Fat Guy's Myrtle Beach SC Golf Weekend
Fat Guy Review
Myrtle Beach- The Reader's Digest Version (see below for more detail):
Research Resources: Ask any golfing buddies/acquantances/co-workers what tour group or hotel they use for their annual trip. If you can't find any personal recommendations, non-profit regional golf promoter Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday has cornered the mass marketing angle. Call them at 800-845-4653 and request one of their catalogues via snail mail… it's a much more pleasant way to research courses and hotels than their designed-by-a-crack-addict website.
Where To Stay: Buddy-trip partiers will want to stay in Myrtle Beach proper. Try the three midscale chains at Broadway At The Beach (Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express , or Fairfield by Marriott ) to be stumbling distance from this nightlife mecca and avoid the dreaded Nassau for designated driver status. Or for a good value try the beachside, family-friendly Carribean Resort's Jamaica Motel . More mature buddy trips might prefer the slightly quieter but still lively environs of North Myrtle. Those wanting pure peace and quiet should try Ocean Isle in North Carolina. Course collectors and silver-spooners will be happier in the Low Country on the south end of town near Murrell's Inlet and Pawley's Island. Other upscale, no-brainer options include the Dunes, Legends , and Barefoot golf resorts.
Here's the latest list of Golf Digest's Top 50 Courses In Myrtle:
Where To Play, Grub & Play:
Southern North Carolina:
Upscale: Tiger's Eye, Thistle, Sea Trail- Rees Jones, The Pearl, Bald Head
Good Values: Oyster Bay, Sandpiper Bay, Brickwood
Upscale: Tidewater, any of the Barefoot courses, Long Bay, Glen Dornoch
Good Values: Possum Trot, Crow Creek, Diamond Back
Booze: Murray Bros. Caddyshack, Thee Doll House, Hooters, House Of Blues, Crab Catcher's, Oscar's
Grub: Greg Norman's Australian Grill, Dick's Last Resort, Umberto's, Dirty Don's Oyster Bar
Upscale: The Dunes (resort stay required), Pine Lakes, any of the Legends courses, World Tour, Myrtle Beach National- King's North
Good Values: The Witch, Wild Wing- Avocet, Man O' War, Myrtlewood- Pine Hills
Booze: Derriere's, Masters, Penthouse Club, Broadway At The Beach (Margaritaville, Nascar Café, Revolutions, Malibus/Froggy Bottoms/Celebrations, Crocodile Rocks, Club Kryptonite), Freaky Tiki Bar
Grub: Sea Captain's House for breakfast, Joe's Crab Shack, Landry's Seafood, Phillip's, Pier 14, New York Prime, Sticky Fingers BBQ, Hamburger Joe's
South Myrtle/Pawley's Island:
Upscale: TPC Myrtle, Caledonia, True Blue, Prestwick, River Club, Tradition, Willbrook, Founder's Club
Good Values: Pawley's Island, Blackmoor, Indigo Creek, Whispering Pines, Wicked Stick
Booze: Suck Bang Blow, Beaver Bar
Grub: Bubba's Fish House, Krystal, Frank's, David Badari's, Hanna's, Bovine's, Divine Fish House, Carriage House
The Full Fat Guy Myrtle Review :
I've been to Myrtle twice now… The first visit was a few years ago for a bachelor party, so I don't recall a lot of specifics. The second was a 4-day sojourn in 2007 where we did a fair amount of exploring. Here's where I stand on the Grand Strand:
When To Go: Mid-February is the tail end of the winter off-season, so you can get some deals but the weather is very much a dice roll. March through to mid-May is high season for golf. Late May trips might be the ideal time to go during Spring, as you're still facing somewhat uncertain weather back home in the North, but prices have already begun to drop in Myrtle, but you also run the risk of leaving perfect 80 degree weather at home for hotter environs in South Carolina. Fall is also a popular time for golfers , and slightly less crowded than the spring season, with slightly lower prices. Summer visits will find you dealing not only with the South Carolina heat, but also the throngs of families who vacation here so Dad can sneak out for a round or two while the brood bakes on the sand (along with the resulting traffic and restaurant waits). Summer greens fees drop only slightly from the spring high season due to this built-in demand. My buddy Bill has been coming to Myrtle for years, and recommends the middle two weeks of August as a good time for a family vacation with a few rounds thrown in for Dad. He says the low-90's heat is bearable with the ocean breezes, particularly on the beach, plus off-season hotel rates are in effect as South Carolina schools go back a week or two earlier than most, and greens fees are still at off-peak levels before the fall buddy trip season kicks in, but make sure you grab early tee times to avoid the worst of the heat. For good value buddy trips, TravelGolf.com says, " Go between Thanksgiving and New Year. The weather is usually ideal in the high 60s or low 70s, and hotels and courses are offering attractive discounts, because most travelers are visiting family and not taking golf trips between the holidays." Also, check the Chamber Of Commerce website to ensure your trip isn't coinciding with say, Bike Week (mid-May), or a massive convention. Traffic can be an issue here depending on the season or event and seems to get a little worse every year.
