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Everything Old Is New Again: Myrtle Beach’s ‘Granddaddy’ Reviving 1927 Golf Roots

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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When Pine Lakes Country Club - originally named Ocean Forest Country Club - was built in 1927, it was the first golf course in Myrtle Beach, where today nearly 100 courses beckon to players from all over the world. And for decades, various owners of "The Granddaddy" honored that tradition in ways large and small.

Upon arrival at the course, bag attendants dressed in tartan kilts or knickers greeted visitors, stressing the course's history. Pine Lakes also offered such touches as complimentary mimosas for players in the spring and summer, and cups of clam chowder in the colder months.

But with renovations a decade ago, those amenities slowly went away. When Founders Group International, which operates 22 Grand Strand courses, took over in 2014, it was decided that "Granddaddy" should act its age, and celebrate its tradition.

In 2017, the club's 90th anniversary year, that celebration is in full force.

"We wanted to bring back what Pine Lakes was known for," says Jonathan Brock, a native of Anderson, SC, and the club's head professional since early 2016. "We had longtime customers who'd always talk about how Pine Lakes used to be, and our CEO, Steve Mays, was completely on board with going back to our old traditions."

The results can be seen starting in October 2017, when staff members will again don black knickers with red shirts and red knee socks (bag attendants) or Royal Stuart tartan kilts with white button-down shirts and tartan bow ties (starters). Pro shop staff will wear similar period outfits of black slacks, white shirts and tartan ties.

And that's just to start. When players reach the course's sixth tee, starting in March 2018, they'll be greeted by attendants offering up mimosas, served in Champagne flutes. In fall and winter, the menu will switch to 6-ounce cups of clam chowder to take off the chill for players.

Returning to Pine Lakes' roots was "almost a no-brainer," Brock says. "(Mays) wanted each course (in the Founders Group) to stand out from the others - and tradition is that for us."

Indeed, Pine Lakes, which once had 27 holes but was consolidated into 18 holes, today has a place on the National Register of Historical Places. Originally designed by Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America and co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, the course retains its traditional style, but is quite up to modern standards.

That's thanks in part to that 2006 renovation by architect Craig Schreiner, who retained 16 holes' corridors and replaced two others, using 1937 aerial photos of White's original design to maintain the historic feel. The par-70 layout can play 6,675 from the longest of four sets of tees. The course's signature hole, the par-3 11th, is short by modern standards, but its green - the smallest on the course - is tightly guarded by a pond in front and buffeted by breezes from the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

And there's more history here than just the 18 holes. In 1954, Pine Lakes became the birthplace of Sports Illustrated when a group of 87 Time-Life employees met there en route home from Florida, outlining plans for the first-of-its-kind magazine. Old photos of that meeting (held in the now-restored Snug Pub) and other memorabilia can be viewed inside the clubhouse's History Hall.

The 18,368 square foot clubhouse, which began life as a resort hotel and was refurbished in 2009, also serves as home to the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, with 14 members enshrined in an outdoor courtyard behind the bar and dining area. Plaques honor both the SI founding and each Hall of Fame member's career, while elsewhere can be seen plaques for White, the designer and for famed professional golfer Gene Sarazen - who shot a round of 78 at Pine Lakes at the age of 78.

"We saw the memorabilia, and we listened to our guests," Brock says of restoring Pine Lakes to its traditional glory. Fittingly, he can offer up his own historic trivia about the club: Pine Lakes' distinctive logo, he says, was once the target of a lawsuit by designer Ralph Lauren, which wanted it for his Polo brand.

The club won, and the logo remains. In 2017, Pine Lakes remains a winner, too.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.