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Gluttons for golf and beach will also find a surprising group of excellent eating establishments in the Pawleys Island, SC, area. The following is a rundown of some of the best golf communities south of Myrtle Beach and the top restaurants nearby. (Note: Those who prefer cooking their own food will find five supermarkets, including the Whole Foods-like Fresh Market, along a five-mile stretch of Highway 17.)
Private Golf Communities
DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, SC
The southernmost neighborhood on the Grand Strand, DeBordieu is also one of the most expensive in terms of real estate, owing to its location between Highway 17 and the ocean. Its expansive beach is the only one behind the gates of a golf community on the Carolinas coast. Lots range from $139,000, cottages from $365,000, estate homes from $399,000. The short hop to the historic city of Georgetown provides easy access to Alfrescos, the best restaurant in town, serving high-end American and Italian dishes at reasonable prices. The River Room looks out on the Harborwalk and the boats lolling on the inlet formed by the confluence of the Sampit and Great Pee Dee Rivers and is a reliably consistent purveyor of seafood dishes, with a few landlubber plates for outliers. Thomas’ Café oozes with a local vibe but also attracts couples from DeBordieu and farther away for its classic southern breakfasts (don’t hold the grits).
The Reserve at Litchfield, Litchfield Beach, SC
Sporting a marina, Greg Norman golf club and private access to a beach club just 1½ miles across Highway 17, The Reserve appeals to especially active couples and families. The golf club, an easy walk at all times except on the hottest summer days, is owned by McConnell Group, opening up access to the organization’s dozen other excellent clubs throughout the Carolinas (and, most recently, near Knoxville, TN). The go-to breakfast spot south of Myrtle Beach has to be Litchfield Restaurant, where they actually listen when you ask for your hash browns or corned beef hash served “extra crispy.” Perrone’s is an upscale lunch and dinner place in an unusually narrow space, but the menu is wide and creative (and especially the drink menu). Speaking of drinks, Quigley’s Pub and Restaurant is less than a mile from The Reserve’s front gate, a wonderful spot for a post-round craft beer and burger.
Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet, SC
Festooned with hundreds of sprawling live oaks that only partially hide the lazy Waccamaw River, Wachesaw is one of the best buys in private golf community living in Myrtle Beach. Its location west of Highway 17 and just an extra couple of miles from the beach tamps down real estate prices, but residents know they scored a bargain, what with a golf initiation fee well under $5,000, a classic Tom Fazio layout, and close proximity to shopping, a couple dozen seafood establishments on Restaurant Row in Murrells Inlet, and the area’s main hospital one minute from Wachesaw’s gate. And yet the beach is less than a 10-minute drive. Among Restaurant Row’s best eateries are Wicked Tuna, with two kitchens – one for sushi, one for cooked dishes – and many tables overlooking the dramatic inlet; Bovine’s, unusual for a seafood based area and unshellfish (sorry, couldn't resist) in celebrating the steer; and for a quick but belly-busting sojourn into southern cooking, the expansive buffet at Prosser’s, a mile up the road from the Row, cheap and good.
Pawleys Plantation, Pawleys Island, SC
I love pointing out to newbies at Pawleys Plantation the house built for Jack (Nicklaus) along the 14th fairway, circa 1989. Hurricane afficionadoes might recognize 1989 as the year of Hugo, the massive storm that leveled much of Charleston and then moved on to the recently opened Pawleys Plantation. The golf course lost a large Nicklaus tree in the middle of that 14th fairway, but was back in operation within a few days. Today the layout remains one of the most popular in Myrtle Beach for visiting golfers and club members, especially the back nine with its dramatic views across the wide marsh to the island itself (although on some windblown days, we curse the 125-yard 13th, “the shortest par 5 in Myrtle Beach”). Frank’s Restaurant and Frank’s Outback is less than 5 minutes from Pawleys Plantation’s front gate, a mere hop and skip compared with the couple of hours many upstate folks make for annual and semi-annual jaunts to one of the state’s most celebrated eateries. Other options nearby include Landolfi’s, a bakery cum pizzeria cum casual restaurant opened by a New Jersey couple 10 years ago; Pawleys Island Tavern, known to locals as The Pit, buried in the woods but easily found by anyone looking for local color and well-made bar food; and Bisqit, relatively new to the food scene and located in the Hammock Shops retail complex, serving inventive hamburgers and exotic drinks (bacon milkshake anyone?).
Heritage Plantation, Pawleys Island, SC
Home to one of the most underrated golf courses in all of Myrtle Beach, Heritage Golf Club winds its way through live oak forests close to the Waccamaw River, its property essentially identical in location to that of neighboring and more celebrated Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. Just five minutes or so from Pawleys Plantation, Heritage residents have access to the same restaurants mentioned above but with just a three-minute ride to one of the best places for lunch -- in the Caledonia clubhouse. The clubhouse overlooks the marsh and the par 4 18th hole, with its cringe-worthy approach over a lake to a 150-foot long green. From the fairway, players may find the crowd on the deck of the clubhouse more intimidating than the lake. Inside, diners eagerly dig into the thick shrimp bisque, one of the best Cobb salads anywhere, packed sandwiches and any one of a couple dozen other well-prepared dishes, complemented by Caledonia’s homemade potato chips.
