NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Most out-of-town golfers have their courses picked out well in advance of their Grand Strand golf trip.
But in lieu of booked tee times or simply wanting to try something new, here are four can't-miss courses on the north end of Myrtle Beach.
They range in price and playability, but no matter what a golfer is looking for, they all offer a challenge while giving you exactly what you're looking for.
Dye Course at Barefoot Resort
The Dye Course at Barefoot Resort, semi-private course in North Myrtle Beach, has gained plenty of notoriety since it was finished in 2000.
On top of the prestige of a Pete Dye design, it is also home to the Hootie and the Blowfish 'Monday After the Masters' celebrity tournament each year. The course is so much more than that annual blowout, though.
It is nothing short of one of the most beautiful golf courses in South Carolina.
For very low handicappers, the par-72 course can play as long as 7,400 yards. But even for those playing the middle tees, a distance of about 6,200 very difficult yards greets the average player.
The course is designed near perfectly around native grasses that can and will come into play. Mixed in between several breeds of Bermuda, the architecture is one most players will find second to none.
Barefoot's Dye Course is not cheap, but mixing it in with several of the middle-tiered courses will certainly be worth it.
Shaftesbury Glen Golf Club
Located just west of Myrtle Beach in northern Conway, Shaftesbury Glen Golf Club has maintained playing conditions well above its reasonable rate.
Patterned off New York's famous Winged Foot Golf Club, Shaftesbury is known for its number of sand traps. The 18 holes include exactly 50 such hazards. If a player isn't prepared, he may find himself buried in any number of the traps that can only be described as 'brutal.'
The course maximizes the effect of the bunkers by utilizing elevated greens. It neutralizes much of the advantage big hitters can achieve via big, open fairways.
The course plays at about 6,400 yards for most, with that total dropping to less than 5,000 from the ladies tees. That combination has made it very popular with couples.
The ownership group has dumped a 'pretty hefty penny,' into the course, said operations director Ryan McCarty, and the conditions themselves do the rest.
Black Bear Golf Club
Much like Shaftesbury, the approach shots at Black Bear Golf Club deserve plenty of attention.
Ultra-fast Champion Bermuda grass makes a players' putting as important as ever. But there are some other facets of the course that stand out, too.
The Tom Jackson design is littered with little differences, from bulky trees in the middle of fairways to a finishing hole that requires golfers to make the lay-up or go-for-it decision based around a large pond separating the fairway from the green.
And while those type of variables typically slow pace to a crawl, Black Bear's location west of the Grand Strand's primary corridor prevents back logs. At any given time, a four-hour round is the norm, and waiting on others in the group ahead of you is nearly unheard of.
The club has also taken advantage of an odd re-seeding and maintenance schedule. Black Bear's superintendent and head pro made the decision to do it earlier than most.
So while they lose some traffic during the busy times of year, the course is routinely in better shape during the off months. It keeps the locals happy, and for the most part, the tourists don't recognize the difference.
Azalea Sands Golf Club
If you've spent big-time money on big-time courses, or you just feel like you need a slightly easier course to iron out some details, it's hard to beat Azalea Sands Golf Club in North Myrtle Beach.
The par-72 Gene Hamm course is as forgiving as you may find. And while not losing golf balls is a big draw of the course, it's unmistakable that some serious dollars have been put into the high-traffic course. The fairways and rough are clean, and constant work to bunkers and greens keeps players in an environment that makes the game enjoyable.
'The golf course has made huge strides,' Head Professional Crain Kenley said. 'It's fair and fun, and it doesn't beat people up. And it's right in the middle of everything.'
Don't let the full parking lot fool you. With a constant mindset of keeping pace of play very fast, the club makes sure waiting around for the next tee shot isn't a problem.
Azalea Sands aims for four-hour rounds, and it's almost always a goal that is met.