Golf Chicago!
Pearl East
Golf Chicago! Golf-away Destinations
By Greg Miles

Brunswick County:
Many Courses Less Traffic

Here’s a Carolina riddle, in fact, two riddles: When is Myrtle Beach “not Myrtle Beach”; and, when is “not Myrtle Beach” Myrtle Beach? Tar Heel state residents and well-traveled golfers would immediately blurt out “when it’s Brunswick County!” as Brunswick County, North Carolina, is rapidly becoming a hot golfing destination on the U.S. East Coast. With measurements by distance, this smaller, relaxed area, is a mere “chip shot” away from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, one of the nation’s most famous golf vacation destination, and this proximity to its bigger brother, allows vacationing Brunswick County golfers to easily take advantage of all the Myrtle Beach amenities, should they wish.

The Myrtle Beach area, known as the South Carolina Grand Strand is a 60-mile stretch of coastline beginning in Little River, (immediately adjacent to the NC stateline), and stretching southward past Pawley’s Island, toward Georgetown. Originally known for its wide, flat beaches, the Grand Strand hosts an estimated 13 million visitors annually, but presently, is regarded as much for its numerous golf courses as for its famous beaches. In 1997, 4.3 million rounds of golf were played on Grand Strand courses. Of note to GolfChicago! readers, Chicago ranks fourth behind Charlotte, Cincinnati, and Greenville as tourist feeder cities to the Grand Strand.

The first golf course built in Myrtle Beach was Pine Lakes Country Club, which opened in 1927; Pine Lakes’ nickname is “The Granddaddy” and as an historical note, PLCC is the birthplace of Sports Illustrated. Realizing that the Grand Strand was located on the popular East Coast travel corridor, that its Gulf Stream climate was well suited for golf, and that golf was increasingly popular on television, the boom in golf course construction in Myrtle Beach began in earnest in the late 1960’s. Within a decade and a year, there were dozens of courses all lined up along the Intracoastal Waterway (Highway 17). Golf initially burst across the SC / NC border in the 1970’s when Ocean Isle Beach Golf Course opened in this southernmost North Carolina county, and in 1980, Marsh Harbour Golf Links opened in Brunswick County, and pioneered the upscale golf business for the entire Grand Strand area.

In the final decade of the 20th century, the principal growth of ‘Myrtle Beach’ golf vacations along with the boom in the construction of upscale golf courses has been concentrated in Brunswick County.. Dating back to 1990, the county has experienced the opening of one or more of these new championship-designed courses in every year. This boom has swelled the total number of courses available to Myrtle Beach golf vacationers to 106, but as a cover story in a recent issue of Coastal Carolina Golf Magazine points out “... many of the championship courses that have made the Myrtle Beach area the ‘golf capital of the world’ are actually located in the Brunswick Isles.” The current number of courses in Brunswick County is 34.

Southern hospitality abounds in Myrtle Beach also beckons the sun-worshipers, beach-goers, conventioneers, shoppers, and retirees that annually flock here. At the more popular times, there are in excess of 300,000 visitors to Myrtle Beach.

As an option to avoid the crowds, there is Brunswick County (entire county pop. 50,985), North Carolina, a scant fifteen minutes, but light years, away from the congestion. With a total population of only 523, Ocean Isle Beach is a town situated on a barrier island a mere 5 miles north of the SC / NC border, but has 22 golf courses located within a 10 minute drive. This is an area with no heavy industry, no gambling, and, except for tourists’ vehicles, very little traffic. Golfers who stay oceanside in Brunswick Country travel opposite to the normal flow of tourist traffic; and, for golfers who stay at course-side condos, the tourist traffic is nil.

Angel Terrace South
Spearheading the golf package plan in Brunswick County is Fore-Travel (toll free1-800-800-1103; website, who can arrange tee-times at any of the 34 Brunswick County courses AND at any of the other Grand Strand courses; so, if you have a favorite course in Myrtle Beach, you can still stay up north in Brunswick County and make a southward trek down to those links. Fore-Travel will also handle your lodging requests, with a variety of oceanside hotels, oceanview condos, golf course condos, and inland hotels available.

While all of the courses in Brunswick County offer something special in a round, here is an abbreviated summary of just a few: The Pearl Golf Links West course contains three par-5’s, each picturesque and demanding; The East course recently re-seeded all of its greens and the hold well and putt true.