Non-Golf Communities Near Great Golf
The Colony, Pawleys Island, SC
This is a brand new 40-home community by national builder Lennar, with homes starting around $300,000. Don’t expect much flexibility in terms of options; Lennar keeps prices down through volume buys on granite, cabinetry and appliances. Founders Club golf is less than two minutes away, Caledonia, Heritage, True Blue and Pawleys Plantation barely more than five minutes.
Allston Plantation, Pawleys Island, SC
So close to Founders Club on Highway 17 it could almost be considered a golf community, but Allston can claim only a small clubhouse as its amenity. Mature and with a strong neighborhood vibe –- a new Montessori School was recently completed at the front gates -- Allston is home to both local families and retired couples. Prices have risen steadily in the community over the last few years, with the lowest priced home currently at $257,500.
Ricefields, Pawleys Island, SC
If you are lucky, you could wind up with a home in this non-golf community that has a peek through the fence to Caledonia Golf & Fish Club immediately to the south. That gives an idea of just how close Ricefields is to Caledonia and its sister club, True Blue, but also to Heritage, Pawleys Plantation and Founders Club. And a short jaunt up Old Kings Highway opens up nearly a dozen more courses within 10 minutes. Resale homes are currently priced from $325,000.
Avian Forest, Litchfield, SC
The homes in this condo-only community along a golf-rich stretch of road between the Litchfield Resort and the gate at the private Reserve Club are large, with four bedrooms and three baths. They are perfect for visiting golf groups and beach-going families and prime for investors who are confident they will continue to appreciate in coming years. Owners at Avian Forest have member access to the Litchfield Resort’s beach, an easy bicycle ride across Highway 17. Condos start at $259,000.
If you would like more information about any of the communities listed above, or dozens of others we can recommend, please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pawleys Island: One-stop shopping for golfers and gourmands
For 10 years, I have traveled up and down the eastern third of the country, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, investigating golf communities and their golf courses, searching for the highest quality communities in all price ranges. The goal is to identify those golf communities that will appeal to any couples for whom golf is a mandatory amenity for at least one of them and with enough attractions inside and outside each community to satisfy both. No golf community I have researched is perfect in every way; those that approach that level are often remotely located, too far from a city to take advantage on a routine basis of the cultural and culinary benefits on offer. Those located close to cities typically have their own blemishes, such as stultifying traffic snarls or real estate prices and club fees as much as triple those in the boondocks.
One couple's personal experience
I have come to the conclusion that any couple searching for a golf community in a Goldilocks climate that is not too hot in summer, not too cold in winter, and just right in spring and fall can expect to spend a lot of time and energy on visits and stays across a geographical area that stretches through the Carolinas and Georgia and into northern Florida. If that seems daunting, time-consuming and expensive, my advice is to look no farther than a 15 mile swath of coastline in Georgetown County, south of Myrtle Beach, where you are likely to find a golf community that matches virtually all of your requirements (except mountains).
Pawleys Island beach
For 16 years, my wife Connie and I have owned a condominium in Pawleys Island, SC, about a half hour south of Myrtle Beach. The roughly 90-mile narrow band of land known as the Grand Strand is packed as densely with golf courses and golf communities as any comparably sized area in America. With 100 golf courses, virtually all of them not more than 10 miles from one beautiful beach or another in North and South Carolina, couples like Connie and me -- one loves the fairways and one the sand -- can live in retirement bliss; and should both love spending time on golf course and beach, the area south of Myrtle Beach can approach paradise, especially when you compare its real estate prices to those of Charleston -- about 75 minutes to the south -- and Wilmington, which is about 40 minutes north of the Grand Strand’s uppermost reaches.
Bargain golf membership
DeBordieu Colony, Georgetown, SCThe area that encompasses the towns of Murrells Inlet, Litchfield Beach and Pawleys Island comprises the only golf communities in all of Myrtle Beach -- just three of them -- that are strictly private, more than a dozen other courses that are accessible to the public, and a bargain membership in arguably the two best golf courses of the 100 on the Grand Strand -- Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club. With no initiation fee and monthly dues less than $180, the per round cost to a member who plays at these excellent layouts just two times per week works out to $45. Compare that to a rack rate at Caledonia that can reach $180 per round in peak season (spring and fall).
The private clubs in the Pawleys Island area are DeBordieu Colony, The Reserve at Litchfield and Wachesaw Plantation. Each is distinctive, with DeBordieu the only golf community on the Carolinas coasts with its own beach behind the gates (and a fine Pete Dye layout as well); Wachesaw, an early Tom Fazio design with an initiation fee of less than $5,000 and fine homes at some of the lowest dollar-per-square-foot prices in the area; and The Reserve, part of the McConnell Golf Group, with one reasonable initiation fee and monthly dues making all dozen McConnell courses in the Carolinas and Tennessee accessible for members (including the nearby Members Club at Grande Dunes in Myrtle Beach). The McConnell golf courses include three classics by Donald Ross and the other layouts by the more-modern golf architects, such as Dye, Fazio, Norman and Palmer.