Getting there: Myrtle Beach International Airport seems like it's gotta be a misprint, but it is the most convenient way to get in and out of town for a quickie long weekend of golf. Much to my personal dismay, Hooters Airline went Chapter 11, but smaller regional carriers (such as Myrtle Beach Direct Air, Spirit Air , and Southern Skyways , www.golfholiday.com/airlines.cfm ) often provide the best pricing and the most direct flights into The Grand Strand ( www.myrtlebeachgolf.com/departments/news/myrtle-beach-travel-direct-flights-4884.htm ). If some of your group is driving down while others are flying in, consider picking up your buddies at the Raleigh, Charlotte, or Columbia SC airports on your way down, for more flight options.
Orientation: Greater Myrtle Beach is a pretty long stretch of coastline, traversed by two Route 17's: Business Route 17 aka King's Hwy which is laden with mini-malls, restaurants, and stoplights; while Route 17 Bypass is a more express route from one end of town to the other, but much of it is still overrun with chain restaurants and the occasional stoplight. Ocean Avenue is the classic old school beach strand, with plenty of stoplights and motels. Notice I mentioned stoplights 3 times. It can take upwards of an hour to get from one end of "town" to the other, so do some research to ensure you either stay near your Must Play courses, or pick courses near the section of town where you're staying.
Myrtle is divided into 4 sections, so employing some strategy is key to avoid spending half your play time in the car. First, there's Myrtle Beach proper (in yellow on the map above), centered around the airport and course-laden entry route 501. North Myrtle hugs the NC border, with plenty of courses over towards inland Route 9. Myrtle proper and North Myrtle are home to much of the nightlife and restaurant scenes. Cross the border into North Carolina and stay in the more relaxed environs of Sunset Beach, Ocean Isle (an old stomping grounds of mine), or Holden Beach , with upwards of 18 courses in the area. There's less traffic to deal with, but less nightlife and entertainment too. South Myrtle is a somewhat more refined Low Country stretch down past Murell's Inlet to Pawley's Island . It might be a better spot for the upscale golf aficianado or course collector, as this section features several of the area's Must Play and upper echelon tracks, with a general slant towards more plantation-style layouts.
Good Golf Deals: As a Myrtle novice, I found it shockingly difficult to ferret out easy-to-book golf package deals on the internet. Apparently most of the guys who make an annual pilgrammage down there must have a decent package company/hotel they found 10 years ago, and they just return like salmon every year. Ask any golfing buddies/acquantances/co-workers what tour group or hotel they use for their annual trip. Short of any personal recommendations, non-profit regional golf promoter Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday ( www.golfholiday.com , 800-845-4653) has the mass marketing angle cornered. But do yourself a favor and skip their information-overload, designed-by-a-crack-addict website. Call their 800 number instead to request their color catalogue of golf packages via snail mail, then call the package providers direct. The course pix in the catalogue are worth 1,000 words, and it's much a much more pleasant way to shop for deals. Plus you can do it on the toilet.
For those golf addicts who must play 36-a-day, I'm sure you already know that re-rounds on whatever course you play in the morning will be the most cost-effective way to find your spring swing groove. Some multi-course resorts may allow you to "re-round" on one of their other courses for discounted rates, but call ahead to make sure. Many Myrtle area courses also have afternoon greens fees, which are lower than A.M. rates, but not quite as low as a twilight rate.
Golf: The general feel of Myrtle Beach golf can probably be summed up in 8 words: Bermuda grass, pines, lakes, sand, oaks, and the Intercoastal Waterway. OK, that's 10 words. Most Grand Strand courses were laid in over wetlands and maritime forest. Links and plantation-style layouts are common. While they do vary in feel and even mix styles within 18's, there is a certain underlying Carolina coastland theme to many of the area designs. Courses seem to average around 6100 from the White tees to accommodate the casual golfer, but then jump to around 6600 from the Blues on average.
For all us Damn Yankees, most area courses feature Bermuda grass growing on firm, moist, Low Country soil to which you're unaccustomed. Chipping off Bermuda is a different experience than the bent grass green surrounds you're used to, as are full shots. Club up one from the fairway and two from the rough, and choke up a half inch as the ball sits higher on Bermuda than bent. Be aggressive on chips from any kind of rough. Snakes and gators are semi-common here, so be careful on any ball searches, especially near the water.
Demand for golf has dropped off just enough from the golf boom of the '90's to see the bottom swath of Myrtle Beach courses go belly up in the past decade, but all it's done is weed out the riff-raff. The difference between the top tier and second tier area tracks is generally the difference of going from 4-1/2 star Golf Digest ratings down to 4 stars. With upwards of 75-plus mostly-quality layouts remaining in the area, you shouldn't have any trouble landing a tee time somewhere. Translation: It's hard to screw this trip up. Just book early for prime-time, early AM, or group tee times at the top tier courses.
Caddies: Myrtle Beach is the definition of the kind of golf weekend where riding is the order of the day (hungover, buzzed, busting stones, long drive contests, swing oil, mixing drinks in the cart), but that doesn't mean you aren't in need of caddy services during a round in Myrtle. One look at the girls of Myrtle Beach Caddy Girls ( www.mbcaddygirls.com ) and you'll know what I mean. Their $139+tip fees are a steal compared to similar services in Vegas (and they take caddying semi-seriously, without all the L.A.-East 'I'm a model' aloofness).
