The Grand Strand fared well in recent voting by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel, particularly with regard to value.
Ten area courses were named to the panel’s selection of South Carolina’s Top 50 Golf Courses for 2016, and three groups of courses represented on the Strand received three of the four “Best Value” awards “in recognition of a commitment to exceptional golf, facilities and customer service.”
Sister courses Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club received the Best Public Club Value. The three-course Legends Resort, which also encompasses Heritage Club in Pawleys Island and Oyster Bay Golf Links in Sunset Beach, N.C., through the Arnold Palmer Golf Management company, received the Best Public Group Value. McConnell Golf, which operates 12 courses including both the Reserve Club in Pawleys Island and Members Club at Grande Dunes, received Best Private Group Value.
Recently remodeled Orangeburg Country Club received the Best Private Club Value.
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The winners and top-50 list were revealed this past weekend during the panel’s annual Spring Kickoff Outings and Awards Banquet at Wild Dunes Resort in Isle of Palms.
Strand courses in the top 50 are The Dunes Golf and Beach Club at No. 7, Caledonia (10), Tidewater Golf Club (26), Wachesaw Plantation (29), the Reserve Club (35), Heritage Club (38), True Blue (42), DeBordieu Club (43), Glen Dornoch Golf Links (44) and Pawleys Plantation (49).
Caledonia is the only newcomer to the top 10, replacing Palmetto Golf Club in Aiken, and Heritage Club, Glen Dornoch and Pawleys Plantation are new to the top-50 list.
The No. 1 course is the state is again the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, and Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island moved up three spots to No. 2 from 2014 voting. Sage Valley Golf Club, May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff and Greenville Country Club's Chanticleer Course round out the top five.
“One thing we noticed was a lot of courses have been making renovations and revisions, and that has caused some movement on the list,” ratings panel director Mike Whitaker said. “For instance, Harbour Town is back up to No. 2.”
The panel is composed of 125 golf enthusiasts from throughout the state and represents a diverse range of occupations, handicaps and backgrounds.
Judging criteria include routing, variety, strategy, equity, memorability, aesthetics and experience. The best courses, public or private, are selected in even-numbered years, and the best public courses are ranked in odd-numbered years.
Though no Strand course made Golfweek’s lists of the top 100 Classic (pre-1960 design) or top 100 Modern courses in the U.S., The Dunes Club is ranked 107th on Golfweek’s Next 100 Classic Courses, and Caledonia is ranked 141st on Golfweek’s Next 100 Modern Courses.
The area is also well-represented in the magazine’s listing of the top public-access courses in both North Carolina and South Carolina.
The top 15 courses in S.C. include The Dunes Club at No. 3, Caledonia (5), True Blue (6), Tidewater (7), Myrtle Beach National’s King’s North Course (10), TPC Myrtle Beach (11), Legends’ Moorland Course (12), Barefoot Resort’s Dye Club (13), Heritage Club (14) and the Grande Dunes Resort Course (15).
The top courses in N.C. include Bald Head Island Club (8) and Leopard’s Chase at Ocean Ridge (10).
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A pair of Dan Maples-designed Mystical Golf owned and operated courses rate among the top 15 courses in South Carolina according to public reviews posted on the Golf Advisor website in 2015.
The Witch Golf Links is No. 5 and Man O’War is No. 13.
A pair of Brunswick County courses made the top 20 in North Carolina, as the Tim Cate-designed Thistle Golf Club checks in at No. 9 and the Maples-designed Sandpiper Bay Golf & Country Club is at No. 16.
Brierwood Golf Club in Shallotte, N.C., has considerably improved conditions and is ranked No. 4 on Golf Advisor’s ranking of the most improved courses in the U.S. in 2015.