Non-golf community options
Pawleys Plantation Golf ClubThe range of real estate available south of Myrtle Beach rivals the diversity of the area’s golf courses. And given the overwhelming number of golf courses, many available at deeply discounted green fees, those who don’t require any amenities other than a close-in public beach and golf will save a lot of money buying a home outside the gates of a local golf community. During our recent stay, my wife and I wandered into a brand new small neighborhood being developed by Lennar, the nationally respected builder. The Colony, as it is called, is just a driver and wedge shot from the fine Founders Club golf course and less than a mile from the front gates of Pawleys Plantation. (I might add that the popular Hog Heaven restaurant, known for its pulled pork, fried chicken and bargain buffet, is literally across Highway 17 from the neighborhood.) The model home in The Colony was beautifully appointed and smartly laid out; prices start at just $299,000 for a home that would likely be priced $50,000 higher inside the gates of a community with amenities. And the annual Homeowner Association fees in the non-amenitized Lennar community are a few thousand dollars lower than in any of the local golf communities.
All that said, many couples who have been members of a country club will opt for a lifestyle centered on a club inside their community. In that case, the widest range of options is available on this section of the coast of the Carolinas, from condominiums priced under $200,000, to golf cottages under $250,000, to patio homes starting around $300,000, to gently lived-in single-family homes that start in the $200s and range all the way into the millions. (The most expensive golf community home currently on the market is a 7 bedroom, 7 bath behemoth on the ocean at DeBordieu and priced at $3,499,000. For those inclined to build their oceanfront dream house, two oceanfront lots are currently available at DeBordieu for $725,000 each.)
Eat, drink and be merry
Many of my customers indicate that good local restaurants are a requirement in choosing the location of their golf home. Few will be disappointed in the restaurants in the Pawleys Island area, starting with Frank’s on Highway 17 in Pawleys Island, which has ranked as most popular in the area since it opened in 1988. Between its inside dining room, with views of the busy chefs in the kitchen, to Frank’s Outback, its year round casual outside dining area (space heaters in winter, cool blowers in summer), the restaurant’s menu serves up many classics and a few modern dishes with an unstinting quality that causes no recoil at the prices (generally high $20s to low $30s for the entrees). Alfresco’s in Georgetown, just four miles from DeBordieu and eight miles from Pawleys Plantation, can match Frank’s dish for dish and adds an extra touch of atmosphere in the brick-walled alleyway next door, where the restaurant has sited most of its tables, with a comfortable bar and a bandstand at one end where some music combo or other entertains diners indulging in Chef Eddy Chacon's elaborate platings.
Another half dozen “fine dining” establishments are within just five miles of our front gate at Pawleys Plantation, but also more casual places: a half dozen good Italian restaurants, another half dozen seafood restaurants, and other dining places that serve Spanish, Mexican, Thai and barbecue. (Chinese restaurants are only of the takeout variety, and they range from bad to inedible, but help may be on the way. Two Chinese companies have purchased more than 30 of the 100 golf courses on the Grand Strand and, with them, 100 homes that the owners plan to move their families into; if that doesn’t spur the opening of a few good Chinese restaurants, then all hope is lost for Asian food lovers.) For those who like a stroll on the boardwalk after a fine seafood dinner, Restaurant Row in Murrells Inlet is the most popular strip in the area, its two dozen restaurants packed at high season and parking spaces as rare as pearls in oysters. (See more restaurant options near the area's golf communities in the attached sidebar.)
Two cultural oases
Beside the Chinese restaurant problem, the only other major lack in the area is cultural; with a few exceptions, the Pawleys Island area is bereft of museums, institutes of higher learning and theaters. But even though the easily reachable Charleston offers all those things, it is a good hour’s drive from Pawleys Island. The 9,100-acre Brookgreen Gardens, however, fills much of the cultural gap in the area for those who appreciate the arts, especially world-class sculpture. Straddling the Litchfield Beach and Murrells Inlet boundary, Brookgreen, which was bequeathed to the public 85 years ago, includes more than 1,400 works of sculpture and more than 2,000 species of plant and animal life; almost hidden in the woods, its informal zoo is a great walk unspoiled. The former estate of sculptress Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington, son of a wealthy railroad owner, Brookgreen Gardens and its companion property on the eastern side of Highway 17 extends from the ocean to the Waccamaw River. The Huntington’s beach home, Atalaya Castle, is the backdrop for many weddings in the area, but the real attractions at Brookgreen Gardens are the formal gardens and hundreds of sculptures, some up to two-stories tall. During our stay in Pawleys Island, Connie and I walked through Brookgreen's Butterfly House and also strolled past a dozen LEGO sculptures of plants and animals, some as large as 80,000 pieces. The exhibit ends in a couple of weeks.
If you would like to learn more about the area south of Myrtle Beach, please contact me.
Larry Gavrich Founder & Editor Home On The Course, LLC