Beach time, tee time, showtime…and then repeat the playlist. Lured by 80+ golf courses in the vicinity and vacation packages galore, millions of club toting tourists flock to this sprawling East Coast destination beach year round.
Canadians in particular have warmed to the golf bastion, in part thanks to Can-Am Days promotions, designed to ameliorate the wallet wallop of the currency exchange. From January through September select hotels offer Canadians deep discounts as steep as 55% off. As a result of the red-carpet treatment the Canuck tourist contingent is highly visible here; Canadian flags are flown outside many of the hotels, and you see Ontario plates in pretty much every golf course parking lot.
But Canadian or not, most visitors follow the familiar refrain: beach time, tee time, showtime…repeat. I’ve been guilty of that exact itinerary, often driven to book my trip to once again walk the bodacious fairways of a bevy of beauties that beg repeated play including faves
True Blue Golf Club, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, King’s North at Myrtle Beach National and the Love course at Barefoot Resort & Golf, followed by the customary dip in the ocean, lollygagging stroll down the beach and a float on one of Myrtle’s many lazy rivers.
You can rinse and repeat it all the next day – or you can discover there’s more to Myrtle than meets the club.
Learn to Wake Board
If the mere idea of skimming over water at 40km an hour grabs you, chances are you’ll fall in love with snowboarding’s summer cousin. As with wakeboarding’s kindred board sport, top riders are obsessed with “going big” which translates in real terms to pulling off dizzying spins, flips, and upside down aerial tricks known as inverts in wake-speak. But before you can brave a ramp or even attempt an acrobatic maneuver you first have to get up and get a handle on being pulled around like a leashedpooch out for a run.
North Myrtle’s Shark Wake Park, a state of the art Danish designed 5-Tower full-size Alta Cable Ski system which pulls riders on a loop around a man made lake, is a sweet spot to learn the ropes. I’m feeling a little bit of trepidation before grabbing the rope and letting the pulley system take me for a ride. I keep flipping my board around trying to determine if it is more comfortable with my left foot forward or my right. Both ways seem about the same. The operator, sensing my apprehension, tells me most right handed people do opt to put their left foot ahead but not to let trivial stats limit myself. Perhaps he’s right—maybe I’m “ambifootrous.”
“Quit overthinking and start doing,” I tell myself before grabbing hold of the rope. The red light changes to green and in a jiffy I’m yanked onto the course.
For a few glorious milliseconds I glide over the water like a great blue heron. Then suddenly, my center of gravity goes awry and I face plant into the drink. Using the wakeboard as a flutter board I swim back to shore raring to go again. It takes a few attempts (well, in the spirit of honesty seven or eight) before I get a handle of the balancing act and start making some turns around the circuit.
The turning point came when I finally committed to muscle memory the pivotal move of bringing the rope back into my hip when it periodically would go a little slack. The consequence of forgetting to make the move was a sudden jerk forward followed by a belly flop. While I chose to stick to the perimeter of the park eschewing all the ramps rails, next time out I’ll go “bigger” and at least try a jump.
Before leaving the wake park, there was no way I wasn’t going to take a crack at landing the floating green. The small island in the middle of the wake park is about a 60-yard shot from the Shark Shack bar and viewing deck. Patrons can only shoot for it during breaks in the wakeboarding action.
Only one person had stuck it and had it stay dry since the park opened a few months back and the employees had warned me that it was pretty much impossible. Waves made the turf draped island pretty topsy-turvy. Apparently park founder Greg Norman Jr., the son of the Australian golf legend, took fifty whacks at it and every single one either splashed or rolled off. Realizing that an aerial flag assault would be a foolish errand, on a lark I went low and skipped my ball toward the green. It took a couple bounces and then plopped down right beside the pin and stayed on. For my herculean performance I was bestowed with a $50 bar tab and also got my picture taken for their wall of fame.
Keeping the life aquatic theme going next up was Pirate’s Voyage, an action packed three-hour (including the pre-show) dinner-theater blockbuster a la Medieval Times. Only in addition to the choreographed swashbuckling and sword fighting there’s also cirque de soleil acrobatics, sea lion tricks, and Olympic caliber lagoon diving.
Of course you can’t leave Myrtle Beach without playing at least a couple rounds of golf and Tidewater is one of the area’s top tracks and a perennial top 100 in places you can play in America and tends to beckon. The Ken Tomlinson design was reconditioned in 2014 bumping it up a few pegs on the Myrtle Beach area course leaderboard by the estimation of most. A quartet of holes play out along Cherry Grove Inlet with spectacular marsh views, while No. 8 and 16, both stunners in their own right, hug the Intracoastal waterway. And as a fan of designer Michael Stranz I can’t go to Myrtle without playing either True Blue and Caledonia Hunt & Fish Club.
Also managed to fit in a few rounds of miniature golf. Spy Glass will mesmerize any little ones you have in tow with simulated cannon fire, a pirate ship you get to thoroughly explore plus an abandoned silver mine and holes played in a cave underneath a giant waterfall.
Meanwhile Hawaiian Rumble is designed for more competitive putt-putt types. While you get lei’d when you walk in and there is a 40-foot volcano that erupts every fifteen minutes, there is nary a mystery box, clown’s mouth or any other childish quirk that favors luck over skill. This course has after all staged the U.S. Pro Mini Golf Association’s Masters tournament in the past.
If gorging yourself into a coma ingesting heaping plates of Calabash-style seafood at restaurants with marquees boasting two hundred plus items on the buffet line sounds like a plan then you’ve come to the right place. Endless crab legs, oysters, and shrimps are certainly de rigueur in Myrtle but the beach city also caters to pickier palates.
Just a couple blocks from the boardwalk is The Chemist, a molecular gastronomy laboratory packing plenty of elemental surprises from diver scallops with yuzu foam to the sriracha caviar which amps up a delectable over easy quail egg on toast appetizer. Many patrons choose to cozy up to the bar to watch the cocktail theater as molecular mules, radioactive cokes, gin fusions and many a misting potion are created. Another place to get your drink on in style is La Belle Amie Vinyard which has been in the Bellamy family since the 1800s. Tastings include six selections plus a sample of mulled wine and a wine slushy.
I’m also partial to the plentiful waterfront dining options in Murrell’s inlet. My go-to is Wicked Tuna. They’re always serving up tantalizing hook-to-plate catches and do save room for one of their sinfully awesome desserts.