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Pine Lakes International Country Club, Myrtle Beach SC

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 29577



Website: www.pinelakes.com


Elegant and upscale are two words that instantly come to mind upon entering the gates of Pine Lakes International Country Club. The beautiful 62-room antebellum club was completed in 1927 and has always been a must for photographers both professional and amateur alike. The clubhouse is surrounded by oaks and towering pines.
There you are met by white-gloved caddymasters who are also clad in Scottish attire. Many of these gentlemen have been in the club's employment for 30-40 years, having begun as caddies carrying the bags of some of the most noted golfers in history. A proud adherence to tradition is evident as they inform you that the only time you are permitted to handle your clubs during your visit is while you're playing with them. Several assistants to the caddymasters begin a time-honored ritual of washing your clubs and shining your shoes.

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (July 11, 2002) -- "Ruff, ruff" is the sound you hear just before teeing off on the par 4 third hole at the Granddaddy. It's coming from Perry "The Big Dog" Bellamy, an 11-year veteran of Pine Lakes International Golf Club. He's serving up Mimosa's on the clubhouse lawn, just like his predecessor, the late Eddie Dingle.

"Ya'll want a little pick me up?" Big Dog asks.

Sounds good, er, dawg, but the sun has barely risen over the nearby Atlantic Ocean.

"That's cool dogs," Perry says. "Ya'll play good."

The Big Dog, in all his graciousness and conviviality, was still beaten to the punch by the employees in the pro shop. They had already inquired as to our emotional states this sultry summer morning (a few cobwebs in the head, but thanks for asking), and encouraged us to "hit em straight." Of course to be absolutely fair, the first well wishers of the day were the "caddiemasters" who greeted us at the car, sans the kilts they typically wear during the peak seasons.
But that is the way it goes at Myrtle Beach's oldest golf course. Pine Lakes International doesn't dazzle you with expensive water features, white washed concrete cart paths, and Martha Stewart-esque landscaping. Nor can it offer you roller coaster style elevation changes or heart stopping views of the ocean.

But Pine Lakes International can kill you with kindness, and from the Big Dog to its famous Big Burger, that's what this historic blip on the Grand Strand golf radar screen has been doing since it opened in 1927.

"It is unbelievable the number of comments we get about the hospitality, and most of our play is repeat play," says head pro Mac Main, who recently came over from the Heritage Club in Pawleys Island. "The service sets us apart, and people love our Scottish touches and they love having their picture taken with the starter in his kilt. Basically, they love all the little things and the little things add up."

Take a walk around the clubhouse and count up all the little things. Notice the plaque on the wall commemorating the late Sam Snead's 78 (score) when he was 78 (years old). See the pictures of Gene Sarazen and course designer Robert White, the first president of the PGA of America. And then there's the clubhouse itself, designed by Henry Bacon McCoy just after he completed the Lincoln Memorial.

The idea for Sports Illustrated was hatched here in the early 1950's. During that fateful week, a train brought 67 Time Life Magazine executives into town, including Henry Booth Luce. The group's agenda included playing a little golf and planning the world's highest circulation sports weekly

"Pine Lakes has built its own identity over the years on its tradition, and that is the niche we've carved out here," Main says. "We have been purchased by Burroughs and Chapin and we have the resources from them that can only enhance the experience."

With all the history and tradition on site, it is easy to forget that the golf course is part of the experience. Kind of like going to a Super Bowl party and getting caught up in the moment, only to remember at halftime that there's a game to be played. Mule drawn plows shaped the layout at Pine Lakes International, not bulldozers and front-end loaders. So the holes are straightforward and traditional, yet as challenging as the beach's new $10 million courses, if you select the right tees.

At 6,701 yards from the blue tees and 6,208 yards from the middle tees, Pine Lakes International will never be confused with Tory Pines South Course. But thank the legendary Donald Ross, a consultant to White on the course's design, for a challenging mix of hole lengths and shapes that make the layout feel longer than it really is.

Conditions: 3
Scenery: 2.5
Layout: 3.5
Par 3's: 3
Par 4's: 3
Par 5's: 3
Service: 4.5
Practice Facilities: 2.5
Club House/Pro Shop: 4
Pace of Play: 3.5
Value: 3
Overall Rating: 3.2

The first three holes are as deep as the day is long: 557-yard par 5, 450-yard par 4, and 446-yard par 4. The last two holes are doglegs left (No. 17) and right (No. 18) that force you to shape shots for a true go at birdie. In between are a series of solid, if not spectacular, golf holes that reward skill over power.
"It is an old traditional course with tree lined fairways, and what you see is always what you get," Main says. "There's no target golf out here but the hazards are strategically placed. Good players look at it as "just" 6,700 yards, but I promise them it's a strong test of golf."

The best hole on the course, however, doesn't require anything more than a 6 or 7-iron from the member tees. The 157-yard par 3 7th hole, with its lush backdrop of dogwoods and azaleas, gets its fair share of comparisons to the par 3 12th at Augusta National, most of which come after slurping down a healthy helping of Big Dog's clam chowder. Just to the right of the tee box in a small area cordoned off with picturesque brick walls is Perry's makeshift kitchen.

"Perry can tell you now good that chowder tastes on a cold December morning and after a late night out," Main says. "And in the spring, it's something to just sit there and eat a little and look at all the beauty on that hole. It's unbelievable."

The word on the street when Burroughs and Chapin bought the course from the Miles family was that the Granddaddy was due for some major changes. The real estate behemoth owns 213 acres adjacent to the course, and keeping up with the 120 plus other "joneses" in the Grand Strand requires that you polish up your course from time to time. But Main says that any immediate plans for revamping the course have been shelved until a comprehensive plan is developed.

"There were several plans for making revisions in the golf course, but they have been put on hold," Main says. "It is not an economic thing, they want to make sure about everything. You don't just want to start messing around with a course as storied as this without having a plan. But I see something happening in the next three years, probably with the greens first."

Pine Lakes' greens are much smaller than your average, modern Myrtle Beach course, and the green complexes aren't nearly as sophisticated. "I don't think we'd change the green size, because that is part of the charm and tradition of this course," Main says.

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