Founders earns top Myrtle Beach golf award

        Longtime traveling golfers may recall, with a mixture of emotions, the former Sea Gull Golf Club in Pawleys Island, SC.  For many years it held the distinction as the golf course farthest south of more than 100 public and semi-private golf courses on the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach.  (Before the letters start flowing in about Wedgefield Plantation Golf Club holding that distinction, note that Wedgefield is in Georgetown, a few miles beyond the southern terminus of the Grand Strand).  Sea Gull was a good place to play on a seven-day golfing vacation when you needed a little ego boost after the challenges of nearby Pawleys Plantation and, in later years, a little break financially from the twice-as-expensive True Blue and Caledonia.  Sea Gull was flat, open and typically in pretty good shape

        But as the number of golf courses north of Sea Gull grew to more than 120, the club could not compete with the others. The decrepit motel adjacent to the course didn’t help things.  Survival was at stake

From adjacent Highway 17, the 18th hole at Founders Club fairly screams "Play Me!"

if the club’s owners did not do something to inveigle the package golfers to travel more than a half hour, past dozens of other courses, to play Sea Gull.  The club hired Thomas Walker, a Florida-based golf architect who previously worked with Gary Player’s golf design group, to remake the layout in 2007, and they renamed it Founders Club after running a name contest that attracted 3,000 entries. Walker’s re-design features large waste bunkers and more in-play water; from the adjacent U.S. Highway 17, drivers pass along the 18th hole, which from the perspective of the road seems almost impossibly narrow, featuring a couple of hundred yards of sand sweeping down to a long, narrow pond.  The green itself is steeply banked with a circle of bunkers surrounding it like numbers on a clock.  The hole is one huge billboard for the course that shouts, “Play Me.”

        Founders Club has something else to shout about today:  The Myrtle Beach Golf Course Owners Association just named it the 2011 Golf Course of the Year.  The annual designation goes to the club that excels in four categories -- exceptional quality of golf course conditions; exceptional quality of ownership and management; outstanding contribution to the community; and significant contribution to grow the game.  Past winners include TPC of Myrtle Beach, Blackmoor, Wachesaw Plantation East and, last year, Sandpiper Bay.  Oddly, Founders Club’s nearby rivals Pawleys Plantation, Caledonia, True Blue and Heritage –- considered by most Myrtle Beach golf veterans, including yours truly, to be superior layouts –- have never earned the course of the year distinction (perhaps they fall short in the “community contribution” category).  In any event, I have played Founders Club a number of times, and it can hold its own with the others.

        Note: Although Founders Club is not inside a planned golf community, it does thread its way through a neighborhood of eclectic and mostly reasonably priced homes in one of the most desirable areas of the Grand Strand.  Single-family homes in Hagley Estates are mostly listed for less than $300,000 and would make outstanding second or primary homes. And with the Myrtle Beach Golf Passport, with an annual fee of just $39, a full- or part-time resident can play Founders Club and 80 other area golf courses at a nice discounted rate.  If you would like more information about the golf course, the neighborhood or any other areas of Myrtle Beach, please contact me.


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