3 days in Myrtle Beach

Save money this spring on the Grand Strand

It'd be hard to find a more competitively priced golf destination than Myrtle Beach. Long considered the affordable alternative to higher-end golf hot spots, it's poised to attract budget-conscious golfers and a new crop of vacationers during the current economic downturn.

Of course, bargains aren't Myrtle Beach's only attraction. First and foremost is the high-quality (and high-quantity) golf. Myrtle Beach has about 100 courses on its Grand Strand, and many of them rank among the country's best. Another draw is the area's pleasant spring weather. The average high temperatures along the South Carolina coast hover in the high 70s and low 80s in May—just the thing that'll keep your muscles and golf swing loose.

There's also a lot going on this spring, including the recent grand opening of the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame at the newly renovated Pine Lakes Country Club. After a 20-month, $16 million makeover, Pine Lakes also boasts a spruced-up clubhouse and golf course reminiscent of Scottish links.

But perhaps the most attractive thing about Myrtle Beach remains its location, halfway down the eastern seaboard, a short flight from just about anywhere east of the Continental Divide. Plus, many discounted specials are available, and a trip to the area might be the perfect cure for your recession blues.

The Pine Lakes Country Club reopened March 14, 2009, after a $16 million renovation. Myrtle Beach-based architect Craig Schreiner returned the course to its early 20th century Scottish roots.

Day 1 Spend your first day at the newly renovated Pine Lakes Country Club, home of the new Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, which opened on March 14. Situated in Pine Lake's new Hall of Fame Garden near the club's refurbished clubhouse, the Hall of Fame will induct members of the golf community who helped to develop Myrtle Beach's golf industry. (The inaugural group included architects, golfers and Myrtle Beach business leaders.)

After you stroll through the garden, tee it up on the recently renovated Pine Lakes Course. The Grand Strand's first golf course opened its doors in 1927 and recently underwent a 20-month, $16 million restoration project headed by Myrtle Beach-based architect Craig Schreiner. After its makeover, Pine Lakes has returned to its early 20th century Scottish roots. One nine has been restored; another nine is brand-new.

In addition to its refurbished golf course, Pine Lakes C.C. has restored its clubhouse. At right is a sketch of the design.

Myrtle Beach Golf Hall Of Fame Located at the Grand Strand's first golf course, Pine Lakes Country Club, the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, which opened its doors March 14, 2009, honors men and women who have played a significant role in the Myrtle Beach golf industry. Each inductee is memorialized in the garden surrounding the Sports Illustrated monument that commemorates the magazine's birthplace some 54 years ago.

Myrtle Beach's more inviting sand and water The 18th at River Club tempts golfers to go for it in two. Wachesaw Plantation's sandy, wet 9th hole

Day 2 On day two, head south about 25 miles away from central Myrtle Beach, and play two courses on the Waccamaw Golf Trail.

The 12-course trail surrounds the charming beachside towns of Pawleys Island and Litchfield Beach and features some of the Grand Strand's best golf courses, including Caledonia, Pawleys Plantation and Willbrook.

This being the heart of the so-called "low country," many courses were built on former rice and indigo plantations and are routed along the Waccamaw River's black waters. While it's not easy to choose which courses to play, we suggest you consider playing layouts designed by different architects. Jack Nicklaus (Pawleys Plantation), Gary Player (Blackmoor), Tom Fazio (TPC Myrtle) and the late Mike Strantz (Caledonia and True Blue) all have left their mark on this southern trail, and each course reflects its designer's architectural trademarks. Fortunately, all the Waccamaw Trail courses are within a (very) short drive of each other, so mixing and matching is a breeze.

#17 on the Palmetto Course

# 11 at the PineHills Course. Two par-3s at Myrtlewood Golf Club measure the same length and demand carries over water hazards.

Day 3 On day three, you have a couple options: Either tee it up at another Waccamaw Golf Trail course or head back up north to the 36-hole, Myrtlewood Golf Club, a Myrtle Beach favorite for over 40 years. Myrtlewood boasts two designs, Palmetto and PineHills, and both incorporate lots of water in their designs, including the Intracoastal Waterway. PineHills, formerly known as The Pines, is the only Arthur Hills course in Myrtle Beach, while Edmund B. Ault designed the Palmetto Course. Both courses have player-friendly layouts and offer a great chance to card a low score before your vacation ends.

_Ê Getting There Myrtle Beach is within driving distance of Charleston, S.C., and Wilmington and Charlotte, N.C. Myrtle Beach International Airport is served by Delta, Continental, Northwest, Spirit and US Airways.

  Recession Specials Stay four nights and play four rounds on the Waccamaw Golf Trail this May. The Waccamaw Golf Trail Four-Night Special includes lodging, greens fees, cart fees, buffet breakfast and all taxes and services. $569.46 per person, valid through May 15 (a savings of 25-35%!). To book, call (888) 766-4633 or visit waccamawgolftrail.com.

The Granddaddy Package includes three nights in a Grande Guest Room at the Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, one round at Pine Lakes C.C., Grande Dunes Resort Course and either Myrtlewood Palmetto or Pine Hills course. Includes a full breakfast. Valid until June 30. $654 per golfer. To book, call (866) 628-7477 or visit mbtrips.com.

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