie in?
We were treated to a first class facility and something new to most of us – GATORS! While it is probably no big deal to see one of these in the Carolinas, it’s a big deal for us. On the left coast, we are lucky to see the occasional deer or coyote. On most days, it’s just a squirrel and some horny rabbits. Of course, none of those second-tier animals have the “cool factor” of an eight-foot alligator sunbathing on a tee box.
This Pete Dye Course was built in 1991 and has more seaside holes than any other course in the North America – 10 right along the Atlantic with the other eight running parallel to those. The foursome of Berger, Birdwell, Decker and Suzda were first off. They spotted the first gator on the 12th hole and it was 10-foot long beast. Of course, all of us had to work the angles to get in a picture with it. Then there was the bright idea of seeing how close we could get to it. We discovered that alligators are extremely quick. Stupid tourist! One of us would have made a hearty meal. We taste like chicken.
The big excitement of the day took place on the 17th hole, a picturesque 168 yard par-three that basically is all carry over water. As spelled out in the course book – “any dry shot is a good shot on this hole.” Mark Suzda, who had won one million dollars with a Mega-Millions lottery ticket earlier in the year, continued his luck here. He nailed a seven-iron (which was caught on camera by Rickey Berger) into a 25-mile per hour wind, hit the edge of the green, and two-hopped it into the cup for his first ever hole-in-one. Now there are several types of hoopin’ and a hollerin’ that can take place on a golf course. There is the hoopin’ that takes place when one sinks a 50-footer for a birdie. There is the hollerin’ when one nails a tree and the ball punches back out to the center of the fairway. Then there is the noise that comes from a group after a hole-in-one. This celebrating is in a class of its own and has its own unique decibel rating. After a much-deserved flurry of high-fives, our groups worked our way the final 400-yards to the clubhouse and rang up the obligatory bar tab. Now getting a hole-in-one at your local muni-course is one thing. But acing it at Kiawah Island is about as good as it gets. Mark can now brag that he one-timed it at the Toughest Resort Course in America. It’s also the same place where they held the famous Ryder Cup “War on the Shore” in 1991. And of course, let’s not forget that Bagger Vance thing.
Afterwords our group motored up the freeway about an hour to Pawleys Plantation and hooked-up with the rest of the group. Joining us were Art Taylor, Tony Fernandes, Mike Muchmore, Bob Potts, and Greg Jones. Our group shared a huge two-story four-plex condominium house at the Pawleys. There was a ton of room to spread out and we had the perfect patio and chairs needed to enjoy the fine art of cigar smoking. On the agenda the next morning was the 78th ranked Heritage Club, followed by a non-rated expedition at the Plantation course.
The Heritage Club was unique in that it contains some true remnants of the old south. On the peripherals of the course are old tomb stones and even an old slave graveyard left over from the old Plantation days. You don’t find that everywhere. The course is very scenic, loaded with trees and an abundance of water. By the way, there was a lady on the first tee who in just a matter of minutes snapped individual and group photos of our Golfest faction. At the turn, they were all framed up, something that is proudly displayed in my home office.
On Tuesday, we took in the sister courses at True Blue Golf Club and the Caledonia Golf and Fish Club. Both are on Pawleys Island and both are fantastic courses, complete with a full serving of photo opportunities with
the scenery and even more GATORS. Caledonia even serves up a bowl of fresh clam chowder on the first tee. How cool is that?
Speaking of Caledonia, it is a unique course that features a two-story plantation clubhouse that overlooks the 18th green – the end of a377-yard par four, with a huge carry over water. We really didn’t pay much attention to it until we stood on the 18th tee box. At that point, we noticed that the group in front of us was getting cheered and/or heckled by the spectators kicking back on the rockers on the second floor patio. They were enjoying their 19th hole cocktails. Not only was the second shot over the water scrutinized, they analyzed every chip and pitch around the green. Great … can you say performance anxiety?
Our group made it through pretty much unscathed. This allowed us time grab a cocktail, a rocker, and fine tune our best sport announcer voices as we narrated the action of the remaining Golfest foursomes coming home. We were cruel, we were funny, and we were throwing fuel on the hecklers fire with our comments. It was hilarious. The locals joined in and many were laughing so hard, tears were coming out of their eyes and beer out of their noses. We intended to only “critique” our groups so we wouldn’t offend somebody we didn’t know. However, at that point, we had primed the pump and the boo’s got more rambunctious and personal. Things went downhill when one of the (non-Golfest) hackers dumped his second shot in the water. The boo’s were brutal. The guy promptly pumped a defiant and very purposeful “I’m not joking” one-finger salute at the clubhouse. We got out of dodge before they made a sequel to Deliverance.
