Pawleys Plantation & Country Club
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The Hammock Coast’s marquee offering of “The Golden Bear,” Jack Nicklaus, showcasing several holes that play in and out of a spectacular saltwater marsh setting.
Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club is one of those courses you can play over and over again and never have the same shot twice; that’s what makes it such an enjoyable course. Jack would have it no other way.
Pawleys Plantation is a championship, par 72 course that measures 7,031 yards from the back tees, yet the most memorable hole on the course is a mere 115 yards long. More on that later. From the back tees, the course carries a course rating of 75.7 and slope of 148. Most golfers will find that the White/Egret Tees (6,184/72.0/139) will give them as much golf course as they can handle. Five sets of tee boxes give golfers of all levels of ability the chance to enjoy this Lowcountry classic.
The course is not without its share of notoriety; Golf World named it one the state’s top 30 courses in 2009 and 2010. Golf Digest has awarded the course 4 stars as one of its “Places to Play” and Zagat has called Pawleys Plantation one of “America’s Top Courses.”
The front nine winds its way through pine and hardwood forests and features several tree-lined fairways; others use beautiful lakes to frame the border. Massive sand bunkers are prevalent on several holes. The back nine is a different story as several holes extend out into the saltwater marsh and offer fantastic views of the surrounding area. Rest assured that because of your location, the prevailing winds will be a factor. Two-hundred-year-old moss-draped oak trees come into play on several holes, most notably on number 14, where “Jack’s Tree” sits in the middle of the fairway near his old house.
70 Tanglewood Drive, Pawleys Island, SC 29585
For the most part, landing areas are generous; and the green complexes are nothing less than you would expect from a Jack Nicklaus design. The TifEagle hybrid Bermuda grass greens are large with subtle undulations and run-offs typically associated with Nicklaus courses. They putt fast and true.
It’s not often that the par 3 holes add the most excitement to a round, but at Pawleys Plantation that is certainly the case; all showcase water, sand or both. Ask anyone – including those that have taken a double or better – what hole they remember most and they will undoubtedly say number 13. This hole plays 115 yards from the White Tees and is every bit as much of a test as #17 at Sawgrass. Locals have dubbed it “The Shortest Par 5 on the Hammock Coast”. To get to the tee, you drive from the 12th green across a causeway, past the 17th tee box, and stop about ¾ of the way across. The tees for 13 and 17 are built into the causeway; 17 is a par 3 that plays 150 yards, over a saltwater marsh to a green that is a lot wider than it is deep. It too is a tough hole.
Anyway, back to 13. The tee box is elevated above the marsh and if you are afraid of heights, it can be quite the extra challenge. The hole is bulk-headed to the marsh and there is zero room for error. Your tee shot is complicated by the prevailing wind and very rarely plays the stated yardage. The 13th green and the 16th green are one and the bunkers around the 13th green catch any errant shots that the water does not. This hole truly lives up to its billing. There’s a 5 on my scorecard and that’s being generous! If you look down into the saltwater marshes at low tide, you can see where others have tried – and failed – too.
The second hole is rated the #1 handicap hole and is very demanding; even more so because it is only the second hole. At 408 yards from the White Tees, it takes two good shots to get on in regulation. There’s water to the far left and sand to the immediate left of the large undulating green. Par is a very good score here.
Mr. Nicklaus thinks Number 10 is one of the nicest holes on the course, and many players tend to agree. If you play a hybrid or long iron off the tee and leave it short of the large fairway bunker on the right side, you’ll have an approach shot of less than 130 yards. Should you decide to play left of the bunker, you can get your approach distance down to about 80 yards. Either way, you’ll have an approach shot over water to a long, narrow green bulk-headed in front and well bunkered on either side. This is a great thinking man’s hole!
As you can tell from the slope rating, Pawleys Plantation is not an easy course. Jack Nicklaus’ philosophy has always been that golf is “a game of precision as well as power” and nowhere is that more evident than here. From the tree-lined fairways on the front to the marsh-laden back nine, Pawleys Plantation keeps you guessing. You’ll need to hit it long and straight on some holes and finesse it onto the putting surface on others. Thankfully, Pawleys Plantation provides each golfer with a yardage book.
A good course is not complete without a good 19th hole and the Palmetto Pub raises the bar when it comes to your typical clubhouse fare. In addition to your favorite clubhouse food and libations, they have an outstanding food menu with some nice surprises.
Because of its location, Pawleys Plantation is a popular spot for weddings, with a scenic and private location overlooking the 18th green.