Human InterestPersonal History

GOLF TRIP TO MYRTLE BEACH

The U.S. Male barber shop in Greenwood, Indiana, was the place I first learned about the virtues of Myrtle Beach. The owner of U.S. Male, Dick Brewer, was a Myrtle Beach devotee. He loved golf and because he loved golf, he loved Myrtle Beach. He went there every year, sometimes twice. He had two groups of golfing buddies who annually included him in their golf trips to this mecca.

Dick had played nearly every course at Myrtle Beach so he knew which ones were good and which ones were not. Like any golfer, he liked courses he scored well on and hated those he had trouble with. So I consulted Dick when a group of my friends decided to see for ourselves what Myrtle Beach was all about.

Myrtle, as Dick shortened the name, is in the far northeastern corner of South Carolina on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Long ago it was nicknamed “The Grand Strand” for its beach which extends for miles and is populated by hundreds of motels, hotels, condos, and homes. What people call Myrtle Beach begins in the southwest at Pawley’s Island and ends 65 miles later at Sunset Beach, North Carolina, in the northeast. Most of Myrtle’s 75 golf courses are located inland, away from the beach. 

Dick should have worked for the Chamber of Commerce because he always raved about his last trip to Myrtle, and he got me thinking I should give it a try. I had always gone to Hilton Head Island at the far south corner of South Carolina, so I welcomed a new location. Golf was a big business at Myrtle, and “Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday” was the company to arrange your trip. For one all-inclusive price, accommodations, meals, and tee times were made through this company. I found 7 other like-minded men who agreed to go, and we were set.

Early, on May 30th, the Tuesday after Memorial Day weekend over 20 years ago, 7 of us began the drive to Myrtle. The trip was uneventful, as it usually is when you’re excited to get somewhere. Excitement and optimism, especially about your golf game, are overflowing. We arrived in the early evening and checked into our accommodations. 

Right away things weren’t quite right. We had chosen two condos, each of which slept four. To say they were crummy is an understatement. They were CRUMMY! dark and old, with uncomfortable beds, worn furniture, and no view. Strike 1. We were disappointed, but decided to stick it out because most of our time would be on the golf course, we were just sleeping there, and we didn’t want to mess with moving. Dave Sears flew in from Rochester, New York, that evening so now we had 8. 

Our first two rounds the next day were scheduled for Pine Lakes golf course—18 holes in the morning and another 18 that afternoon. It was an old course, one of the first at Myrtle, so they called it “The Grandaddy.” The clubhouse resembled a southern plantation house with brick siding and white columns in the front. During the morning round, the course had a really classy custom; they served free Mimosa’s at the turn. That was a classy move so we were off to a decent start.

The second day, however, we were to play 18 in the morning at Quail Creek, and another 18 at one of the Legends courses that afternoon. On about the ninth hole at Quail Creek, the weather turned bad. Light rain was followed by heavier rain, followed by torrential rain and high winds. I remember by the 18th hole we were soaked. I wore a rain suit, which helped, but the wind and sideways rain were too much, even for it. The wind was so severe it blew away my umbrella and turned Joe Spate’s umbrella inside out. Strike 2. We cancelled our afternoon round because we were soaked and there was no sign the rain would let up. 

By the next morning, it had rained a total of 6.25 inches. The courses we were scheduled to play were completely flooded and closed. Strike 3. Most of the other courses were flooded, too, so we had no place to play. 6.25 inches of rain is a lot of water to run off and flow away, and the idea of being on a golf trip and not being able to play didn’t sit well. It looked like Myrtle Beach might be over for us. “We’re out!

Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday graciously refunded our money because weather had forced cancellation of our golf. With no courses open for play, we checked out of the condos and headed for somewhere else. But where do we go? We had 3 more days left, and it was too soon to go home. It looked like the storm was moving east so if we drove west we could get away from the rain. Joe Spate “knew a guy” in Columbia, SC, about 3 hours inland and called him. He said it was dry there and the course he played was open. He made tee times for us at “his” course, and after a speed-limit-exceeding drive, we got there just in time. This course was hilly and really difficult, but we were able to play.

We had to decide where to go next after we finished the round. Someone in the group suggested Maggie Valley, a golf resort in the Smokies, 25 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina. We could drive there, stay that night, and play 36 the next day. Our day had been messed up by repacking luggage, re-loading the cars, trying to dry out wet clothes and equipment, and getting to Columbia. Meals were on the run or skipped. If we made it to Maggie Valley before the dining room closed at 9 pm, we could have a decent sit-down meal. Let’s Go! We finished our round in Columbia and headed to Maggie Valley!

