Trailblazing: Misery breeding company among golf courses

    In a stressful economy that is putting many independent golf courses into full-fledged survival mode, some course operators have put aside their competitive natures and pooled their shrinking resources.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the highly competitive Myrtle Beach golf market, where a few dozen golf courses are hoping to sing Happy Trails before too long.
    Taking a page from the famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Alabama, The Waccamaw Golf Trail on the south end of the Grand Strand in the Pawleys Island area was the first to combine marketing efforts for local golf clubs.  Almost all the dozen courses in thegrandedunesresortclubhouse.jpg group are among the first rank of the Myrtle Beach area's 110 clubs.  Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, for example, ranks highly in "best-of" lists in the Golfweek, Golf Digest and Zagat golf guides.  True Blue, Caledonia's sister course, is also part of the Trail; both were designed by the late Mike Strantz.  The Tom Fazio designed and highly regarded TPC of Myrtle Beach, which has hosted professional tour events, was recently renovated to excellent reviews.  The other courses rounding out the impressive roster are Pawleys Plantation (J. Nicklaus), Heritage (L. Young), Blackmoor (G. Player), Founders Club (T. Walker), River Club (T. Jackson), Litchfield (W. Byrd), The Tradition (R. Garl), Wachesaw East (C. Johnston) and Willbrook Plantation (D. Maples).  Almost all the courses, which are no more than 15 minutes apart, are part of planned residential communities.    

    Recently, 22 courses and an assortment of hotels that straddle the North and South Carolina borders and extend all the way up to Bald Head Island formed the Brunswick Isles Golf Trail.  The roster of courses is sprinkled with a few less-than-stellar layouts but comprises mostly well-regarded tracks, like The Thistle, Leopard's Chase and Tiger's Eye (parts of the Ocean Ridge Plantation community), Tidewater and Bald Head Island, which anchors the northernmost part of the Trail and requires a ferry ride to reach.  In total, the trail spans 60 miles.
    With the north and south ends of Myrtle Beach's Grand Strand now covered with co-marketed golf courses, it is only a matter of time before golf operators in the heart of Myrtle Beach put together a trail mix of their own.  Our pick for candidates for the Heart of Myrtle Beach Golf Trail would be the recently reopened and fully renovated Pine Lakes International, the Grande Dunes Resort course, the four courses at Barefoot Landing, International World Tour, and Kings North at Myrtle Beach National.


The Thistle Golf Club is one of 22 courses that together comprise the Brunswick Isles Golf Trail north of Myrtle Beach.

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