Take a 27-hole tour of the best at World Tour International Golf Links

By Travel ArticlesApril 23, 2012, 4:00 am

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Myrtle Beach is one of those American tourist destinations that cater to the fantasies of its visitors. There are rides that hurtle you into the air, games that take place in virtual-reality simulators, circus-like obstacle courses, feasts with knights and pirates, gentlemen's (ahem) clubs, and mile after mile of idyllic beaches.

What's a golfer's fantasy? Playing The Old Course, Augusta National, and Pine Valley, of course. With Myrtle Beach being Myrtle Beach, these fantasies too can be fulfilled at International World Tour Golf Links, where all of the 27 holes are homages to famous holes around the world.

It may sound hokey, but the replica holes are so well done and have been chosen so carefully to fit into the available landforms that the sheer fun outweighs any sense of contrivance.

Prior to the start of construction of International World Tour Golf Links, course owner Mel Graham traveled thousands of miles to research 150 holes on his 'short list' of inspirations.

He narrowed that list down to 27 holes, and World Tour opened in 2001 as three nines: the Open Nine (3,235 yards), the Championship Nine (3,290 yards) and the International Nine (3,398 yards).

The headliners of the collection are the Open Nine and the Championship Nine. The Open Nine contains tributes to nos. 1 and 18 at the Old Course at St. Andrews, no. 16 at Augusta National and no. 17 at TPC Sawgrass. The Championship Nine features nos. 11-13 at Augusta National ('Amen Corner'). The Augusta replicas are framed by more than 2,000 azaleas to complete the fantasy.

Interestingly, it's the International Nine that, when paired with either of the other nines, is the favorite course set-up of locals and the staff. The reason for this is that the International Nine, featuring no. 18 at Inverness Golf Club, no. 4 at Valderrama and no. 18 at Doral's Blue Monster are less known to casual golfers, so it is usually far less crowded. And the Open and International nines combine for the longest 18 with the highest slope rating, too.

What is the effect of all the replicas on the flow of play? Well, it cannot be denied that playing holes inspired by many different designers with many different design philosophies feels somewhat disjointed. Yet doing so also tells you something about your game.

For example, the lesson I learned playing the Open-International combination was that I am not terribly good at playing American holes. After doubles on many of the American replicas (and a triple with two water balls on the Blue Monster doppelganger) and several nice pars on the internationally flavored holes, it dawned on me that my handicap would be much lower if I lived in some other country.

Is the International World Tour Golf Links experience contrived? Well, to an extent, yes. But if you've been dreaming your whole life of sticking the island green at no. 17 TPC Sawgrass, and you do it here, it feels every bit as much fun. (As does an up-and-down par from the back rough).

Take, for example, the opener on the Open Nine, which is a replica of no. 1 at the Old Course at St. Andrews. I've played the original, and I can honestly say that, with respect to the shots alone, the World Tour version is bang-on. What is missing, though, are the surroundings: Here, there's no Royal and Ancient clubhouse a few paces behind the tees, and no ocean off to the right, nor crowds of tourists watching your swing.

The absence of all of these distractions might result in a somewhat diminished experience, but it will also likely result in a better score. To wit, I holed an easy par putt at World Tour, whereas my nerves were jangling so badly teeing off at the Old Course, multiple chunks and a ball into the burn led to a rather shameful quintuple bogey.

In short, while the hole designs themselves are remarkably accurate, what is missing is the surroundings of the inspirational holes.

Another example is no. 7 on the Open Nine, where the green, modeled after 16 at Augusta National, is the hardest to hit and most treacherous to putt on the entire property. Yet the ambiance is, quite understandably, lacking compared to the peerless original.

The real treat of the entire layout is that many of the replicas are of holes on ultra-exclusive private courses, such as Pine Valley and Seminole Golf Club.

The sixth on the International Nine is a replica of 15 at Seminole, and it offers probably the most difficult tee shot on any nine. As a 498-yard par 5 from the tips, it's eminently reachable in two, but only if you choose the perfect line over a row of cross bunkers and cross palms and the perfect club to avoid running through the left-to-right cape-style fairway.

International World Tour Golf Links: The verdict

Myrtle Beach promises to fulfill many fantasies, and International World Tour lets golfers live 27 of them. Buy a yardage book, and absorb the back stories of the holes as you play them to truly immerse yourself in the experience.