Myrtle Beach Caddy Girl Amy
Where To Play: As far as the top tier of courses, I've consistently heard great things about Caledonia, Tidewater, TPC of MB, Glen Dornoch, Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Myrtle Beach National's King's North, Long Bay , and all of the courses at the Barefoot and Legends resorts . If you prefer your golf traditional and uppity, T&L Golf raved about the secluded feel and Southern traditions at the Grand-daddy of Myrtle Beach golf resorts, Pine Lakes International CC.
Here's the latest list of Golf Digest's Top 50 Courses In Myrtle :
Read all you want… there's probably still another dozen great courses down here you've never heard of. Courses like
make Top 100 Publics lists. I had never heard of Pete Dye's
, but played it, and loved it. Nevermind that I was hammered at the time. It's Dye at his finest, with great variation of holes. Deep penal bunkers, a few tight fairways, water carries, wide open driving holes, downhill par 3's, pure links holes, railroad tie walls, Low Country swamp elements, and Dye even conjurs up visions of Harbour Town in a few spots… you name it, this course has it. I don't recall much about the conditions, but it's a Must Play layout for Myrtle.
It's easy to find plenty of info on the top Myrtle courses in various golf magazines and websites, but I found value recommendations for second and third tier tracks to be sorely lacking among all my usual resources, both in print and online. Here's the one decent article I did find on Myrtle's most underrated courses :
I've played a few of the 2nd tier courses. The Wild Wing complex used to have three courses, but two went by the wayside in lieu of condos after the '90's golf boom peaked. Only the Avocet remains, and for good reason. It's a fun challenge carved out of pine alleys with enough sand and water to get your attention, but overall a fairly playable style, although it's not nearly as linksy or pretty from the ground as it appears in the airbrushed aerial shots in magazines. Myrtle Beach National's Southcreek was an Arnie Palmer consult. It plays short from the whites, with one great cape hole over water. Otherwise, it was less than memorable. Myrtlewood's Palmetto is a good value but is also semi-cookie-cutter and forgettable, up until a dicey little finish into the wind on the downhill par-3 17th and a long finishing hole that plays along the Intercoastal Waterway. I also played Dan Maples' Man O' War during my bachelor party trip. I don't recall a lot of specifics other than it was connect-the-dots golf along the Intercoastal Waterway, with a lot of water, an island fairway, and it was blowin' pissin' and moanin' all day. A couple guys we got paired up with raved about the value, conditions, and layout at The Witch . Golf Magazine's Travellin' Joe says two player-friendly value layouts in Pawley's Island are the Tradition Club ($69-$118; 877-599-0888, www.traditiongolfclub.com ), an underrated Ron Garl design, and also named the most underrated course in Myrtle by TravelGolf.com. Or Willbrook Plantation ($116-$157; 843-237-4900, www.mbn.com ) is a Dan Maples creation. A variety of online specials and packages can lower fees here by $20 or more.
Here's a breakdown of each section of Myrtle, with roughly-ranked course listings by section:
[Summarized from MB Golf Holiday write-ups, north to south. GD = the obligatory Golf Digest rankings]
SOUTHERN NORTH CAROLINA
NC Top Tier-
Thistle (dramatic Scottish links, 27 holes, stacked sod bunkers, 12 min. tee times, GD 4-1/2 stars) www.thistlegolf.com
Tiger's Eye (60 ft. elevation changes, undulating fairways, lakes, island green, GD #3 in Myrtle, #73 GD Top 100 Publics '07) www.tigerseye.com
Panther's Run (wide twisting fairways, nature preserve, long, water, Top 30 in Myrtle per Links Mag , #29 Golf World 2008 Reader's Choice poll) www.panthersrun.com
River's Edge (Palmer, overlooks a river, rustic feel, good conditions, marshlands, GD Top 20 in NC) www.river18.com
Sea Trail- Rees Jones (U.S. Open qualifier, natural look, mounded fairways, water on 11 holes) www.seatrailgolf.com
The Pearl-West (links with native sea grasses, dramatic 18th along river bluffs, nominated GD Best New Public 1988) www.thepearlgolf.com
The Pearl- East (traditional layout, carved through forest, dynamic finish along river, nominated GD Best New Public 1988, renovated 1999) www.thepearlgolf.com
Legends- Oyster Bay (wide variety of holes, cavernous bunkers, undulating greens, GD 4-1/2 stars) www.legendsgolf.com
NC Second Tier-
Bald Head (George Cobb classic, ferry ride to the island, lagoons, maritime forest, ocean breezes) www.bhigolf.com
Leopard's Chase (2007, scenic, forced carries, generous landings, varied terrain, undulating greens) www.leopardschase.com
NC Value Tier-
Sandpiper Bay (risk/reward doglegs over lakes, wide fairways, strategic bunkering, GD 4 stars) www.sandpiperbay.com
Lion's Paw (wild, untamed, rustic, quiet, adventurous, GD 4 stars) www.lionspaw.com
Sea Trail- Maples (oaks & pines, Southern feel, coastal nature preserve, 5 holes on a creek, targety) www.seatrailgolf.com
Sea Trail- Willard Byrd (imaginative, 7 lakes, waste areas, mounds, pot bunkers, picturesque 18th) www.seatrailgolf.com
Brunswick Plantation (27 holes, fast greens, pines, water, nice landscaping) www.brunswickplantation.com
Where To Stay, NC: I haven't been to Ocean Isle since I was a kid, but back in the day it was a great little underdeveloped sandbar beach town with one general store, one bar/restaurant, one tiny waterpark, and a fishing pier. I imagine it's much more built up these days, but I'm sure it's still a nice area.
