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A funny thing happened on the way to the golf course in Myrtle Beach.

For several days late last year, the weather reports showed the jet stream pushing warmer temperatures into New England than in South Carolina.

But don’t blame The Wizard, or The Witch, or a Man O’ War for such a global warming-like occurrence.

Those are golf courses, not people, and they are proof positive why the Grand Strand is so grand, and that Myrtle Beach still earns its moniker as Golf Capital of the World. Oh, and the weather was fine, thank you very much, as were the southern ocean waters sweeping across my feet afterward.

The Witch

The Witch

With the winter doldrums now upon us, New England golfers take heart: Spring is on the horizon, and it is actually one of the best times to play golf in Myrtle Beach and get a head-start on your golf game. And, yes, the weather should be just fine once again in South Carolina with everything in full bloom.

With over 100 championship golf courses, affordable oceanfront and fairway accommodations, and a slew of restaurants that know how to cater to hungry golfers, Myrtle Beach still eagerly embraces its distinction as the most popular “buddy golf trip” in America and still proudly hosts the Golf.com World Amateur Handicap Championship.

Sure, it can get crowded both on and off the golf course in Myrtle Beach. Some things just don’t change. But the bottom line is you just can’t go wrong with the caliber and selection of courses in Myrtle Beach. It offers golfers incredible variety with designs from the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, and Robert Trent Jones, many of them ranked among the list of America’s Top 100 Public Courses. And it still offers the best overall value in golf travel.

But if you’re looking to experience something out of the ordinary, then try the offerings from the Mystical Golf family – The Wizard, The Witch, and Man O’ War. Architect Dan Maples’ expertise in utilizing the lay-of-the-land is most evident with these three diverse layouts.

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The Wizard

First up is The Wizard. If you thought that seaside golf courses lacked elevation changes, wait until you play The Wizard. It’s an Irish landscape in the heart of the deep South, complete with a castle for a clubhouse as the center of its universe. You’d think you were playing golf in the Irish highlands instead of the Carolina wetlands with the many unexpected challenges and demands covering the landscape over the first 15 holes.

Then you come to the final three holes, where water makes its presence with a lake running along the right side of the 16th, an island green on the par-3 17th, and a double-carry on the par-4, 421-yard 18th beyond the tee boxes and then again to a peninsular-shaped green. The length of your tee shot will determine whether or not to go for it in two or lay up. And through it all, the roll of the bent grass greens is pure and true.

The Witch – The Witch is a masterpiece all its own. It encompasses over 500 acres of land and over 4,000 feet of bridgework that takes you through undisturbed woodlands and wetlands, left intact as nature’s perfect hazards. Don’t be surprised if you spot alligators, hawks, and deer in the surroundings. However, the beauty of the setting doesn’t diminish the challenge of the layout.

A key component to playing The Witch is tee box selection. Whether playing from the black (6,800 yards) or white (6,300 yards) markers, there’s a lot of carry to contend with from both in front of the tees and areas fronting the greens on the back nine. An honest assessment of one’s playing ability will determine the round’s enjoyment. Personally, this course is not forgiving enough for me to post a decent score, but it earns high marks as a stern test of golf.

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Man O’ War

Man O’ War – Traversing Man O’ War is an exhilarating experience, and I’m glad I played it last in our lineup. Bring plenty of golf balls, just in case, because there’s water everywhere. In fact, a 100-acre lake plays a strategic role in 16 of the 18 holes, making for an unforgettably wild ride to navigate. Quite simply, Man O’ War contains all the drama and challenge that are hallmarks of a Maples design.

Highlights include a narrow, 558-yard eighth hole with water running down the entire left side, the signature 433-yard ninth hole featuring an island fairway as well as an island green, a double-carry over water on both 10 and 11, back-to-back island greens on 14 and 15, and a grueling, 494-yard, par-5 18th hole with a combination of water and bunkers to overcome. Walking off the 18th green, I looked back and declared that I definitely wanted to return here again someday.

Keep in mind that when the golf clubs have been retired for the day, the second phase of a Myrtle Beach golf trip begins. With more than 1,500 area restaurants, options run the gamut from all-you-can-eat buffets to fine dining. But don’t miss out on experiencing the local flavor, such as South Carolina’s Lowcountry cuisine to Calabash seafood, a nationally recognized style of cooking originating from nearby Brunswick County, NC.

Myrtle Beach still works hard to please all members of the family, including shopping and entertainment complexes and theme parks, as well as visits to Murrell’s Inlet Marsh Walk, and Brookgreen Gardens, America’s largest outdoor sculpture garden. And, of course, there’s always the beach.

The complete source for all your golf planning needs is www.mysticalgolf.com.  There are numerous advertised package specials for the remainder of this mainly mild winter, but also specials throughout spring, and even Easter holiday deals. Accommodations can be made course-side at Mystical Resort Golf Villas, or if the beach is your thing, try the Sea Mist Oceanfront Resort for a surfside experience. I had a top-floor terrace view of the Atlantic Ocean which almost gave me a vertigo feeling with the waves appearing to crash ashore straight-down below me.

The Sea Mist is also able to put together an assortment of packages, including the Power Play Golf Package which includes rounds of golf at The Wizard, The Witch, and Man O’ War. For more information, visit www.SeaMistGolf.com.

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