These days, South Carolina's Grand Strand stretches more than 50 miles from north to south, with some 70 golf courses that make this the Golfing Capital of America. They range from high-end designs by name architects that rank among the world's best, and smaller, mom-and-pop tracks that offer fun and great value.
But only two of all those courses can lay claim to having started it all.
The oldest existing course in Myrtle Beach, built in 1927 and having undergone a total restoration in 2009, is Pine Lakes Country Club; fittingly located almost in the exact center of the Strand. Once known at Pine Lakes International and affectionately called "The Granddaddy," the course and its restored clubhouse are credited to Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America and a co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects.
Today, the course's back nine reflects White's original design, while the front nine was renovated to "enhance the elegant experience (that) golfers from around the world associate with Pine Lakes," according to the club.
Myrtle Beach's second oldest club, by two decades, is The Dunes Beach and Golf Club, built in 1947 by renowned architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. A primarily private club that allows outsiders to play through a limited number of member hotels and golf package providers. The Dunes in its time has hosted multiple Senior PGA Tour (now Champions Tour) events, and was an early member of Golf Digest's "Top 100 Courses in America."
A Jones-led renovation in 1992, and a $6 million renovation in 2001, both have kept the course and its bent grass greens in tune with the times. The Dunes is home to Myrtle Beach's most famous hole, the par-5, lake-wrapping Waterloo.
Both Pine Lakes and The Dunes are products of golf's Golden Age, with easy green-to-tee locations conducive to walking and subtle but strong greens complexes. Both are exciting strolls through history.
The two also serve as starting points for golfers seeking a variety of experiences, all of them available within easy driving distance.
The heart of Myrtle Beach proper is U.S. 501, which connects nearby Conway with the beach and is a virtual "golf corridor." An intriguing and varied trio of courses, operated as Mystical Golf, includes the Dan Maples-designed Man O' War, The Wizard and The Witch. Man O' War features water on every hole, a pair of island greens and even an "island par-4," the water-surrounded ninth; The Wizard was built along the lines of Scottish links courses; while The Witch is a classic parkland layout wending its way through old-growth forests.
Also situated along 501 are The Hackler Course, part of Coastal Carolina University; the three courses (King's North, South Creek and West) of Myrtle Beach National, all designed by "The King," Arnold Palmer; another trio of courses at The Legends (Heathland, and Parkland by Tom Doak, Moorland by P.B. Dye); Arrowhead Country Club, a 27-hole layout by PGA Tour legend Raymond Floyd and Tom Jackson; Jackson's River Oaks Golf Club and the World Tour Golf Links, with 18 homage holes modeled after courses such as Augusta National and St. Andrews.
Located near Pine Lakes on U.S. 17 Bypass are two old favorites - Myrtlewood Golf Club's Pinehills and Palmetto courses - and a relative newcomer, Grande Dunes Resort Course by veteran PGA Championship designer Roger Rulewich. Arcadian Shores, yet another classic Robert Trent Jones design, is a short drive on 17 from Grande Dunes.
One more course in central Myrtle Beach is actually near Conway: Shaftesbury Glen, located off S.C. 905 - though, thanks to recently constructed S.C. 22, is a quick journey from the beach.
There's much more golf, of course, both north and south of downtown Myrtle Beach. But this is where it all started.