Where To Booze, NC: Ocean Isle's Salty McDoogles may be your only decent nightlife option in town, per the local Star-News. Across from Ocean Isle's modest waterpark is this crowded, no-frills rowdy joint serving strong drinks among a friendly ball-cap-&-visor crowd who like to sing along with the acoustic acts on stage. The relaxed, cozy vibe of the 4-seater bar and dining room at Paradise Cafe in Holden Beach look like Jimmy Buffet's rec room; it's beach-themed to the hilt, the walls covered in surf boards, beach towels, etc. Become a regular, and they'll store a personalized coozie for you above the bar. A little further north in Oak Island, Chaser's sits on a dune overlooking the ocean, with a tiki bar on the waterfront back deck and a free jukebox at the simple bar inside.
Where To Grub, NC: TravelGolf.com says head for oceanfront dining at Sharky's in Ocean Isle, a friendly and casual restaurant and bar with a large menu and plenty of seafood dishes to choose from.
North Myrtle Top Tier-
Tidewater (ocean views, Intercoastal Waterway, marshes, #41 GD Top 100 Best Publics 2007) www.myrtlebeachgolftrips.com
Barefoot- Dye (scraggly links, rolling elevation changes, plenty of mounding, GD Top 10 in Myrtle) www.barefootgolf.com
Barefoot- Fazio (stunning visuals, GD #6 in Myrtle, #92 GD Top 100 Publics 2007) www.barefootgolf.com
Glen Dornoch (lakes, mossy oaks, river views, Intercoastal Waterway, GD Top 10 in Myrtle) www.glendornoch.com
Barefoot- Norman (only 60 acres of mowable grass, natural vegitation, Intercoastal Waterway) www.barefootgolf.com
Barefoot- Love (visually striking, antebellum ruins, fun, premium on iron play, #53 GD Top 100 Publics 2007) www.barefootgolf.com
North Myrtle Second Tier-
Heather Glen (GD Best New Public 1987, oaks & pines, GD 2002 4 1/2 stars) www.heatherglen.com
Arcadian Shores (64 bunkers, natural lakes, #s 2 & 13 are two of the best ranked holes in Myrtle) www.golfholiday.com/showcourse.cfm?id=2&link=2
Waterway Hills (RTJ Sr, 27 holes, crowned greens, targety, gondola ride over Intercoastal to clubhouse) www.mbngolf.com
North Myrtle Value Tier-
River Hills (Densely wooded terrain, rolling hills, playable, double dogleg par 5 over water) www.riverhillsgolf.com
Crow Creek (2000 Rick Robbins, generous fairways, water, top 50 in NC by NC Mag ) www.crowcreek.com
Eagle's Nest (recent renovation, classic Pinehurst feel, pines, lakes) www.eaglesnestgolf.com
Farmstead (Myrtle's only par-6 tees off from SC ending with a green in NC, water, "stunning visuals") www.myrtlebeachgolftrips.com
Meadowlands ("superb conditioning", wooded) www.myrtlebeachgolftrips.com
Possum Trot (Dwayne of Liberty Golf Hounds gave me the following review: "Possum Trot was conveniently tucked behind Krispy Kreme Donuts north of Central MB and unfortunately the staff nestled us between two different "blitz" groups and we didn't have the best circumstances for cruising through the course due to some delay in action. The comical part of that course is the fact that the local "raccoons" are in the habit of removing cell phones, wallets and vehicle keys from your golf carts...and will occasionally go through the golf bags for breakfast bars so someone has to man the cart at all times. The course was not a bad course so our negative experience was due to delay of players ahead of us...and not the condition of the course.") www.possumtrot.com
North Myrtle Inland (in ranked order)-
Long Bay (Nicklaus, visual stunner, snaking fairways, pot bunkers, vast waste areas, mounding) www.mbngolf.com
Aberdeen (27 holes, Scottish flair, wildlife preserve, good value, GD 4 stars) www.mbngolf.com
Diamond Back (wetlands and Low Country forest, no McMansions, lakes, "daunting") www.diamondback-golf.com
Black Bear (23 finger lakes, wide fairways, "bold and beautiful") www.playaclassic.com
Crown Park (carved from pine forests, no houses, good conditions, rolling terrain) www.playaclassic.com
Where To Stay, North Myrtle:
Without a doubt, upscalers will want to default to the easy choice,
. They have great golf villas with perfect set-ups for a foursome or two to socialize, make a nice meal or two, and still get good rack time, plus four great courses and a full outdoor "wharf-mall" await right outside your door, but you'll pay for the amenities. Or hit Myrtle's Beach's newest upscale resort,
North Beach Plantation
. The hotel bears a striking resemblance to Atlantis in the Bahamas, with varied room options perfect for families or golfers, and boasts a 2 ½-acre, 15-pool water park that includes a lazy river and a swim-up pool bar.
