Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
Pawley's Island, SC (just south of Myrtle Beach)
1994, Mike Stranz
Pintail 6526, 70.9, 132, 70
Mallard 6121, 68.8, 122, 70
Directions: From Myrtle Beach proper, take Hwy 17 S approx. 20 mi. to Pawley's Isl., once you come to the Pawley's Isl. traffic light turn right, travel 3 mi. to a 4-way stop and turn left, proceed 1/2 mi. to the course, entrance on right.
Fees: ~$130 Wknd Peak
2000 Top 100 You Can Play
#10 Golf World 2008 Reader's Choice poll
Golf Digest Face Off, 2/11:
Mike Strantz got his training from Tom Fazio, but it seems he drew his inspiration for his first solo design -- Caledonia Golf & Fish Club -- from that master of target golf, Pete Dye. Maybe it was the small acreage (only room for a short-game practice area) or because Strantz wanted to preserve every ancient, magnificent live oak. (He chopped down just one.) Whatever the reason, Caledonia is long on beauty but short on strategic options. Even if you split every fairway off the tee, you'll be forced to play over at least one umbrella oak and two lagoons to reach greens during a round. Miss fairways and you'll find it hard to scramble from beneath pines to greens perched above deep bunkers. All five par 3s also require aerial approaches, especially to avoid the "coffin bunker" on 17. The par 70 Caledonia is just 6,526 yards from the tips (misleading because two back tees are basically inaccessible) and plays even shorter because yardage is measured to the center, not the front edge, of enormously long greens. Five greens are more than 50 yards deep, and two others are 60 yards wide, so expect some three-putts if you mis-club. I'd call Caledonia the Joe Pesci of golf courses, but it's a lot prettier.
I would build every trip to Myrtle Beach around Caledonia, widely considered the best of The Grand Strand. (It topped the list of our 60 favorite Myrtle Beach courses in our May 2010 issue.) Just thinking about rolling up the long, oak-lined driveway gives me chicken skin. The layout is easy on the feet and the eyes. You'll hit every club in your bag, but it's not too long, and it's fairly narrow, so you won't need driver off every tee. None of its forced carries is more thrilling than the approach shot to the 18th green. If you play it right, you won't have more than 150 yards remaining to a well-protected putting surface. But knowing there are usually strangers on the back porch of the classic Southern clubhouse who are wagering on your shot can squeeze the lungs and shake the knees. "Making bets while drinking a beer on the porch is the reason some people come back," says Marc Guertin, head professional at Caledonia. "I would say one out of every four shots ends up in the water." I cleared the water but missed the green and lost my bet. And then I went to the porch, ordered a beer and bet until I won my money back -- anything to delay my departure.
Fat Guy Notes : Per both my buddy Heisler and T&L Golf , this is among the top two or three best tracks in Myrtle. A distinctive layout, nice vistas, excellent condition, top notch service. Built on former rice plantation, complete with tree-lined entrance drive (ala Magnolia Lane)...
...and a clubhouse that's a replica of the original 1700's mansion. 4-1/2 stars by Golf Digest . A Must Play.
However, by contrast my buddy Gil called it "way overrated" and said it wasn't in great shape. Kinda short, he wasn't impressed. A friend Jim says the layout isn't spectacular, but it's usually in great shape. Personally I'm a huge fan of the architect, Mike Stranz, so I'd have to play it just for that.
Nearby Courses To Try: Despite consistently mixed reviews, I've heard enough good things about Caledonia's nearby sister course, True Blue ( www.truebluegolf.com ), and know enough about it's architect Mike Stranz, to say go judge it for yourself. Ranked #16 on Golf World's 2008 Reader's Choice poll.
Best Bar Nearby: As stated above, Caledonia's back porch is a great spot for a post-round beer and some heckling/wagering on groups playing into the nearby water-protected 18th green.
Where To Booze, Grub & Stay, Myrtle Beach: See Fat Guy's Myrtle Beach SC Golf Weekend