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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Preview: Founders Club, Pawleys Island, SC

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foundersclubholewithmanypotbunkers.jpg
Pot bunkers at The Founders Club appear easy to get into and tough to get out of...


    You would think that the Myrtle Beach area needs another new golf course like the U.S. needs another Presidential candidate.   After more than a dozen course closures along the Grand Strand over the last five years, the result of rising real estate prices and brutal competition among too many golf courses, things have finally settled down.  Indeed, we have noticed that green fees are up and choice tee times for the busy March/April season are spoken for already.  That is not great news for bargain-seeking golfers but a boon to the stability of the local golf scene.
    Yet the Classic Golf Group, which runs a handful of mid-level courses in the area, took advantage of the distress of the Strand's southernmost

The pot bunkers appear to have been made by meteorites.

course and bought the venerable Sea Gull Golf Club two years ago and announced a total makeover.  After a severe drought this past summer forced the new owners to suspend plans to open in September, the course is now set to open next month.  From my drive around the Founders Club today, patient local and visiting golfers will be well compensated.  The course is in great shape and the re-design by Thomas Walker, a member of Gary Player's architecture firm, has taken great advantage of the existing lakes and wooded areas, and added some dramatic and well-placed bunkers.  A lot of dirt appears tofoundersclubgreenwithmanypotbunkers.jpg have been pushed around to create the elevated and severely contoured green complexes, and a lot of sand trucked in to create wide expanses of sawgrass-punctuated waste bunkers.  At the old Sea Gull, you could roll your ball onto most greens; those days are now over.  Cost of the redesign is estimated at $7 million, but because of the delayed opening, the true cost is probably considerably higher.
    Sea Gull opened originally in 1970 in a neighborhood of mostly modest homes that, today, sell in the low to mid six figures.  Many cart paths on the course cross neighborhood streets.  This is not a planned community by any means, and the styles, condition and prices of the homes run the gamut.  A small (1,500 square foot) home on Hill Drive that backs up to the course is listed at $245,000.  At the other end of the golf course, and the market, a 6,500 square foot ranch is listed for $789,000.  There are plenty of homes for sale in between.  Unless you have your heart set on private club membership, you could purchase the Myrtle Beach Golf Passport for just $39 a year and play The Founders, Pawleys Plantation (across the highway), Heritage (just north), Caledonia and True Blue (both within five minutes) at significant discounts.
    The new Founders clubhouse is small but more than ample for a daily fee course.  The large practice green is just behind the first tee.  The Best Western chain purchased the adjacent motel last year and has spruced it up in anticipation of the buzz about The Founders and the expected number of package golfers arriving this spring.  The ninth hole, whose green is just in front of the hotel and parallel to Highway 17, is a doozy of a par 5.  From the blue tees, which are suggested for the 5 to 10 handicapper, the narrow hole plays 534 yards.  After foundersclub18th.jpga drive down the center, the second shot must be played to a landing strip of grass that is no wider than 25 yards, with water all along the left and trees, and a local street, on the right.  The wedge approach is to a severely tilted green that is surrounded by bunkers that appear to have been formed by meteorites.  It is a hole more fitting for an 18th, although The Founders' finishing hole is no slouch either, a short par 4 surrounded by sand.  The par 3s are all impressive, one in particular with a false front that slopes down to a pond in front.  Another hole, a par 4, features a split fairway; between the short grass strips is a humped area of Bermuda rough featuring some of the smallest pot bunkers I've ever seen.  The only way out of them is sideways.
    The Founders Club, 7829 Ocean Highway (Route 17), Pawleys Island, SC.  Opens for play in February.  Phone:  800-Tee-Offs.  Web site:  ClassicGolfGroup.com.  Men's tees...Black: 7007 yards, Rating 74.1, Slope 139.  Blue:  6,708, 72.8,134.  White:  6,394, 71.1, 129.  Ladies tees...Gold:  5,506, 72.4, 133.  Red: 4,805, 68.1, 114.

foundersclubpar3overwater.jpg

The par 3s I saw were all-carry affairs over water or sand, sometimes both.

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Larry Gavrich

This blog was conceived and is published by me, Larry Gavrich, a former corporate communications executive who founded HomeOnTheCourse, LLC, in 2005.  Our firm advises baby boomers and others seeking a lifestyle in which golf is a major component.  My wife Connie and I own a home in Connecticut (not on a golf course) and a condo at Pawleys Plantation in Pawleys Island, SC, on a Jack Nicklaus layout.  We began our search for our home on the course more than 15 years ago, and the challenges of the search inspired me to research golf communities and write objective reviews of them.

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