The drive from Columbia to Maggie Valley takes three hours. The route includes many miles of  mountain roads that, even though they are Interstate highway, wind back and forth and require cautious driving. Well, we had a deadline to meet or we’d miss dinner. I rode with Bruce Bender, and he drove on the edge like I’ve never seen before. We took curves at 80 mph—no sweat! The way he was driving, I thought Bruce was qualifying for the Pikes Peak mountain climb. I held on for dear life. 

His aggressive driving got us there with 30 minutes to spare. When we arrived in the dining room, we were told we had to wear a sport coat to get in. What? We didn’t have sport coats—on a golf trip? We were hot, sweaty, wearing shorts, and looked a mess. We had driven like crazy to get there in time for dinner and now we can’t get in the dining room. Ah, but wait! They directed us to their coat closet where an assortment of sport coats was just waiting for such an occasion. There must have been thirty jackets of various sizes and styles hanging in there. Each man found one that somewhat fit and took his seat at the table. We looked really weird in our shorts and sport coats. Fashion coordination was abandoned out of convenience. But we made it in time for dinner and could finally relax.

Maggie Valley has been around for many years. It’s old, its dining room is old, its furnishings are old, and it needed upgrading. The eight of us sat together, in our borrowed sport coats, and felt like we’d stepped back in time. That prompted 50 year old Dick French to say, “This looks like a place to come and celebrate my 75th birthday!” LOL!

Dave Sears had flown into Myrtle Beach and was supposed to fly out of there in 2 days (Sunday). But he was in Maggie Valley with us. He had to change his flight to leave from Asheville instead so he spent two hours on hold that night waiting to change his flight  arrangements. Finally, about 1:00 am, when I was already asleep, he was able to speak to someone at the airline and make the change. 

Golf the next day was wonderful. The weather was glorious—sunny, warm, and no rain! Maggie Valley is not Augusta National, but it was just fine. It’s in The Smokies so there were a lot of up and down holes and uneven lies. The only memorable event during the round was when Bruce shanked a fairway iron, and his golf ball obliterated a bird house sitting on a pole at the edge of the fairway.  I clearly remember the sound l heard when the house blew up and the birds flew away. 

After golf, Bruce tried to start his car but it wouldn’t go. He had driven it so hard through the mountains the day before we were worried he’d done something to keep us from getting home. Joe Spate looked under the hood, fiddled with something, and it started right up. Joe saved us again. I don’t know if his umbrella survived being turned inside out, but he fixed whatever was wrong with Bruce’s car. Joe, aka Pepe’, aka Steve, is a real character. He’s a decent golfer and an even better human being. Sunday morning, we took Dave to the Asheville airport and the rest of us drove home. 

Myrtle Beach! The jury’s still out on it and will remain out because I have no intention of returning to formulate an opinion. I saw so little of it I can’t make an educated assessment. I only know that it can rain so heavily there that it floods the courses and they become unplayable. And your accommodations can be very iffy. 

Fortunately, when eight guys put their heads together, a golf trip can be rescued. That’s what happened when our Myrtle Beach trip got rained out. Someone always came up with a place to go and a course to play. Even though Maggie Valley seemed like an old folk’s retreat (“my 75th birthday”), the course was good, our rooms were decent, the food was good, it was available—and it didn’t rain. 

I would describe Myrtle Beach as the working man’s golf resort. It’s a blue collar paradise. However, there are several nice championship tracks in the 65-mile stretch. In fact, according to the South Carolina Visitor’s Guide, 13 of the top 32 courses in SC are in the Myrtle Beach area. Unfortunately, those weren’t the courses we played, so my opinion of Myrtle is based on incomplete data. Visiting a place only once doesn’t give one a true picture of the whole deal. It takes more time and exposure.

This golf trip was indeed unique. If we had had a nicer condo, better weather, and been able to stay in one place, my opinion might be different. But it certainly makes for a good story.

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2 Comments

  1. I laughed out loud at parts of the Myrtle Beach story. Sometimes things just don’t work out right.

    1. Thanks, Susan. It was a comedy of errors. Bruce drove through the mountains like a madman. Only Bruce could blow up a bird house with a mis-hit.I can still se that rack of loaner sport coats!

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