A Better Miss: Golfing in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

golfMyrtle

August 1, 2008
Filed under Travel

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It’s been said that the first step towards recovery is admitting that one has a problem. So I’ll cop to living in denial for years – doing the same things over and over, expecting different results; spending money on an activity without ever becoming better at it. Occasionally I’ve lost hope, considered drastic measures, even contemplated a complete cessation. But since the truth possesses emancipating properties, I admit here for the first time that I am a lousy golfer.

Certain devotees of the dimpled ball spend time improving their games, striking balls at driving ranges until their hands callus, experimenting with new-fangled putters and memorizing Golf Digest’s playing tips. They plan vacations around tee times and worship at the altar of Old Tom Morris. Among RVers, golf
consistently ranks behind only scenic touring and fishing.

Since I was securely ensconced in the quagmire of hackerdom, I relished the opportunity to visit the Steve Dresser Golf Academy in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Other destinations may try to lay claim to the golfing crown, but when it comes to the combination of quantity, quality and variety of golf courses in one location, Myrtle Beach is the undisputed king. It may also be the country’s premier RVing destination, with the city’s myriad tourist attractions – and the PirateLand Family Camping Resort and Ocean Lakes Family Campground are both top-notch
places to park the RV.

On a recent visit to this golf haven, I would play two courses that have been ranked among the top 100 courses in the country – Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, a course designed by the king himself, Arnold Palmer. I had toured part of Caledonia on a previous visit, and I knew my upcoming round there would be as close as I’ll ever get to playing Augusta National, since Caledonia is gorgeous, challenging and ultra-special. King’s North, I had been told, concedes nothing to
Caledonia in terms of beauty and adds you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me challenges that the average duffer will likely find are creative and daunting. These two alluring monsters threatened to humiliate me and empty my golf bag of Top-Flights, so I stopped by the Steve Dresser Golf Academy for a quick tune-up.

Adjacent to world-class True Blue Plantation, Caledonia’s sister course, Steve’s state-of-the-art academy delivers high-quality, hands-on instruction in a low-key, fun-filled manner. Steve encourages participants to tell jokes so the process seems more like a learning vacation than school, and he puts them at ease with his gregarious manner and assured teaching technique. Instruction ranges from hour-long private sessions to week-long, comprehensive classes that include rounds on both True Blue and Caledonia, but I would take what Steve could teach me in a few minutes, because my tee time loomed.

A lake and sand traps on the driving range allow golfers to emulate real-course situations, and as I stood admiring the whole operation, particularly the indoor tee box that eliminates rainouts and allows for Steve and his staff to videotape students’ swings, I hoped I didn’t skull the first 7-iron I hit, as Steve studied my swing. I didn’t, but the third, fourth and fifth balls scudded like skipped stones. I eventually
settled down, and Steve led me inside, where he videotaped my swing. To my surprise, I didn’t look as pretzeled as I thought I would; I even managed to do a few things correctly, Steve said.

He told me to keep my head tilted to the right and not to take my club straight back. Instead, I should let the club follow the natural arc created by my shoulder turn, and I should remember to follow through. Steve then set my videotaped swing side-by-side with Tiger Woods’ swing, and, upon comparing the two set-ups, swings and follow-throughs, I concluded that I’m a better skier than Tiger is. I think. Ticking off Steve’s instructions in my head as I stood on the range with my driver in hand, I then hit three long, straight drives and felt I was ready for Caledonia. Ah, the folly of newfound knowledge.

I joined a foursome from Boston on the first tee at Caledonia. The group plays a handful of courses in
Myrtle Beach the week of Columbus Day each year. They have played dozens of the 120-or-so courses in the region, and it grants an A+ rating to Caledonia. Paul Ryan, who shot a 39 on the front side, says Caledonia is probably his favorite of the courses he’s played in the area, and he believes that Caledonia’s 18th hole is the best finishing hole in Myrtle Beach.

For the most part, I drove the ball well, thanks to Steve’s tips, and I even hit a 245-yard drive over an alligator that was sunning itself in a sand trap on the seventh hole. The course has some of the most fantastic, beautiful holes I’ve played, with the fourth, eighth, 13th and 14th particularly special. And, yes, the finishing hole is challenging and memorable.

 

King’s North at Myrtle Beach National is only one of nine courses under the Myrtle Beach National umbrella, yet to use the word “only” in regard to King’s North may be to misrepresent it. The layout is so challenging, the vistas so stunning and the water holes so memorable that it’s easy to understand why this course is considered one of the best in the nation. I birdied the first hole when I chipped in, but
otherwise, King’s North owned me. The sixth hole, called “The Gambler,” relegates other “challenging” holes to the realm of the mundane. I played the par-5, 525-yard hole (from the gold tees) safely, electing not to go for the island fairway, and I still triple-bogeyed the beast.

I obviously have more work to do with Steve Dresser.

Steve Dresser Golf Academy, (800) 397-2678, www.dressergolf.com.

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, (800) 483-6800, www.fishclub.com.

Myrtle Beach Golf,
(866) 442-8417, www.mbn.com.

Myrtle Beach
Area Visitor Information, (800) 356-3016, www.visitmybeach.com.

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