North Beach Plantation pool
Where To Grub & Booze, North Myrtle: My buddy Gil's claim that Myrtle is all just pancake joints, strip bars, and hamburger stands every other block isn't quite true. For beers after golf, make the obligatory trip to Murray Bros. Caddyshack for good bar food and a new excuse to quote lines from this cinematic classic. Afterwards, hit the Hooter's next door (also with 3 other Myrtle locations). Their wings suck, but you're there for the Hooters. For good wings, head for Pittsburgh Steelers bar Oscar's, a fun sports bar with reasonable prices, Iron City Light on tap, Golden Tee, and four flat screens hanging over the urinals. I didn't order the wings while we were there, but a former Buffalonian transplant touts Oscar's as the Grand Strand's best wings. If you're hankerin' for wings but don't want to leave Barefoot Landing, try Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday fave Bully's Pub . They also rated Overtime Sports Cafe as the Grand Strand's best sports bar, with 150 TV's, 3 10-foot projection screens, a 12-foot video wall, and Guiness on tap.
It's not hard to see why Overtime is rated as Myrtle's best sports bar.
For nightlife, hit House Of Blues . Golf Magazine's Travellin' Joe digs Dirty Don's Oyster Bar ($8 for a dozen, 843-448-4881, www.dirtydonsoysterbar.com ).
Fat Guy digs Umberto's , a tucked-away little spot overlooking a marina, and serving up some of the best chops anywhere. Their prime rib is flavorful and among the best I've had, the lamb chops are outstanding, and the portions are huge. Our waiter said no one's ever finished the pork chops. Their standard 4-course meals come with soup, salad, and an interesting spice-peeled tomato marinara over pasta. Dick's Last Resort is a fun spot for getting abused while chowing on good finger food. The waitstaff gives great banter, adorns you with silly paper hats scrawled with insulting labels, and generally treats you as an annoyance. Napkins and rolls are flung at you. It's a fun gimmick, but the humor is rated-R, so don't take the young'uns. Their BBQ pork riblets are surprisingly good. Our random redneck playing partners at Mrytlewood recommended Carolina Roadhouse (4617 N Kings Hwy) for good food, but get there early. Badgolfer.com digs higher-end Benjamin's Calabash Seafood Buffet (9593 N Kings Hwy or 401 S. Kings Hwy), generally regarded as Myrtle's best seafood buffet. For boys' weekends, try the pirate-themed Seafare Seafood Buffet with sexy bikini-clad mermaids swimming in an indoor lagoon.
Seafare Buffet mermaids
Myrtle's best value seafood buffet is Preston's ($20), right outside the Barefoot resort. For upscale, Greg Norman's Australian Grille (Barefoot Landing, Hwy 17, 843-361-0000) is a swanky neo-Australian steakhouse unlike any restaurant on the Grand Strand.
Myrtle is also a mecca for boys' night out entertainment. Thee Doll House was the top Gentlemen's club we found, with respectable talent (although surprisingly light on blondes). Let's just say rules get bent there. Badgolfer.com recommended Crazy Horse for a chain with a national rep and a herd of dancers every night, but we found it to be crowded with unimpressive talent during a stay abbreviated by a glaring lack of service. Bottom's Up was even worse; I've never seen bigger girls dancing at a Gentlemen's club, in a room that looked like somebody's basement, and they actually had the balls to charge you an $8 cover for it. We left after 4 minutes.
Once you've gotten your fill of Touristy Golfer's Myrtle after the first couple nights, take the time to waste an evening in the real Low Country. Matriculate up Route 17N to Little River, SC just shy of the NC border, and bang a right onto Route 50 aka Minneola Ave. Just a few blocks down from the hustle and bustle of 17, the road peters out by the riverside at the sand parking lots for the off-shore gambling boats that depart from here (my buddy Jeff highly recommends against these gambling junkets; staring at the spinning wheels of a slot machine while chugging Pepto in the heaving seas of international waters isn't worth the boat ride out there). Instead, park wherever you can find a spot, and wander down towards the river's edge among the grand old oaks dripping with Spanish moss. With a vibe as redneck as it is quaint, this must be one of the last vestiges of underdeveloped local's property on the waterfront on the Grand Strand. Just a block off the river are abandoned mobile homes and former fishing shacks among low-end seasonal properties.
Walking by the open-air dive Other Bar and the dockside Capt. Juel's , I said to Jeff, "You know that movie story line cliché where the renegade F.B.I. agent was forced into retirement, but now he's the only one who can catch this one serial killer so they have to go to some hole-in-the-wall waterside town to find him on his fishing boat and talk him into coming back for one last case? This is where they come to film that scene."
We ended up bellying up at the deck bar of the unassuming waterfront Crab Catcher's (oddly enough, seated next to an actual F.B.I. agent who had once questioned Jeff about an ex-girlfriend's kidnapping in college--how weird is that?). A shrimpin' boat straight out of Forrest Gump was docked next door at their pier. Hanging on the walls of the low-ceilinged indoor bar I noticed an article from Golf Digest where Crab Catcher's got a mention. I later discovered that TravelGolf.com also called it Myrtle's Most Underrated Restaurant. After the dinner crowd cleared out we had the deck to ourselves, and killed a few hours swilling beers and B.S.'ing with the bartender, the son of the owners who were originally from Wisconsin. They had wanted to open a business back home, but then saw this riverside joint for sale while on a vacation in nearby Sunset Beach, so they bought it and moved to South Carolina (don't we all wish we had those balls!). The barkeep is an ex-Marine, a great guy, and not afraid to knock a few back with the customers. Head there for an evening-killer meal with river views, good food, and a real Low Country vibe (but bring the bug spray after sunset).
