By Jason Bruno
Recently we traveled to the Carolina’s to experience some of the area’s finest, and one of the venues at the top of our must play list was Caledonia, long regarded as the crown jewel of the Myrtle Beach golf scene.
Located just south of Myrtle Beach proper in the quaint low country town of Pawley’s Island, Caledonia is at the top of the list as far as first impressions go – magnificent southern live Oaks drape the long entry drive towards the clubhouse and the excitement builds from there.
Caledonia is an imaginative top 100 you can play- a Mike Strantz (6,526-yard, par-70) desig that features a routing around century-old oaks and various streams, a beautifully tranquil setting for golf.
The shortgame practice area at Caledonia
On the Saturday that we arrived, a wedding was being set up here in this idyllic setting that’s filled with Azaleas, Magnolias, and a canopy of Live Oaks.
THE COURSE / ARCHITECT
Over a century ago, the property at Caledonia was a rice plantation and remained a farm until just before World War II. Five decades later, Mike Strantz carved out a masterful routing that twists and turns through the Carolina pines and an inlet of the Waccamaw River. Most of the fairways are generous but ask that you play to the side that allows the player to take advantage of approach angles into several greens that require you to be on the proper level in order to score.
Strantz formed his own design company in 1988 (after leaving Tom Fazio’s firm), Caledonia in 1993 was his first solo project of the nine he completed before his untimely passing at the young age of 50 in the summer of 2005. Some of his other acclaimed designs include True Blue, Tobacco Road, Tot Hill Farm, and Monterey Peninsula Shore Course.
Strantz starts the routing with two fairly docile holes to help keep your card intact and perhaps find a rhythm, but at the 175-yard par 3 third the opening acts give way to his clever design that demands the player to think and execute. Here at the third, a massive elongated two-tiered green that pitches back to front serves notice that once on the surface, the task of making par has just begun.
Overhead view of the third.
The tee on the 396 yard fourth sits just above an expansive sandy waste area that hugs the entire right side, the fairway is one of several twisted bottle-necks at Caledonia, in each case – playing the tee shot short of where the fairway doglegs provides the most generous landing area.
This drone view of the fourth shows Strantz’s twisted bottle-neck design.
The 512 yard eighth challenges the aggressive player to carry the four bunkers that guard the corner, from there a decision to layup or go faces the player.
The approach and green complex on the par 5 eighth requires precision and the proper shot, for those coming in with a short iron – anything with too much spin will take the false front back towards the water fronting the green.
At the 110-yard par 3 ninth Strantz challenges and deceives with a vast array of sand – hiding the green surface from view.
A view from the sky at the ninth shows what you don’t see from the tee.
The green complex at the par 5 tenth is another Strantz gem, it rolls along the edges like a perched potato chip. Any approach slightly off the mark is harshly repelled down below the surface leaving a tough recovery from a tight lie.
The 380 yard thirteenth might be Strantz’s finest at Caledonia, a 90-degree bender that tempts you to carry the large oak on the corner. Resist the urge, it’s pure folly.
As you can see, the fairway here on thirteen beyond the curve is a sliver. From here you can enjoy a clean look for your approach.
Rearview from behind the thirteenth green reveals a turf peninsula surrounded by a massive sand waste area.
Although water isn’t a main feature at Caledonia, there’s just enough to keep you on your toes like here on the 363 yard (mallard tees) dogleg left.
The par 3 seventeenth played just 138 yards, and once again Strantz shows his masterful use of sand for purposes including drainage, aesthetics, and a playable hazard…
This view of the seventeenth shows off the Carolina pines and sandscape of Pawley’s Island.
The view from the tee on the 377 yard home hole at Caledonia, for most it’ll require less than driver because the fairway runs out into the hazard on the right.
The approach to the last might be the most photographed hole in the Myrtle Beach golf portfolio. Post-round linksters gather on the clubhouse wraparound that overlooks the Lowcountry marshes and waterways of the Hammock Coast to watch fellow golfers go for one last chance at glory. Playing partner Jordan Lewis from Southern California shined in the spotlight of the happy hour faithful, he gave them some excitement when he took on the tucked righthand pin and flushed it to inside 10 feet. Thought-provoking, beautiful and challenging are the words that came to mind as we headed back down the elegant drive of Caledonia. Our first Strantz encounter was long overdue and it exceeded the hype in every way. If you haven’t been to Caledonia, put it on the must play list – if you have, then we know you can’t wait to return . . .