From The Fairway
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By Petey and PJ
Thistle Golf Club in Calabash (20 minutes north of Myrtle Beach) is a 27-hole Scottish links type layout, with rolling fairways, stacked sod bunkers and TIF Eagle Bermuda greens. The design is a showpiece of an exclusive gated residential community, with acres of wildflowers, nature preserves and carefully sculpted landscaping. A unique feature here is the tee time schedule - which is set up in 10 minute intervals to provide a comfortable and efficient pace of play. This is almost unheard of in this day and age when courses are packing their schedules to get as many players on the course as possible.
The Stewart Course features open, rolling terrain that is definitely affected by the wind, with wide fairways flanked by pampas and waste bunkers that lead to large undulating green complexes. The Par five 4th is a classic risk reward hole as it doglegs to the right over a lake on a 90 degree angle. The Par three 9th is a nice finishing hole as it plays to an elevated green over water with a rock retaining wall framing the green complex. The MacKay Course starts out with a similar terrain, but varies into some secluded wooded areas that feature sprawling natural areas and marshes. The dogleg left Par five 7th is a spectacular golf hole, as it features two forced carries, one off the tee, and a demanding approach over a natural area to a green complex that is defined by a wood retaining wall. The Par five 9th is also a great finishing hole, a dogleg left shaped by a large lake on the left, and a natural area on the right, to a two tiered green guarded by a large bunker. Let's not forget the Cameron Course, where water is in play on every hole. The Par four 2nd, although short, demands a precise tee shot to attack the green guarded by water, held back by a retaining wall with some heavy undulation. Lastly, the Par three 4th contains an island green surrounded by water, protected short by two large bunkers and a heavily undulated putting surface.
It’s difficult to imagine a better piece of property for a golf course than the stretch along the Intracoastal Waterway that Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links occupies. Clyde Johnston’s design just flows with the natural terrain of the area.
On the final two holes on the front nine and the three finishing holes on the back nine, the beauty of the waterway is right there for the golfers enjoyment. However, with surprising elevation changes, natural marshes and wooded areas and only one well-buffered parallel fairway the course is naturally beautiful hole after hole.
You’ll definitely want your handicap to dictate what tees to play. The Black tees at 6890-yards and a slope/rating of 73.1/145 and the Blue tees at 6446-yards and 71.2/137 are definitely for the low handicap golfer and is a shot making challenge. For the 10-25 Handicap the White tees at 6035-yards and 70.2/127 will not present a distance obstacle. The Gold tees at 5617-yards and 68.5/1116 and the Red tees at 5002-yards and 70.6/122 are quite playable.
The true challenge that Glen Dornoch presents is the need for accuracy and shot making. Like all the Glens courses your starter provides a complimentary yardage book. It’s your caddie in print. It provides valuable carry and distance information for more than half the holes. You’ll need the guidance. Like all traditional courses the only yardage markers you’ll find are on a few sprinkler heads and fairway lining blue, white and red stakes.
The Front Nine at Glen Dornoch is quite playable and provides numerous opportunities to score well. Get off to a good start with great chances on the first four holes to make a statement. No. 5 is a great golf hole. Pay close attention to your yardage book. A par 5 is a good score and giving one back with a bogey isn’t all-bad. No. 6 will challenge your vision. Go with the correct yardage allowing for an uphill second shot. On No. 8 green look behind you to see if the Sun Cruz Aquasino offshore gaming ship is in port. On No. 9 don’t let the waterway and Number 1 handicap intimidate you.
As the front nine provides ample scoring opportunities, the back nine presents ample challenges to keep that score in place. The finishing three holes seem to garner the most attention, but each hole is remarkable. In fact I’m a mid-handicap golfer and it may just be my favorite nine holes! I like target and placement golf.
Both Number 10 and 11 require accurate drives and can easily punish an errant tee shot. Nos. 12, 13, 14 & 15 are each unique and require some shot making, but they’re only a warm-up for the finishing three.
No. 16 requires a blind tee shot and a long approach into a green that appears to be a postage stamp with the waterway in the background and marsh in the foreground. No. 17 is at the risk of oversimplification, just a beautiful golf hole. The wetlands and waterway setting are spectacular. To much club here puts you over a green that’s difficult to hold and into the marsh. No. 18 parallels the waterway, requires a drive over wetlands and an approach shot into a well-trapped double green. Did I mention the trees? If you’re playing in a large group, get in the first foursome, relax on the clubhouse porch and enjoy watching your buddies finish.
Play this golf course. It could very well be the highlight of your trip.