Myrtle Proper First Tier-
The Dunes (RTJ, #1 in Myrtle on many lists, hosted 6 Sr. Tour Champs, #28 GD Top 100 Publics '07, must stay here to play) www.dunesgolfandbeachclub.com
Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Pine Lakes Int'l (the 1st course in Myrtle, Southern tradition, free chowder, T&L Golf's #1 in Myrtle, renovated in '08-'09) www.pinelakes.com
Legends- Heathland (early Tom Doak, windswept links, natural contours, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.legendsgolf.com
World Tour (replica course features holes from Augusta, St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass, Royal Troon, fun but shockingly pricey) www.worldtourmb.com
Legends- Moorland (Pete & P.B. Dye, evokes PGA West Stadium course, severe target golf, RR ties, 133 slope, GD 4-1/2 stars, but TravelGolf.com called it "overrated, ridiculously undulating, miniature golf on steroids") www.legendsgolf.com
Myrtle Beach National- King's North (Arnold Palmer, risk/reward holes, water, #76 GD Top 100 Publics 2007) www.mbngolf.com
Myrtle Proper Second Tier-
Wind Wing- Avocet (Brauer & Nelson, creative contours, elevated tees & greens, pine-lined faux-links) www.wildwing.com
Arrowhead (Ray Floyd, 27 holes, big bunkers, hardwood & wetlands, elevation changes) www.arrowheadcc.com
The Witch (woodlands and wetlands, 4,000 feet of cart bridges, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.mysticalgolf.com
Legends- Parkland (tree-lined, in the style of McKenzie and Thomas, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.legendsgolf.com
Myrtle Beach National- West (Palmer consult, wide fairways, doglegs, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.mbngolf.com
Man O' War (Dan Maples, 80-acre lake, island fairways, plenty of water, GD 4 stars) www.mysticalgolf.com
(Dan Maples, lake hopscotch, island fairways & greens, lots of earth moving,
Myrtle Proper Value Tier-
Myrtlewood- Pinehills (Arthur Hills, contoured fairways, large greens)
Myrtle Beach National- SouthCreek (Palmer consult, finesse course, wetlands, forests) www.mbn.com/sc%5Fholes/
River Oaks (Hamm & Jackson, 27 holes, pine-lined fairways, Intercoastal Waterway) www.riveroaksgolfplantation.com
Grande Dunes (Intercoastal Waterway, maritime forests, elevation changes, wide fairways)
Burning Ridge (pine-lined, well-shaped mounded fairways, yawning bunkers) www.playaclassic.com
Myrtlewood- Palmetto (classic routing, a couple fun doglegs, 18th on Intercoastal Waterway)
Shaftsbury Glen- (way inland, reminscient of Winged Foot, nice greens) www.shaftsburyglen.com
Where To Stay, Myrtle Proper: Budget-minded golfers should look at The Carribean Resort (800-552-8509 www.caribbeanresort.com/accommodations.cfm ), and price their inexpensive option Jamaican Motel . We got 4 nights, 3 rounds, and free breakfasts in early May for $365 apiece in 2007. The room was basic, with the slightest tinge of smoke odor baked into the carpet of our non-smoking room, but overall it was pretty clean, 50 feet from the beach, 30 feet from the pool, and serviceable for our needs (which consisted largely of a bed to pass out on and a shower). The main resort recently received an impressive facelift and is family friendly. It also features a nice pool area with a smallish oval of a lazy river, but relaxation at the pool was hard to come by amidst the throngs of middle class families with hyperactive kids off the leash and running around. The on-site restaurant Sea Captain's House is a classy little room with expansive ocean views from right off the dunes. Their breakfast buffet (with an omlette chef) on the outdoor patio with the sounds of the crashing waves floating through the screens was a real treat.
Upscalers can play 4 great links-style courses without leaving the grounds at The Legends , out on 501, along with bellying up at one of Golf Digest' s 50 Best 19th Holes, Legends' Ailsa Pub .
Partiers will want to stay at dining-and-entertainment-plex Broadway at the Beach to be stumbling distance to numerous party spots, thus eliminating the dreaded Nassau for designated driver status. Hit Broadway's midscale chains Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express , or Fairfield by Marriott .
Where To Grub & Booze, Myrtle Proper: Highlights of the touristy outdoor wharf-mall Broadway at the Beach include the boat drinks and live tunes at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville , the carnivore's paradise at Rioz Brazilian Steakhouse (order the house drink called a Caipirinha), the buffalo crawfish tails at Landry's Seafood , the crab dip at Joe's Crab Shack , the oysters and grouper sandwich at Shucker's , the seafood buffet at Captain George's ($29), and the crazy medieval-themed mini-golf. Rednecks like us will surely race to Nascar Café , right next to a massive go-cart complex so all us overgrown kids can go out and trade paint after a few Budweisers. But do yourself a favor and skip the manufactured fun and the yards of gooey blender drinks at Senor Frogs… no stomach can handle that much sickly-sweet dacquiri mix, and the plastic yard glasses smelled like they were overdue for a vinegar wash. For single guys chasing tail, Badgolfer.com digs Revolutions , as well as the dueling pianos at Crocodile Rocks . If your golf widow is an old school kinda gal, take her to do the official dance of South Carolina, The Shag, at Fat Harold's . For those who gotta feel the bass thump, Club Kryptonite is advertised as the area's largest, or hit three-clubs-in-one at Malibus/Froggy Bottoms/Celebrations .
