Travel & Leisure Golf....
MYRTLE BEACH: MUSIC TO THE EARS OF GOLFERS
When most people think of beach music, they think of shagging in the sand to the sounds of the 60s. But in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the golf, beach, and entertainment options are all music to the ears of golfers.
Located right on the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is conveniently located just 400 miles from Washington, D.C., 725 miles from New York City, and 350 miles from Atlanta. In fact, the area everyone calls the Grand Strand is within a days drive of more than half the population of the U.S. More than 40 flights a day bring in those who would rather leave the driving to a pilot. Many of these cars and planes arrive in Myrtle Beach loaded with golfers.
Quite simply, the Myrtle Beach area is one of the worlds top golf destinations. With more than 100 golf courses in the area and an average of more than four million rounds of golf played annually, this is as close to golf heaven as you can get on earth.
Add to this a 60-mile beach, temperate year-round weather conditions, 11 live entertainment theaters, 490 hotels (60,000 rooms and counting), 1,800 places to eat, and 225 outlet stores, and you have a golf destination for the millennium. Its no wonder that the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (800/356-3016, www.myrtlebeachlive.com) needs more than 350 pages for their Stay & Play guide to the region.
MAKING GOLF HISTORY
The Spanish were the first to drop anchor in these charmed coastal waters. Their settlement didn't last long, but the word was out. Since then, the world has come to play golf, swim, sunbathe, retire, boat, snorkel, eat, shop, and enjoy music in Myrtle Beach.
Until the early-1900s, the beaches of what would become the Myrtle Beach area were virtually uninhabited, due to the regions geographical inaccessibility and poor economy. This all began to change when the Burroughs & Collins Company, a timber and turpentine firm with extensive beachfront holdings, began developing the resort potential.
In 1901, the company built the beachs first hotel, the Seaside Inn. At that time, oceanfront lots sold for $25 and buyers received an extra lot free if they built a house valued at $500 or more.
This first beach community was called New Town until the local newspaper held a contest to officially name the area. Mrs. F.E. Burroughs, wife of the founder of Burroughs & Collins, won the competition with Myrtle Beach, a name she chose for the many wax myrtle trees growing wild along the shore.
In the 1920s, a group of businessmen began building an upscale resort called Arcady at the north end of the community. Arcady featured the present Pine Lakes International Country Club, the Grand Strands first golf club and birthplace of the magazine, Sports Illustrated.
Several major developments took place along the Strand during the next two decades. In 1936, the Intracoastal Waterway was opened to pleasure boats and commercial shipping. During the 1940s, the Air Force Base was established and used for training and coastal patrols during World War II (it finally closed in 1993). The famed Pavilion opened in 1949, followed by the installation of an organ and a carousel in 1954. These unique attractions are still in place today, providing Myrtle Beach visitors with a link to the early days of tourism.
By 1960, only five more golf courses had been built in the Grand Strand area. However, the Myrtle Beach golf boom began during that decade and has never stopped.
Following the construction of The Surf Golf & Beach Club in 1960, more than 30 courses were built in the next 20 years. During this expansion, the Grand Strand became nationally known as a resort community, with golf courses, tennis courts, resorts, hotels, amusement parks, and other attractions continually being constructed.
The Myrtle Beach Convention Center, including the South Carolina Hall of Fame, opened in 1970. In the following decade, new construction topped $75 million and the permanent population tripled.
During the 1980s, more than 35 additional golf courses were built. The golf boom drew designers like Fazio, Jones, Maples, and more. This growth on and off the links shows no signs of abating.
Since 1990, the Myrtle Beach area has entered a new growth period, with the emergence of a flourishing country music, entertainment, and theater industry. In addition, many new hotels, motels, restaurants, homes, and industries are going up throughout the area.
Myrtle Beach attracts golfers from around the world with both quantity and quality. The sheer number of options makes finding a place to play easy, but the quality of the courses makes choosing where to play more difficult. From the 100th course (Tom Fazios TPC of Myrtle Beach) to the very first area layout (Pine Lakes), this is golf heaven.
A decades-long history of easy packages has also made Myrtle Beach extremely attractive to golfers. Back when Grand Strand golf was just expanding, local hotel owners got together to create one of the nations earliest golf packages. This allowed duffers the opportunity to book a variety of accommodations and golf courses at affordable rates. Along with affordability, Myrtle Beach golf has a long tradition of accessibility, with only three courses that are private.
