A guide to the top-ranked public courses in South Carolina, according to Golf Digest’s course-ranking panel.Less
Often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event—the 1991 Ryder Cup—this manufactured linksland-meets-lagoons layout might be Pete Dye’s most diabolical creation. Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes. Strung along nearly three miles of ocean coast, Dye took his wife’s advice and perched fairways and greens so golfers can actually view the Atlantic surf at the host site of the 2012 and 2021 PGAs.
In the late 1960s, Jack Nicklaus landed the design contract for Harbour Town, then turned it over to his new partner, Pete Dye, who was determined to distinguish his work from Robert Trent Jones. Soon after Harbour Town opened, the course debuted on America’s 100 Greatest as one of the Top 10. It was a total departure for golf at the time. No mounds, no elevated tees or greens—just low-profile and abrupt change. Harbour Town gave Dye national attention and put Nicklaus in the design business.
Built some 35 years after nearby Harbour Town Golf Links, May River is an interesting contrast in Jack Nicklaus's portfolio. It's an equally low-profile layout with a number of bump-and-run approach shots but with several Pine Valley-like waste areas and with larger, bolder greens. The classic routing has the front nine turning clockwise through forest while the back nine circles counter-clockwise. Both touch repeatedly on the wetlands of namesake May River.
Its ocean-side dunes are mostly covered with turfgrass and mature trees now, but when Robert Trent Jones built The Dunes back in the late 1940s, the property was primarily windswept sand dotted with lagoons. Those lakes come in prominently on many holes, particularly on the 11th through 13th, dubbed Alligator Alley. (The boomerang-shaped par-5 13th is called Waterloo.) The home hole, with a pond in front of the green, started as a gambling par 5 but today is a daunting par 4.
The late designer Mike Strantz is celebrated within golf architecture circles for his short but brilliant career creating some exhilarating, fun courses. Caledonia was Strantz’s first solo design, and his creativity shines on this tiny oak-dotted, sand-dune parcel, which includes the very short ninth hole. It’s ranked 85th on Golf Digest's latest 100 Greatest Public ranking (it’s been as high as 66th). Two musts: The chowder at the turn and a drink on the porch behind the 18th hole.
The highest ranked of the four courses at Barefoot Resort, the Dye course offers classic risk/reward opportunities for low-handicappers with playable options for the higher handicap. The unique bunkering at the Dye course makes it stand out from other layouts in the Myrtle Beach area.
True Blue is Caledonia’s sister course, but it is distinctive on its own—ranking in Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public from 2003 to 2007. In some aspects, True Blue is a bolder version of Caledonia from architect Mike Strantz with more width but challenging risk/reward shots, particularly the par-5 fourth hole, one of the most invigorating in the entire Myrtle Beach area. Driving golf carts through the massive bunker complexes will add to the experience for some.
Once the host of the Senior Tour Championship and now home to Dustin Johnson’s annual World Junior Golf Championship, TPC Myrtle Beach is designed to challenge even the pros. Numerous water hazards, strategically placed trees, and forced carries make this track a tough, but enjoyable test.
Renovated in 2014 by Tom Fazio, several holes at Osprey Point run parallel to water hazards and deep bunkers provide ample defense against greens of varying sizes. Nestled in the natural lowcountry salt marsh, this track’s classic-style clubhouse also adds appeal.
Fantastic views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Grande Dunes Marina make this links-style golf course well worth the visit. Designed by Roger Rulewich, the course was built on a high bluff—the ideal setting for a picturesque sunset round. Expansive fairways littered with penalty areas throughout define Grande Dunes as a difficult, yet enjoyable resort course.