Outside of Broadway at the Beach, Freaky Tiki Club (708 N. Ocean) has fun foam parties. Anna Nicole Smith once entered a wet t-shirt contest there (well after she was famous... err, infamous). Enough said. For some divier spots, Dave Attell of Comedy Central's Insomniac recommends The Dog House (S. Kings Hwy & 6th), Gilligan's (N. Ocean between 11th & 12th), or Drifter's (N. Kings Hwy & 29th), particularly during Bike Week (2nd week of May). Dave also recommends Dynamite Fireworks (5 area locations, 843-449-8220) for everything pyrotechnic. Open late.
Let's be honest, a boys' weekend in Myrtle screams for 4 of Fat Guy's favorite things: Golf, beer, wings, and Gentlemen's clubs... Wait... Buffalo wings ?! In South Carolina ?! Truth is, Myrtle has plenty enough tranplants and transients from the Northeast to buck Fat Guy's normal rule of 'You Can't Get A Legit Buffalo Wing South Of The Mason-Dixon Line'. Three of Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday's top 5 wing joints on the Grand Strand can be found in and around Myrtle proper. Coming in at #1 is Fat Jack's Wings & Things ( www.fatjackswings.com , Surfside Beach), an area institution since the '70's, but keep in mind they don't open til 3PM. #2 is Murphy's Law (405 S Kings Hwy), a gritty, character-filled Pittsburgh Steelers sports bar with wall-to-wall TV's and memorabilia, plus highly rated hot wings and shrimp specials. A close 3rd was Wing Kings ( www.wingkingusa.com ), another Pittsburgh Steeler bar with 20 flavors of wings, and a favorite of locals. Leave it to us 'Burghers to elevate the wing standard 5 states down.
As for the Gentlemen's club part, Myrtle's largest is Masters (10th St.), which caters to the golfing crowd with a pro shop, and an outdoor short course for a little late night practice/wagering. A couple redneck golfing partners we got paired with who sounded like they knew what they were talking about recommended the aggressive talent at Myrtle's only all-nekkid BYOB club Derriere's (804 Seaboard, near 17 & 501, 843-946-6615) . Or hit the convenient Penthouse Club right at the intersection of 17 Bypass and 501.
For grub, Ocean City MD seafood fave Phillip's has brought their crabiness to the Grand Strand, and is always worth a visit for warm sourdough rolls, crab soup, stuffed mushrooms, crab cakes, and crab imperial. For prime steak, Badgolfer.com digs Pier 14 (1306 N Ocean, www.pier14.com ) or New York Prime (405 28th Ave N, www.newyorkprime.com ). Frank, a golfing acquaintance, recommends Hamburger Joe's (Hwy 17 & 14th St, www.hamburgerjoes.com ), a great tucked-away local joint with great food (they also have locations at 712 S. 48th in N. Myrtle and 1480 Riceland in Murrells Inlet). Dagwood's is reputed to be Myrtle's best sandwich shop. For breakfast, hit Hot Stacks . For something trendier, hit Soho for martinis and sushi. Try a good pizza buffet at The Filling Station (1913 Mr. Joe White Ave). Late night, look for the hot donuts sign at Krispy Kreme . For a good Southeastern BBQ chain on your way out of town, hit Sticky Fingers near the airport. TravelGolf.com likes Myrtle landmark Angelo's Steak & Pasta (843-626-2800) for the $9.95 Italian buffet, and great steaks with a heaping side of spaghetti.
I rarely get turned on by art, but if you dig loungy pop art even a little, check out the martini-and-olives-themed paintings and seascapes capturing amazing light at Broadway's Oh My Godard Gallery . The area's best waterpark is Myrtle Waves .