We headed a little further up the coast to North Myrtle Beach and the Barefoot Resort. We stayed in the towers at the resort and the accommodations were over the top. Six of us were directed to the 4000 square foot penthouse in the middle building. The rest of our group got the same settings on a different floor. Each was decked with flat screens, a huge kitchen, four bedrooms and four huge bathrooms. If there was ever perfect accommodations for 13 tired golfers, this was as close as it gets. (They need to add wireless for a perfect score).
Wednesday would mark the third of four consecutive back-to-back golf rounds. The first stop was at the Fazio course right up the street, followed by a quick drive over to the Tidewater Golf Club. Between the two, we wolfed lunch outside of the Barefoot clubhouse – which features an outside bar and hamburger stand. If you inhaled your burger fast enough (which are awesome), you could waddle over to the shade of the clubhouse patio where a lady was giving massages. Mark Suzda was all over that.
Our drive to Tidewater was supposed to be a quick drive, but we got spun around a couple of times. But it still left us enough time to grab some Gatorades and a box of golf balls from the pro shop. It is interesting to point out that Tidewater bills itself as the “Pebble Beach of the East.” Kind of ironic since Pebble overlooks an ocean and Tidewater overlooks a swampy Inter-Coastal marsh. It’s nice in its own right, but it’s like comparing Angelina Jolie to Rosie O’Donnell. The two are not equal and chances are the publicist who came up with the perky quote never went to Pebble Beach. It is what it is, a golf course which offers the “perfect combination of natural beauty and challenging play.”
Outback would serve as the restaurant of choice for two consecutive nights. Knocking down a salad, a Victoria filet, some shrimp on the Barbie, a baked potato, a piece of cheesecake, and a couple of frozen margaritas after 36-holes isn’t quite heaven, but you sure can definitely see the pearly gates from there. There was no dieting on this trip.
The final day of our trip featured another awesome morning round at Barefoot, this time on the Love course. This course has some pretty cool golf holes and is extremely worthy of its #38 rating. Then it was time for another burger, another massage, and a 20-minute drive. The final venue of the trip was the semi-private Dunes Golf & Beach Club (rated #39), whose logo is appropriately – an alligator. While here, it struck us as kind of strange that this is the first time we actually saw the ocean from a golf course while in Myrtle Beach. All of the other courses were located inland, surrounded by dense tree lines.
Mike Werner, Jeffrey Adkins, and Mike Muchmore were the first group out at the Dunes and blew through in only 3 ½ hours. The rest of us took a more leisurely approach. The cart girl ended up making a killing off of us as we celebrated our Top 100 Quest throughout the round. Brian Birdwell put the trip in perspective as we stood on the 17th tee box. “Now teeing off on the 179th hole of Golfest 2006 …” Man, that is a lot of golf.
Sometime during our four-and-a-half hour adventure, our group stumbled across a left-handed wedge. After inquiring with left handers Greg Jones and Jim Dee, we determined that the club must belong to Mr. Werner – the only other left hander in our group. Something told me that the frat boys were going to get creative returning this club. Obviously, Mike’s toilet was going to come into play, preferably after taking care of business. Later that evening, when the time was right, the club was left stuck in his commode. By the luck of the draw, somebody forgot to flush (actually Mike claimed there was a plumbing problem). About 20-minutes later Mike was heard asking, “Hey, how did this club get in my toilet? Very funny!” We stated we were doing him a favor by returning it — since he left it on the course. “It’s not mine,” explained Mike. “I use a Callaway wedge. The club in the toilet is a Cleveland?” Whoops? That didn’t work out like it was planned.
When all was said and done, nine courses were knocked off our list in South Carolina. Overall, we played 10 rounds of golf in only six days. Most of us slept very well on the plane, dreaming about Caddyshack. …
(Ty Webb) “I’m going to give you a little advice. There’s a force in the universe that makes things happen. And all you have to do is get in touch with it, stop thinking, let things happen, and be the ball.”