The hole designs themselves are very well done. (Although the 'valley of sin' on the replica of 18 on the Old Course felt more like the 'valley of mildly regrettable behavior.') The holes that were chosen fit nicely into the landscape and do not feel forced, despite the fact that the land surrounding the holes cannot always recreate the entire experience of playing the original.

The clubhouse and staff are spectacular, having been voted several times as the best in Myrtle Beach.

During 2012, all 27 holes are being renovated on a rotating basis, one nine at a time, so as not to interrupt play too much. When the work is done, the greens, bunkers and cart paths will all be sparkling like new.

Off-course fantasies in Myrtle Beach

I'm tempted to break into the voice of Ricardo Montalban as Mr. Roarke while enumerating the fantastical attractions of Myrtle Beach. If your desire is to walk through shark-filled seas, pet eagle rays or even watch frolicking mermaids, Ripley's Aquarium at Broadway at the Beach is for you.

Also at Broadway at the Beach (S.C.'s biggest tourist attraction), is WonderWorks, where a collection of mind-bending and intellectually engaging displays and activities are housed in an enormous upside-down building.

Children will be enthralled during a pirate-themed dinner and show at Pirate's Voyage or by knights embroiled in martial combat on foot and horseback at Medieval Times. Take extra hand wipes to the medieval castle, though, as you'll eat with your hands as they did in days of yore.

And that's just it about Myrtle Beach, isn't it? A visit here is also a visit to countless other places, including some of the greatest golf courses in the world.

American Junior Golf Association

Junior golfer's amazing run: ace, albatross, birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 11:03 pm

While most of the golf world had its attention focused on Scotland and The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Thursday, the REALLY remarkable performance of the day was taking place in Halifax, Mass.

There, in an American Junior Golf Association tournament, a 16-year-old Thai player made a hole-in-one and an albatross on consecutive holes.

According to the AJGA, Conor Kelly holed a 5-iron shot on the 198-yard, par-3 eighth hole. It was his first hole-in-one. He then holed a 4-iron second shot from 220 yards on the 480-yard ninth holer for the albatross. (We're gonna go out on a limb and say it was his first albatross.)

Certainly a nice way to make the turn - but Kelly wasn't finished. He birdied the par-4 10th for a 1-2-3 sequence on his scorecard. For the day, he shot a 5-under 67 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at the Country Club of Halifax.

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McIlroy, Rahm betting co-favorites after Open Round 1

By Will GrayJuly 19, 2018, 10:10 pm

They're both three shots off the lead, but after starting The Open with rounds in the 60s Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm are now betting co-favorites to lift the claret jug at Carnoustie.

McIlroy is four years removed from his Open triumph at Royal Liverpool, while Rahm remains in search of his first major title. Both carded rounds of 2-under 69 in Scotland to sit three shots off the lead of Kevin Kisner. While McIlroy started the tournament at 16/1 and Rahm at 20/1, they're now dead even at 10/1 in updated odds at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kisner started the week at 200/1, but after an opening-round 66 he's quickly been trimmed to 25/1. Tony Finau sits one shot behind Kisner and is now listed behind only McIlroy and Rahm at 12/1 after starting the tournament at 60/1.

On the other side of the coin, consensus pre-tournament betting favorite Dustin Johnson fell from 12/1 to 100/1 following an opening 76 while Masters champ Patrick Reed shot a 4-over 75 to plummet from 30/1 to 200/1. Trailing by five shots following an opening-round 71, Tiger Woods' odds remained unchanged at 25/1 as he seeks a 15th career major title.

Here's a look at the revised betting odds heading into the second round at Carnoustie:

10/1: Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm

12/1: Tony Finau

14/1: Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler

20/1: Francesco Molinari

25/1: Tiger Woods, Alex Noren, Henrik Stenson, Kevin Kisner

30/1: Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka

40/1: Ryan Moore, Jason Day

50/1: Erik Van Rooyen, Brandon Stone, Matt Kuchar

60/1: Danny Willett, Thomas Pieters, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen, Russell Henley, Matthew Southgate

80/1: Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendan Steele, Kevin Na

100/1: Dustin Johnson, Zander Lombard, Sung Kang, Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen, Xander Schauffele, Chris Wood, Pat Perez, Luke List, Charley Hoffman

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Despite 78, Lincicome savors PGA Tour experience

By Randall MellJuly 19, 2018, 9:41 pm

Two bad holes derailed Brittany Lincicome in her historic start Thursday at the Barbasol Championship, but they couldn’t wipe the smile off her face afterward.

It might have been the most fun she ever had shooting a 78.