Thistle Golf Club is a Scottish influenced links-style course with nary a single tree “in play”. If you tend to spray it off the tee shot, this could be the course for you. Angels Trace offers two superbly conditioned 18-hole layouts with its North course having two par-4’s and two par-5’s requiring approach shots over water. With the North course have a slope of 137 and the South at 139 it’s best to bring your “A” game to these layouts. Ocean Isle Beach Golf Course is a woodland, Russell Breeden design, that is called the “local’s favorite”; it’s a shot-maker’s delight and easy to walk. Sandpiper Bay Golf Club would be considered the “tourist’s favorite”, owing to its yielding of low scores. It’s normal yardage plays to a very manageable 6503 yards The Marsh Harbour Golf Links lease to the present holder is about to expire and improvements are planned. Marsh Harbour was the first upscale course in the area, and to this day, has one of the most outstanding golf holes in the world: The 17th hole is a legitimate three-shot , par-5 challenge, teeing on a peninsula, laying to an island, and finishing with its green on another peninsula.

Ocean Isle Beach G.C.
Ocean Harbour Golf Links, with recent renovations lives up to Golf Magazine’s praise as “one of the Ten Best new resort and public golf courses in the world”. It’s a lengthy course at 7004 yards, with a rating of 74.2, but a fair test of a golfers skills. Brunswick Plantation is year-in and year-out in wonderful condition. Recent openings are: Crow Creek, a Rick Robbins layout with the Little Caw Caw Waterway enhancing five of its holes; Tiger’s Eye provides a third 18-hole challenge at Ocean Ridge; five sets of tees accommodate all players’ abilities at Carolina National, a Fred Couples signature course; and River’s Edge is an Arnold Palmer design featuring seven riverfront holes, high bluffs, and a slope rating of 149 from the tips.

Vacationing golfers won’t starve when staying in southern Brunswick County, as local fishermen bring in the ‘catch of the day’ to Calabash’s Ocean Isle Beach’s ,and Sunset Beach’s restaurants.

Future plans call for Ocean Isle Beach to construct three municipal courses, with Chi Chi Rodriguez, Nancy Lopez, and Curtis Strange as design consultants. And should you wish to live in the area, tentative plans call for residential housing to be built adjacent to the Pearl Golf Links courses.

Here’s yet another advantage to playing / staying in Ocean Isle Beach: Chicago golfers who fly to this area can choose to use the either the Myrtle Beach Jetport (MYR) or the Wilmington, NC (ILM) Airport, thus doubling your chances at reduced airfares. Both are easy drives to Brunswick Country courses.

On the PGA Tour, being ranked high in the Driving Distance is a good statistic, but out on a highway during a golf vacation, big totals for driving distances to golf courses aren’t good numbers, but Brunswick County may make a shorter driver, and that means good golf!

Brunswick County Courses

Angels Trace Golf Links - North*
6640 / 72.7 / 137

Angels Trace Golf Links - South*
6686 / 74.1 / 139

Bald Head Island Golf Course
6855 / 74.3 / 139

Brick Landing Plantation*
6788 / 72.1 / 143

Brierwood Golf Club**
6723 / 71.8 / 127

Brunswick Plantation & GR*
6790 / 72.7 / 131

Calabash Golf Links*
6612 / 72.0 / 128

Carolina National Golf Course
7017 / 73.4 / 136

Carolina Shores Golf & CC*
6783 / 69.8 / 122

Crow Creek*
7101 / 73.7 / 128

Fox Squirrel CC
6762 / 72.5 / 125

Gauntlet Club at St. James
7050 / 72.5 / 143

Lion's Paw at Ocean Ridge*
7003 / 74.7 / 130

Lockwood Folly Country Club
6836 / 73.8 / 139

Magnolia Greens Golf Plantation
7156 / 75.3 / 138

Marsh Harbour Golf Links*
6680 / 72.4 / 134

Meadowlands Golf Club*
7054 / 74.8 / 136

Members Club at St. James
6887 / 70.9 /128

Oak Island Golf & CC
6608 / 71.8 / 128

Ocean Harbour Golf Links*
7004 / 74.2 /138

Ocean Isle Beach Golf Course*
6615 / 71.8 / 132

Olde Fort Golf Club
6400 / 68.4 /108

Oyster Bay Golf Links*
6695 / 71.6 /139

Panther's Run at Ocean Ridge*
7086 / 72.4 /142

Pearl Golf Links - East*
6749 / 73.1 /135

Pearl Golf Links - West*
7008 / 73.2 /132

Players Club at St. James
7062 / 71.7 /135

Rivers Edge Golf Club
7011 / N-A /149

Sandpiper Bay Golf Club*
6503 / 71.6 / 119

Sea Trail Golf Links - Byrd*
6750 / 72.1 /128

Sea Trail Golf Links - Jones*
6761 / 72.4 / 132

Sea Trail Golf Links - Maples*
6751 / 72.4 / 129

Thistle Golf Club*
6497 / 72.2 /136

Tiger's Eye at Ocean Ridge*
6680 / N-A /N-A

* = within 10 minutes of Ocean Isle Beach
** = within 15 minutes of Ocean Isle Beach

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Last Updated: September 3, 2000