South Myrtle Top Tier-
TPC of MB (Tom Fazio, typical TPC, groomed fairways, wetlands, Sr. Tour Champ. host, GD 5 stars) www.legendsgolf.com
Caledonia (Mike Stranz, former rice plantation with Magnolia Lane entrance, mossy oaks, very scenic, GD Top 10 in Myrtle, #86 GD Top 100 Publics 2007, #10 Golf World 2008 Reader's poll) www.fishclub.com
Legends- Heritage (plantation golf, mossy oaks, rough bunkers, marshes, 144 slope, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.legendsgolf.com
Prestwick (Pete Dye, varied diabolical elements, wetlands, waste areas, RR ties, links, fun, GD 4 1/2 stars)
True Blue (Mike Stranz, Caledonia sister, visually dramatic, rolling terrain, GD Best Public in Myrtle) www.truebluegolf.com
Pawley's (Nicklaus, Low Country, varied holes, meandering fairways & waterways, GD 4 stars) www.pawleysplantation.com
River Club (Roomy fairways, tightening approaches with water & sand, risky 18th, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.mbngolf.com
Tradition (traditional course with Low Country elements, Augusta-ish, GD 4 1/2 stars, "most underrated in Myrtle" by TravelGolf.com) www.traditiongolfclub.com
Willbrook (Dan Maples, plantation golf, natural setting, new greens, GD 4 1/2 stars) www.mbngolf.com
Founder's Club (2008, rolling hills, water carries, bulkhead greens, waste areas, non-traditional bunkering, Pinehurst-meets-Florida) www.waccamawgolftrail.com/courses/founders-club/
South Myrtle Second Tier-
Wachesaw (former rice plantation, Augusta-ish with Scottish hints, meandering creeks, GD 4 stars) www.wachesaweast.com
Litchfield (country club for a day, limited public tee times, tree-lined, plantation golf, GD 4 stars) www.mbngolf.com
Blackmoor (Gary Player, former plantation along river, natural contours, meandering fairways) www.blackmoor.com
Indigo Creek (pines, oaks, winding creeks, plantation golf, lakes, GD 1990 Top 10 You Can Play) www.indigocreekgolfclub.com
Wicked Stick (Dwayne of Liberty Golf Hounds gave me the following review: "Wicked Stick is the John Daly signature course located south of Central MB and gave us some prime real estate for his "rip it & grip it" philosophy. The folks on staff were extremely friendly and provided group photos [at a cost] to allow you to take home some keep-sake of the event. We would be open to a repeat of this course.") www.wickedstick.com
Wedgefield (plantation golf, extensively renovated, scenic views of Black River, natural grasses) www.wedgefield.com
Founders (New in '07, redesigned from former Sea Gulf GC by Thomas Walker, stunning visuals) www.classicgolfgroup.com
South Myrtle Value Tier-
Heron Point (tall pines, manicured greens, contoured fairways, water, good value, GD 3 1/2 stars)
Indian Wells (U.S. Open style, premium on creative shot making, risk/reward) www.playaclassic.com
Whispering Pines (Audubon sanctuary, pines, lakes, no houses, near airport, 2003 Local's Favorite) www.wpinesgolf.com
International (Willard Byrd, good maintenance, fast greens, links meets lakes) www.internationalclubmb.com
Where To Booze & Grub, South Myrtle: My buddy Jed has been a Myrtle regular for over a decade, and his favorite bar in Myrtle is River City Café ( www.rivercitycafe.com , now with 7 Myrtle area locations) for a peanut-shells-on-the-floor, cold-long-necks-in-the-cooler, license-plates-on-the-wall, no-pretense joint with juicy sirloin burgers . Bikers love the two aptly-monikered Suck Bang Blow locations in the Southern part of town, one of which is right next to a joint called The Beaver Bar . Locals recommend Quigley's Pint & Plate for an after-round round of tremendous microbrews, then try the Plowman's Platter. Per Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday, for watching the game hit Jimmagan's Sports Pub (6003 N Kings Hwy). There is no more scenic sports bar in Myrtle Beach than Jimmagan’s, which overlooks Murrells Inlet on the Marshwalk. When you aren’t gazing out across the water, more than 60 televisions, including a large projection screen, provide ample viewing opportunities. As an added bonus, 40-cent happy hour wings hit the spot. My buddy Dwayne of Liberty Golf Hounds (who make a trip or two here annually) says, "This past trip we had our kick-off dinner at Flynn's Irish Tavern and the staff & food was perfect for getting our group's outing off to a great start."
Seafood: My buddy Jeff had stumbled onto Bubba's Fish House (16 S Ocean Blvd, Surfside Beach) on a previous visit before he drug me there in '07. An airy second-story dining room overlooks the beachside across the street, with an I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer -movie-set feel (unfortunately the waitresses aren't quite dirty-white-tank-top-clad-Jennifer-Love-Hewitt-types). Good fried shrimp selections (try the lime chilli shrimp), fresh oysters on the half-shell, and Bullfrog on tap. Or, a longtime beach fave is Drunken Jacks , with a Low-Country-meets-pirates-den-meets-tourist-trap vibe, and spectacular marsh views. T&L Golf likes Nance's Creek Front Restaurant (Murrell's Inlet; 843-651-2696), dubbing it the best of a string of casual places up the road from Pawleys Island that serve great local seafood. TravelGolf.com likes Pawley's Island Tavern , order the crab cakes or the great value meatloaf lunch, or Russell's Seafood Grille (Murell's Inlet), a remote local's-only Low Country seafood joint at the end of an inlet with a great raw bar, a stellar grouper sandwich, and homemade key lime pie.
For down-and-dirty, alcohol-absorbing, greasy hangover grub, BadGolfer.com digs the local's all-time late-night favorite, Krystal (3120 S Hwy 17, Murrells Inlet). For breakfast, Eggs Up Grill .
For upscale in Pawley's Island, T&L Golf recommends Frank's (American fare, outdoor bar, try the shrimp in 3-peppercorn sauce, Hwy 17).
For Italian, try David Badari's Community House (Hwy 17) or Pastaria 811 (Italian from the Abruzzi region).
In Murrells Inlet, T&L likes Hanna's (sushi to Contemporary gourmet, Bus Hwy 17), Bovine's Wood-Fired Specialties (Beef & Seafood, Bus Hwy 17), or Divine Fish House (Bus Hwy 17). All are upscale. For uber-upscale, try The Carriage House (American, try the she-crab soup, @ Litchfield Plantation).
See Also: Myrtle Beach SC Golf Weekend for Myrtle profiles from the major golf mags and networks, and Golf Digest's definitive guide How To Myrtle Beach