Lincicome joined Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie as the only women to tee it up in a PGA Tour event when she striped her opening tee shot down the middle Thursday at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

A double bogey at her ninth hole and a triple at her 16th might have spoiled her chances at joining Zaharias as the only women to make a 36-hole cut in a PGA Tour event, but it didn’t spoil her experience.

“I did what I wanted to do, with having fun,” Lincicome said. “I think I nailed that part pretty well.

“I love playing with the guys. It's so much fun, being inside the ropes with them. Hopefully, I can get a good one tomorrow.”

Lincicome, 32, held her own for 16 holes, playing them in 1 over par, but those two big numbers left her tied for last place when she signed her scorecard, though other players remained on the course.

At 6 over, Lincicome is 13 shots behind the leader, probably seven or eight shots off the projected cut line, but she savored the experience. She arrived wanting to inspire young girls to dream big, and to bring some extra attention to a title sponsor who means so much to her. She represents Pure Silk, part of the Barbasol family.

Sam Ryder, who joined Conrad Shindler playing alongside Lincicome, was impressed with the way Lincicome carried herself.

“I would play with her every day if she wanted to,” said Ryder, who opened with a 68. “She's just a great person.

“Even though I know she's probably a little disappointed with her final score, she had a smile on her face all day.”

Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, made her first birdie at her 12th hole, dropping a 30-foot putt, but she wasn’t happy with her putter much of the day. She missed three other good birdie chances, a 4-footer at her eighth hole, an 8-footer at her 10th and a 12-footer at the last.

“Pretty happy with my game overall,” Lincicome said. “I had two bad holes, but I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but my putter let me down today.”

After piping her first drive, Lincicome opened with three consecutive pars.

“I was actually calmer than I thought I was going to be,” she said. “I thought I was going to be a nervous wreck. After the first tee shot, I was pretty happy that I found the fairway.”

Lincicome said Ryder and Shindler made her feel welcome. So did the crowds.

“It was great,” she said. “I could feel the energy of the crowd support me. Every time I hit a good driver or good shot, they would cheer for me, which was great.

“Conrad and Sam were so nice. I couldn't have asked for a better pairing. They were very welcoming, and we were interacting, they were asking me questions, and it was great.”

On Tuesday, Lincicome said a key to her play would be hitting fairways. She did that, hitting 10 of 14, but she was taking in longer clubs than she does in LPGA events, with Keene Trace set up at 7,168 yards. That’s 600 yards longer than she played last week at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic, where she finished second. She hit just 8 greens in regulation in this PGA Tour start.

Lincicome is nicknamed “Bam Bam.” She is one of the LPGA’s longest drivers, but she was typically 30 to 40 yards behind Ryder and Shindler after hitting her driver. She averaged 259 yards per drive, Ryder 289 yards.

“She had a couple birdie putts that she could have made,” Ryder said. “If she made a couple of those, might've been a little bit different, just to get a little bit of momentum. Who knows?”

Lincicome’s biggest challenges were the par 3s.

At the 18th, playing 195 yards, she mis-hit her tee shot, knocking it in the water, short of the green. She took a penalty, moved up to a forward tee, dropped and hit into a right greenside bunker. She got up and down from there for a 5.

At the seventh, playing 198 yards, she missed wild right and deep. From a tough spot in the rough, she left her pitch short of the green. She chipped her third past the hole and to the fringe, where she took three putts from 20 feet.

Afterward, Lincicome wasn’t dwelling on the bad shots. She was focused on going to sign autographs for all the fans waiting for her, including all the little girls who came out to see her.

“I need to go back over there and sign,” she said. “Any time I can influence a child, especially a girl, obviously I want to get them involved with the LPGA, as much as possible.”

Her overall assessment of her day?

“It was a great experience,” she said.

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Watch: Full replays of The Open coverage

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 8:55 pm

NBC Sports and Golf Channel are showcasing nearly 50 hours of live coverage of the 147th Open. Missed anything? Well, you can catch up right here. Click on the links below for replays from Carnoustie, broken down into daily segments:

Thursday, Day 1 (Times ET)

Noon-4PM (Watch): Tiger Woods was up and down in the afternoon, as winds picked up a little and no one could catch Kevin Kisner. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Woods, Russell Knox and Hideki Matsuyama.

1:30-8:25AM (Watch): Defending champion Jordan Spieth got off to a good start, while Kevin Kisner (66) set the early pace. Click here or on the image below to watch. Also, click here to watch the full replay of the early marquee group: Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Chris Wood.