Since 2002, more than half of the event's existence, its home has been The Dye Club at Barefoot Resort. If that's not an endorsement, what is?
Take a turn through the club's beautiful clubhouse, its lush locker room and dining areas, and see wood trimming that came from Barefoot Resort's timber-magnate owner. Check out the pro shop, where Hootie-themed shirts and other memorabilia are on sale - and discounted to move 2011's gear before 2012 arrives.
But to really understand why singer Darius Rucker, lead guitarist Mark Bryan and such luminaries as John Daly and 2010 PGA Player of the Year Jim Furyk keep coming back every year, take a shot at Pete Dye's creation. Think Kiawah's Ocean Course, TPC Sawgrass and even a bit of Harbour Town, and you've got the picture.
Jeff Diehl, the club's professional since 2005, knows testing golf courses. Before coming to The Dye Club, he worked at Bethpage Black, a two-time U.S. Open venue regarded as one of the more rugged courses in the USGA rotation. His current home, he says, is all that, too.
"It's Dye distinctive, but it's also playable" for all talent levels, Diehl said. "Pete is known for his (courses') pitfalls: the waste areas, the railroad ties" used in bunkering and water hazards. "I tell people that yes, it's demanding and visually intimidating ... but it's all about lines and angles. If you double-check those before hitting your shots, you're going to save strokes."
Once Barefoot Resort's private course - the other three, designed by Tom Fazio, Greg Norman and Davis Love III, have always been public - the Dye Club now is semi-private. "Anyone who wants to come and try it, bring it on," Diehl said. At 7,343 yards from its Tournament tees, it's the longest of the four - but Dye's challenges aren't merely about length.
Its GN-1 Bermuda hybrid fairways twist and wind between water, marsh, waste areas and mounds, forcing players to carefully consider each club and shot selection. Greens are slick L-93 bent grass - a rare treat in Myrtle Beach's summertime heat.
The opening hole, a 425-yard par-4, calls for a draw off the tee that follows the fairway and avoids sandy waste areas left and right. Not the most difficult start - but a taste of what's to come.
Two of the most visually stunning holes are the 195-yard, par-3 sixth, which has water all along the right side and a line of mounds on the left, and the par-4 ninth, a dogleg-left 493-yard beast playing over marsh, sand and bunkers, with a ridge running the right side to keep balls in play. The narrow-entrance approach to a deep but skinny green, with water to the right and more sand back and left, will test anyone's iron-game skills.
The finish - Nos. 14-18 - is especially daunting, while also visually stimulating. The 14th (par-4, 475 yards) plays between a ridge right and a massive waste area the length of the left side. The par-3 15th is "one of my favorites," Diehl says, demanding a right-to-left tee shot into a postage stamp-sized green guarded on the left by deep bunkers.
The par-5 16th also features sand seemingly everywhere down both sides and a demanding layup shot. Another par-3, the 17th plays over deep, gnarly rough and has a particularly nasty pot bunker - another Dye specialty - guarding the left side.
Finally, the par-4 18th is reminiscent of the 18th hole at TPC Sawgrass, with a lake guarding the length of the left side and a mounds/bunkers gauntlet on the right. The green wraps right-to-left around the water, with another pot bunker on the front-right corner.
There's no sign of Hootie and friends in the summer, but there are deals for vacationers, including a "buy three get one free" offer that allows golfers to test all four Barefoot courses. "We call them the Fantastic Four," Diehl said, and with the Love (No. 1), Fazio and Dye all rated among the Grand Strand's top 10 by Golf Digest, they live up to their billing.