3,268 golf lovers and golf addicts plus some of their guests converged on Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand for the 40th annual playgolfmyrtlebeach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship.
They come from all 50 states and 17 countries for the camaraderie with new and old friends, the splendid golf courses, soothing beach, and the entertaining, largest 19th Hole in the world. Many come repeatedly and five of the players this year had participated all 40 years. This was our fifth time, and we can say, it keeps getting better.
Registration begins at the PGA Tour Superstores whose inventory selection is the broadest in the nation and much of it was on sale to the delight of players who received a $20 gift card. Also included in their gift bag were two shirts and a glove, by Short Par 4, a hat by Ahead, credentials for the 19th hole and more.
The Grand Strand Coastal Realty Welcome Party at the Hangout drew a big crowd, musically entertained by King Tide with games and prizes. The Hangout is in Broadway at the Beach which is not on the ocean but has a waterway with fast boats, restaurants, shops, Wonderworks, and activities galore.
Golf is played on 50 courses split by some 70 flights based on gender, age and handicap, in four rounds Monday through Thursday with a final playoff round for the flight winners to crown the champion on Friday. This year a cancellation of the Thursday round was called on Tuesday because of the heavy incoming rain from Tropical Storm Idalia.
Thursday turned out to be a very nice beach day, but many courses were closed to handle the cleanup of branches and let the fairways dry out. Participants received a rain check on Wednesday for the course they would have played on Thursday with no expiration date. The process of delivering those checks is testament to the organizational prowess and leadership of the World Am team.
Alice’s flight played at:
Burning Ridge Golf Club, named South Carolina Course of the Year in ’06 and in fantastic shape in ’23. Gene Hamm designed the run with lots of water in play and no gators seen but lots of cute fox squirrels.
It is part of Founders Group International with another 17 of the most requested golf courses in Myrtle Beach including TPC and Pawley’s Plantation.
Caledonia Fish and Golf Club has an enchanting wood lined entrance that sets the stage for a wilderness retreat.
Duck decoys serve as tee markers, think Mallard, Redhead, etc. Throughout the course are beautiful floral gardens for which free drops are given as no play zones behind the greens of 6, 11, 14, and 18.
There are no bunkers but what the starter calls, plenty of kitty litter where you may take a practice swing.
18 is one of the most entertaining holes for golfers and the gallery that might be watching from the clubhouse inside or on the veranda in southern rockers.
It is water all the way along the right and in front of the hole.
A drop zone across is for the approach shot, not the drive so consideration is key on the tee box which begs for photos.
Beautiful Caledonia is the coveted course among flights at the World Am.
Pine Lakes Country Club knows how to handle 50 gals in the rain.
We teed off on time knowing the downpour was approaching. Some bowed out but most hung in there, spoiling the strategy of outlasting wimps.
Rain is playable even with gale force winds, but lightning brought us back to the clubhouse for a delay. Towels were passed out and the players looking for a bloody mary had it with wine vodka before 10 am due to South Carolina liquor laws. Coffee was gratefully poured freely.
Back on the course, it was on and off drizzling with half the field finishing before the next downpour, the other half drenched.
Pine Lakes is The Granddaddy, established in 1927, located on Granddaddy Drive and it is indeed grand.
Thursday’s rain check was for Diamondback Golf Club, next time.
Danny’s flight played at:
Prestwick Country Club, a Pete and P.B. designed masterpiece is arguably, one of the toughest tests of golf on the Grand Strand.
The course provides the usual diabolical Dye challenges, especially on the finishing holes.
A waterway dissects the par 3, 16th, par 5 ,17th and finishes with a large lake adjacent to the entire 18th.
Prestwick always makes the top ten must play list.
Arcadian Shore Golf Club is a comparatively friendlier design. Players were greeted by Rees jones’s wide fairways and greens on a beautiful sunny day. They responded with lower scores and a less stressful round on moving day.
Wachesaw East Golf Club in Murrells Inlet was a former LPGA event site, designed in Clyde Johnson’s Scottish link style. The round began with a deluge of rain and constant periods of downpours. Competition was fierce despite whatever mother nature threw at us as this was going to be the final round of the event due to Tropical Storm Idalia.
Thursday’s rain check was at Crown Park Golf Club, next time.
Our scores did not match the fun we had playing and didn’t warrant the playoff round on Friday at Grand Dunes Resort Course, but Tidewater Golf Club delivered a fun loser bonus round.
It is a natural beauty skirting the intracoastal waterway and marshes amidst the Carolina Pines. Especially pretty is number 13, a par 5 that leads to the Cherry Grove Ocean Inlet with lucky boaters floating by and a distant view of downtown all in one.
The World Am’s 19th Hole is a nightly golf party like no other with games, contests, a stage, a ballroom with live music, food and beverages all included in the low entry fee of $600. 53 exhibitors/vendors showcase something for everyone.
Noted exhibitors at World Am:
TRUE linkswear, the brainchild of PGA pro Ryan Moore and his brother Jason was selling shoes like hotcakes as were Skoni with casual golf shoes that look like the popular Hey Dudes.
Carter Spectrum Golf is an apparel company starring the 11-year-old CEO and Sports illustrated Sports Kid of the Year, Carter Hughes who champions the Autism Spectrum cause.
Teleri Athletics is owned by Teleri Hughes, a collegiate golfer with competitive comfy tops and skorts with many pockets for competitive women.
Putter Girl is another ladies’ option by Suzanne Carlton who resides in Pinehurst and knows a bit about the business from past life as Reebok’s Head of the tennis division.
Casa de Campo, a favorite Caribbean resort was represented as the sponsor of the International Pairs, an optional contest within the World Am.
T-Golf had the most unusual T-Grip product. The owner designed a little rubber device to hold between fingers in lieu of a glove because his avid golfing father was born missing an arm and couldn’t put a glove on. It came in handy for friend Mike Bailey who had injured his hand in competition. It’s also great in the heat rather than taking a glove on and off.
Besides Nexbelt, several more gloves, apparel and accessory companies, there were health aids for the aching bodies and training aids to improve performance, like Orange Whip and Chappie Golf. Lag shot swing trainer claims tremendous handicap reduction by participant.
OnCore golf balls, out of Buffalo were a surprise hit, delivering contest prizes and selling out on their quality inventory.
The 19th Hole is the state fair of golf with drinks and food stations delivering sample plates of themed menus from 20 local restaurants. Dirty Don’s Oyster Bar & Grill, Angelo’s Steakhouse, Mike’s Soul Food, and all the rest could be capped off every night with Friendly’s Ice Cream.
Golf is a friend magnet, a natural conversation starter, beginning with Kevin on our inbound flight who pointed out Kings North as we descended over their notable SC.
In the registration line a trio from Switzerland shared that the 82 yr. old signed up for the 49 under flight so they could play generational golf together.
Sheryl, an auditor queen in Alice’s first round had in common wearing Sqairz shoes and a mutual friend Sue who played with Alice a few years back.
Danny played with Patrick, a member of Wickenburg Ranch where we were recently invited by their friends, the Williams’s to play in the Couples Tournament. It’s a small World at the World Am.
There is no shortage of accommodations in Myrtle Beach. Many players rent shared condos or homes but oceanfront hotels in central or north Myrtle Beach were most popular. There are plenty of beach stores to pick up chairs, umbrellas, body boards, whatever you need.
Myrtle Beach, with over 80 championship golf courses, waves, and amusements, is ideal year-round but the World Am is an unforgettable experience.
Farewells echoed across the Convention Center’s 19th Hole, “See you next year!”
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