A week in Myrtle Beach an no golf! That just doesn’t seem right

If you enjoy a stroll around the links and you are going to be in Myrtle Beach for a week, it must mean you are on a golf trip, right? Well, not so fast, my friend. I love to play golf and I just got back from that said week on the Grand Strand, but I did not play a single round. Let me explain.

My wife’s sister Jan and her husband Ron invited Anita and I to go with them for a vacation in Myrtle Beach. We gladly accepted, and even though I knew golf was not going to be on the itinerary, I was aware that there are other things to do in the Golf Capital of the World.

We had a great time while catching a couple of shows at the Carolina Opry, lounging around the lazy river at our resort and we even took a day and drove to Charleston. There we took a carriage ride that took us past some great looking homes with the vintage architecture and piazzas.

I remember thinking that if I could afford one of those homes, it would be a great place to spend my retirement days. Soon our tour guide mentioned the selling price for these properties and I quickly came to the conclusion that $17 million was a bit out of my price range!

On the way back we toured the Boone Hall Plantation and found out that one of the owners had a racehorse that became the granddaddy to — get this — Secretariat, Seattle Slew and American Pharoah. I’m guessing that horse was pretty fast.

Our “foursome” enjoyed several great meals including a trip to Drunken Jack’s, a famed seafood place in Murrel’s Inlet. Is it wrong to order prime rib in a seafood restaurant? Oh well, I had seafood on two other occasions during the week.

I must admit that it was difficult to drive by some golf courses knowing that I was not going to play. I also noticed that some courses were no longer open. Before I left on this trip I was talking to Buckeye Bob, who informed me that many courses had been sold and torn up to build condos. My goodness, what were they thinking? I mean if you are not going to Myrtle Beach to golf, why are you going at all?

Yes, I guess they do have an ocean and miles and miles of beach!

My family has been to Myrtle Beach many times and when we could get three different school calendars to match up, that was our spring break destination. When the kids were young, I was not permitted to take my golf clubs. Keeping two little ones away from the ocean’s edge was a job for both mom and dad. So this trip was not the first time I had been in Myrtle Beach with no golf on the agenda.

As the kids got older I brought my sticks along and played a couple of days. As a single you would go to a course, pay your green fees and the starter would fit you in with a group that was not full. I went to Myrtle Beach National one time and was hooked up with three Kansas State grads.

These guys were good golfers and liked to razz each other when a bad shot was struck. I fit in immediately, partly because I was not above chiding someone, but more importantly, I hit enough bad shots that I was frequently on the receiving end of the barbs.

One of the Kansas State guys was named Kevin Keitzman. He worked for a TV station and later would lead a fan walkout at a Royals/Yankees game. They were protesting the disparity of payrolls between the two clubs. He later became a radio sports shock jock and to this day I tell everyone that I know him, which is true though I doubt he remembers me.

Another time I played Tidewater. I was told by a student of mine that they played it every time they went to Myrtle Beach. It was a little expensive, but worth it. So I went into the clubhouse, picked up a visor and put my credit card down to pay for the lid and the green fees. I gulped when the tab was in triple digits, but off I went. I was paired up with a banker, his wife and his daughter.

The guy was pretty good, the women not so much. I think they were playing to humor him and picked up on more than half the holes. I thought that they were spending a lot of money to not even finish most of the holes. Then again, he was a banker …

Upon returning home I decided to check to see if some of the courses I had played over the years were still in operation. Heron Point and Island Green are no longer there. Neither is Bay Tree, which had three 18-hole courses. John Daly’s Wicked Stick is now closed.

I played Wicked Stick one time and I remember hitting a drive that (surprisingly?) went way left into the rough by a nearby fairway. Three fellows were walking up their own fairway to find their ball when they ran into me. Of course they stopped to watch me hit and luckily I caught a three wood right on the screws. There comments were funny.

One guy said “great shot.” The next guy said “wow” that was awesome. The third guy then deadpanned, “with a shot like that, how did you get over here in the first place?”

Such is golf. The ball does not always go where you want it to!

We drove by Waterway Hills. Bob had told me about this place. The course was unique in that you had to park in a parking lot well away from the clubhouse. The only way to get to the course was to ride a gondola over a body of water.

Alas, the gondola is not operating as the course closed some three years ago.

Despite the fact that some courses are no longer available for play, there are still many others that await that golf vacation. If you are not inclined to play golf, I would still recommend the place.

After all, they do have a beach.

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s golf columnist.

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