Courses offer a variety of different looks
Courses offer a variety of different looks
Narrow openings to fairways, greens surrounded by marshland highlights of Carolina National
By Alan Blondin
Myrtle Beach Golf Magazine
RANDALL HILL/Myrtle Beach Golf Magazine
BOLIVIA, N.C. - At Carolina National Golf Club you'll see and hear some things you're not likely to see or hear at any other course on the Grand Strand.
There's a starter who requires documentation of a 4 handicap or less - or special permission from the pro shop - before a golfer can play from the tips for pace of play purposes.
There are very narrow openings to fairways from the back tees, there's a par-3 completely surrounded by vast marshland with a single dead tree between you and the green, and there are a series of flower beds in grass bunker-like complexes near the center of a fairway.
What you also experience at Carolina National is a solid, versatile, entertaining and enjoyable eight-year-old golf course designed by Gene Bates and Fred Couples.
The course has a lot of variety in 27 holes. "You've got the varying views," said George VanCott of Southport, N.C., who was in a foursome that reviewed the course in mid-October. "You've got the marsh and river view and you've got the wooded areas. You really had a variety of golf course to play."
George, a retired Georgia-Pacific salesman with a 17 handicap, and I were joined by George's wife Fay, a retired AT&T manager with an 11 handicap, and J.R. Nye, an owner of two Shucker's Raw Bar restaurants in Myrtle Beach who carries a 5 handicap.
Carolina National has 27 holes, and we played the 18 composed of the Ibis and Egret nines. There is also a Heron nine.
Nye played the back black tees on the two nines, which combined for 6,944 yards, I played the 6,459-yard gold tees, George played the 5,939 blue tees and Fay played the 4,728-yard white tees. The course also has 5,381-yard teal tees.
As for the starter's request that Nye provide documentation before playing the back tees? "It's challenging but fair from the back tees," Nye said. "I don't think it's super long. I understand the pace of play, but it's not that difficult. I think they should let a local member play back there whenever they want."
Course workers' other attempts to keep up the pace of play were appreciated, however. "The staff nudges you along, and I liked that," Fay said. "Slow play is a problem."
"They were congenial and they warned you in advance," George added. "It's a friendly place."
There are a myriad of tee boxes on every hole, and on many holes they create vastly different angles and obstacles to the fairway. "It's visually intimidating off the tee on a couple shots," Nye said.
The forward white tees are a bit short for women who have length off the tee, so the teal would be a better option for them. Fay, who can drive the ball approximately 200 yards consistently, said she used 3-wood off the tee six times.
"You have to keep in mind where the trouble is and play accordingly," Fay said. "I had a lot of placement shots. I think anybody with distance should probably not play the forward tees. The trouble is right there from the tees. At least you have a fighting chance with the distance [from the teal]."
The course's many hazards are attractive but not overly penalizing. "The thing I like about the course is it has plenty of traps, plenty of marsh and plenty of water, but from my tee box it doesn't kill you," George said. "I really enjoyed it. It's well laid out."
Carolina National also has a fair amount of elevation change and rolling fairways. "I thought it was well-contoured, unlike what you might expect in the flatlands of North Carolina," George said. "There was a lot of undulation in the fairways and greens."
The L93 bentgrass greens were plush and smooth but fairly slow. The course's sand was a little dark and heavy, and was conducive to balls plugging. "I don't like the sand in the bunkers because it's a little too thick and heavy," Nye said.
The course was well manicured and the rough was fairly short.
A number of par-3s on the course are scenic, including the 203-yard Heron fifth hole in the marsh that our group did not see.
The Ibis 167-yard fifth hole is 160 from the gold and 138 from the blue tee with a green surrounded by marsh and the Lockwood Folly River just beyond the green. The river is also the backdrop to the third and sixth tees on the Ibis.
The Egret 184-yard fifth hole has a drive over wetlands that have grown above eye level and run into a water hazard in front of and to the right of the green. The drive from the back tee box is all carry and the other tee boxes swing to the left and offer a better angle to a bailout area on the left.
"It's a beautiful hole but they should cut the foliage down so you can see the water in front of the green," Nye said.
Three of the par-5s are tough to reach in two shots. The drive on the Ibis 552-yard, par-5 first hole features a patch of trees to maneuver on the left, while the other three tee boxes are farther left in the midst of wetlands and have a much more open fairway. The hole angles to the right after the drive with wetlands down the left side.
The 530-yard seventh hole at Ibis has an odd series of flower beds in bunker-like complexes near the center of the fairway about 70 yards in front of the green. "I like the idea," JR said. "I think more courses should do it."
The 577-yard Egret third hole features waste bunkers containing trees down the right side, and the 486-yard Egret ninth hole is a birdie hole from every tee. It's a dogleg left that can be cut significantly with wetlands fronting the green. Nye hit driver and 9-iron to reach the green in two. "That's not long enough from the back tees," he said. "I thought it was a 4 out of 5 all the way around except for the par-5s," Nye said. "I thought those were average."
The par-4s are diverse. The Ibis 420-yard third hole has wetlands crossing the fairway between 120 to 80 yards from the green, and the 417-yard fourth hole at Ibis has an uphill drive to a split fairway with a large tree signifying the middle rough portion. The Ibis 394-yard ninth hole also has two fairways split by a waste bunker, and has a water hazard left of the green.
The Ibis sixth hole is 431 yards from the back tees but is down to 351 and 335 from the gold and blue tees, respectively, which are on an island tee box surrounded by wetlands. The back tee has a very narrow opening through trees for the drive. "That's as narrow an opening for a drive as I've ever seen," Nye said. "I like it though. I like neat shots like that. Something that's visually different."
The Egret 388-yard first hole has a long, straightaway carry over marsh while the gold tee box swings to the left behind the marsh, creating a dogleg left.
The Egret 427-yard second hole has water down the left side, the fourth has water down the right side, and the sixth is the longest par-4 on the property at 445 yards.
"I think the par-4s are the best holes on the course," Nye said. "There was a lot of variety. They have placement shots and you can hit it long. They weren't overly long, though.
"... It's worth a 45-minute drive from Myrtle Beach. People like Freddy Couples, and there aren't that many Couples courses out here."