Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Taste of Scotland: Myrtle Beach’s The Wizard has links feel

Posted 10/16/2011 10:35:00 PM

Tim Sautter understands tradition. One wall of the Greensburg, Pa., native’s office at The Wizard Golf Course is a shrine to all things Pittsburgh Steelers: a “Terrible Towel,” a poster depicting the NFL team’s six Super Bowl victories, photos of Steeler greats.

But what the 39-year-old director of golf at The Wizard – one of three Myrtle Beach courses operating under the Mystical Golf umbrella – cherishes most is four Subway napkins framed under glass with hand-written notes on the back of each. As a youngster growing up in Anderson, Sautter would save up for weeks to afford $50 golf lessons from the late Grant Bennett, a giant among South Carolina golf teachers.

“I took golf lessons in Anderson from Jackie Seawell,” Sautter says, referencing another teaching great. “When he moved to Aiken, I had no one to help me until some guys I caddied for told me, ‘Look up Grant Bennett at Crickentree in Columbia – he teaches all the great ones,” including current PGA Tour star Jonathan Byrd.

The napkins? Covered with swing thoughts and coaching tips Sautter took away from the legendary instructor, and still uses.

Today Sautter, a former College of Charleston player, oversees one of the Grand Strand’s more tradition-tinged layouts. Next door to its sister course Man O’ War, The Wizard is architect Dan Maples’ attempt to recreate the great links courses of Scotland on what was once a dead-flat pine forest, located in Myrtle Beach’s Carolina Forest development along U.S. 501.

Built in 1996, Maples took dirt excavated to create man-made lakes at Man O’ War – 1.8 million cubic yards of dirt – and used much of it to create the mounds, sod-faced bunkers and elevation changes that give The Wizard an Old World character. Add blustery breezes that sweep over the 6,721-yard course, slick bent grass greens (a rarity this far south), plus stone bridges and a clubhouse built to resemble a medieval castle’s ruins, and it’s not hard for golfers to imagine themselves in the land of Robert the Bruce.

A four-star rating from Golf Digest is the result of Maples’ handiwork. That and, Sautter says, his course’s attention to its customers. “We try to beat expectations,” he said. “We try to give people a country-club experience for their money. We try for the red carpet treatment.”

Part of that philosophy comes from Claude Pardue, owner of The Wizard, Man O’ War and The Witch. Part of it, too, is the reality that, in a market with more than 100 courses to choose from, “you have to fight for business in Myrtle Beach,” Sautter said.

Unlike true links courses, The Wizard has water in play on 13 holes. Most notable are its strong, three-hole finish: the par-4, 424-yard (back tees) 16th, with the lake bordering the right side and strategic fairway bunkers; the island-green par-3, 180-yard 17th with its large front bunker; and the par-4, 421-yard 18th, with water on both sides of a generous fairway and a peninsula green jutting out into the lake.

Mystical Golf bills its courses as distinct from one another, and The Wizard offers a hint of Scotland – and, Sautter says, something else. “We host a lot of events, and when people bring a group here, it’s a big event for them. They only care about the experience, and we want to give them good quality.”

That, he said, is tradition, too.

For information or tee times, call (843) 236-8000 or go to www.mysticalgolf.com.