Caledonia Golf & Fish Club is arguably the best golf course of the 100+ that line the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach, which stretches from Brunswick County in North Carolina and its northernmost point in Wilmington, to Georgetown, SC, more than 90 miles to the south. With virtually flawless conditions on Saturday, including greens that were smooth and fast and a warm but rain-free day, Caledonia served as a fitting site for an annual memorial to its designer, Mike Strantz, one of the giants of modern golf architecture.
Strantz, who died at age 50 a dozen years ago, is responsible for the layouts of some of the eastern U.S.’s most popular golf courses, including True Blue Golf Club, Caledonia’s sister club a half-mile away, and the iconic Tobacco Road in the Sandhills of North Carolina. The word “unique” gets thrown around a lot, but ask anyone who has played Tobacco Road and that description is likely to come up, along with a few other choice words. (“Bizarre,” “weird” and “unfair” came to my mind the first time I played it, but that was in 35-degree temperatures with a consistent sideways rainfall. “Fun,” “exhilarating” and “memorable” characterized my second visit in sunshine and moderate temperatures.)
The event is a scramble format, otherwise known as “Captains Choice” which, for the uninitiated means everyone in the foursome hits a drive, the team chooses the best one and then everyone plays from that point...and so on into the cup. The winning team this year, on a match of scorecards, shot a 52. Our team, composed of a couple of my neighbors in Pawleys Plantation and my son, who drove up from Vero Beach, FL, posted a 60. Handicaps were not taken into account but no one seemed to mind that this was competition lite. It was all for a good cause and in the name of a terrific architect..
For the last half dozen years or so, Strantz’ widow Heidi and her children have memorialized the designer’s life and work with a Memorial Weekend event at one of his courses. All proceeds benefit the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. This year Caledonia was the choice after a successful event last year at Tot Hill Farm in North Carolina. Heidi and her daughters weren’t committing to a choice of venues next year, but given the smooth operation and beautiful conditions at Caledonia, True Blue would not be a bad choice at all. Wherever the event is held, I plan to go out of my way to be there.