To enjoy yourself at Myrtle Beach, it helps if you like beaches and dislike pretentiousness. Somebody must dig that combination because this manmade island off the South Carolina coast welcomes more than 14 million tourists a year.
The atmosphere of Myrtle Beach stands far away from the rarified ocean air of Palm Beach or Miami Beach. Think Daytona, with a little more class and calmer local residents. Marked with a mix of colorful local restaurants, basic tourist attractions and a culture tied innately to the sea, and Myrtle Beach is where someone can go for vacation without worrying about if his swim trunks are in style. The Grand Strand and Boardwalk offers endless ocean views without the money soaked ennui of beaches farther south — offering instead no frills entertainment.
On my recent tour of the area, I spent my time tearing into three of the area’s top golf courses. They all fall under the umbrella of Mystical Golf – a locally owned and operated links organization dedicated to keeping elite golf in Myrtle Beach affordable and accessible to locals and friendly tourists.
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The three courses in the Mystical family are Man O’ War, The Witch and The Wizard. While situated near each other on the inland side of Myrtle, each has a distinct ambiance and character to offer different challenges to any player’s game.
Man O’ War (top) is a more traditional parkland course. There’s ample, but avoidable water — and plenty of sand in keeping with the area’s ocean heritage. One note about that sand? Watch out for fire ants. I put a shot in the bunker. I got out clean with one full swing — showering myself in sand while I watched the ball pop up on the green. After wondering why the sand burned so much down in Myrtle Beach, I realized I’d covered myself with little red hangers on and needed dousing with a water bottle. But my little friends were thanks to the Carolina ecosystem, not the golf course.
The fairways on Man O’ War are wide and inviting, the border vegetation infrequently deep enough to eat your golf ball.
The Witch (above) is the most aesthetically pleasing of the three courses. Built into more of a swamp environment, The Witch serves up more trees and more water than its sister courses. Its natural wetland surroundings also offer up the largest and most easily visible menagerie of wildlife, including small gators, snakes and egrets. Suffice to say, if you put a ball in the water on The Witch, just take another one out of the sleeve and move down the fairway.
Finally, The Wizard struck me as the most difficult of the Myrtle Beach outings. While not overly long, it has almost a links style layout featuring mid-hole vegetation hazards, sand and bumpy terrain making for difficult lies. Now, that doesn’t make it a disappointment to play. It’s still an attractive course and affordable to play. The visitor just needs to brace him or herself for a challenge.
Obviously, three courses only scratch the surface of the overall Myrtle Beach experience — especially if you include the areas other attractions. Still, Mystical Golf stays in tune with the South Carolinian coastal style by keeping it friendly and low key.