A round of golf, especially if well played, can be an uplifting experience, and many of us consider a nicely laid out and manicured golf course a work of art. But if you are a golfer and a lover of fine art, there may be no better place to be uplifted than just off the 15-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 17 from Murrells Inlet to Georgetown, SC.
The area that comprises Murrells Inlet, Litchfield and Pawleys Island is one of the most densely populated with excellent golf courses of any similarly sized area in the nation, with 16 public courses and three private clubs (DeBordieu, The Reserve at Litchfield and Wachesaw Plantation) of Myrtle Beach’s 100-plus layouts. Because of the competition, deals abound, especially for those who live year round in the area. For example, an annual membership to Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, arguably the best of all 100 courses in Myrtle Beach, and True Blue Golf Club, a visually arresting and playable track (wide fairways and enormous waste bunkers, many of which double as cart paths), costs less than $2,000. At an average rack rate green fee rate of around $125, the break-even point for a member is around 20 rounds (plus the mandatory cart free of $25 each time you play, but you will pay that at any club). Other annual plans include the Prime Times Signature Card, which provides discounted green fees (and free rounds) at a group of 22 of the finest layouts in the area, including Pawleys Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach and The Founders Club. Membership in the Legends Group includes the underrated Heritage Club in Pawleys Island and adds a free breakfast, lunch and beer whenever you play.
Vacationers to the area south of Myrtle Beach understand the amount of golf available, but what they might miss are the cultural blandishments, principal among them Brookgreen Gardens, an astonishing piece of property festooned with beautiful flora and fauna (there’s a zoo), garden sculptures large and small that seem created for the spaces they occupy in the fountains and bushes and beside the sprawling live oak trees that populate Brookgreen. The indoor museum buildings are great places to cool off and check out a continuing rotation of locally produced art, many pieces depicting marsh country animals in their habitat. My wife and I attended an art show there this past weekend and were impressed with the range of works offered by artists from up and down the east coast. (We purchased an abstract rendering of the Blue Ridge Mountains that, given its dominant green and blue hues, could just as well have been an ocean scene.) The shops along Front Street in the historic Georgetown feature many paintings and other works of art by local artists; some of them are extreme bargains given the quality of the efforts.
At $100 annually for a “household,” a Brookgreen Gardens membership is ridiculously inexpensive for what it offers, which is not only a sculpture fan’s dream but a great contemplative counterpoint to a competitive round of golf. As my wife and I strolled past a fountain with a large sculpture of the Goddess Athena at its center on Sunday, we noticed a woman sitting in the shade on one of Brookgreen’s hundreds of benches, reading a book. My wife expressed what I was thinking: “I’ve always wanted to do that here,” she said.
A perfect day for a couple living in the Pawleys Island area, or for a vacationing couple, could very well be a round of golf in the morning at one of the aforementioned clubs, a contemplative stroll through Brookgreen Gardens in the afternoon, and dinner in a converted brick-lined alleyway at Al Fresco’s in Georgetown or outside under a tent or inside in full view of the kitchen at Frank’s, justifiably the single most popular eatery in the entire Myrtle Beach area.
Since any frequent visitor to this site has seen plenty of photos of golf courses, and since we all know what a plate of good food looks like, I include below some shots taken at Brookgreen Gardens. If you would like to know more about life in the area south of Myrtle Beach –- my wife and I have visited for at least a couple of months every year since 2000 –- please do not hesitate to contact me.