The package concept has grown into big business for the area. Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday (800/845-4653) provides a perfect example of the possibilities. Their current 178-page guide provides detailed information about 90 championship golf courses and 98 resort accommodations, as well as golf schools, a locator map, travel tips, and more. This makes it easy to plan a package that includes golf, accommodations, air travel, meals, and more. An on-line reservation system should be in place this fall.
Of course, the great golf options are the big draw, with courses designed by Byrd, Daly, Dye, Doak, Fazio, Floyd, Hills, Irwin, Jones, Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, and many other greats, as well as the likes of hot new architects like Mike Strantz. Its easy to see why Myrtle Beach has so many repeat visitors (and golfers).
There are many popular upscale options for a special day on the links, including the TPC of Myrtle Beach (843/357-3399), The Dunes (843/449-5914), True Blue (843/483-6800), Caledonia (800/483-6800), and several top selections of The Legends Group (800/552-2660). In addition, new roads and bridges are taking golfers further afield to interesting courses up north (Brunswick Isles) and down south (Litchfield and Pawleys Island).
Tournament golf has also become big business in Myrtle Beach. The DuPont World Amateur Handicap Championship (800/833-8798), held in late-summer, is the worlds largest amateur golf event. Now in its 16th year, the tournament traditionally attracts more than 5,000 golfers from all 50 states and more than 20 foreign nations. In addition, the Ingersoll-Rand SENIOR TOUR Championship and City of Hope LPGA Tournament all allow spectators an opportunity to see many golf greats in action.
SLEEP, EAT, & MORE
The wide range of accommodations options mirrors the availability of golf. There are more than 22,000 hotel and motel rooms, which combine with an additional 38,000 rental options to make more than 60,000 places to sleep in Myrtle Beach. This can range from an inexpensive hotel room to one-, two-, and three-bedroom condominiums and rental homes. Thus, singles, families, and golf groups can all find the perfect place to sleep on the Grand Strand.
Sands Resorts (888/999-0307) is typical of the offerings to golfers. They book more than 400,000 rounds of golf a year--by far the most for any resort company in Myrtle Beach. Sands Classic is the most popular package, in that it allows golfers to play some of the areas premier courses without having to pay surcharges. With Sands Resorts, you leave all the planning to the expert golf sales staff.
When not on the course, golfers can stay at one of five full-service oceanfront resorts. Guests have free access to the Health & Fitness Center, which includes sauna, steam room, and an exercise room with state-of-the-art equipment. The Sands Health Club is the areas most popular and is also complimented with massage therapists and a salon. There are also indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpools, basketball courts, and tennis privileges. To complete the possibilities, Sands Resorts offers an array of dining and entertainment options, including the famous Flying Machine Steak House and Ocean Annies beach bar.
All of that golf will definitely make duffers hungry. More than 1,800 eateries mean youll never miss a meal, with seafood, southern, and ethnic options in abundance. Some unique choices include: Easyriders Cafe (843/445-2702); House of Blues (843/361-2900); NASCAR Cafe (843/946-RACE); Calabash-style seafood buffets; chartered dinner cruises; and dinner theaters (see below).
Shopping is another sport that has a passionate following in Myrtle Beach. Shoppers flock to popular treasure hunting sites like Barefoot Landing, along with Broadway at the Beach, Waccamaw Outlet Park, and the Hammock Shops down on Pawleys Island. If there are non-golfers in the group, Myrtle Beach is definitely the place to shop til you drop.
Of course, another of the many reasons Myrtle Beach has become such popular golf destination is the number of attractions off the links. The wide variety of options (there are many more) includes: The Myrtle Beach Pavilion Amusement Park (843/448-6456); Ripleys Aquarium (800/734-8888); NASCAR Speedpark (843/626-8725); Myrtle Waves Water Park (800/524-WAVE); Brookgreen Gardens (843/237-4218); and lots of others.
If you want an all-in-one attraction, Barefoot Landing (800/272-2320) is the best bet. Built along the Intracoastal Waterway and surrounding a 27-acre freshwater lake, Barefoot Landing includes more than 100 specialty shops, 15 waterfront restaurants, 14 factory direct stores, Alabama Theater, Alligator Adventure, the Barefoot Princess Riverboat, the House of Blues, and more. Its grown into one of Myrtle Beachs most popular attractions.
Barefoot Landings Alabama Theater is just one of the many live theater choices (see below). They make for a wide range of evening entertainment possibilities.
MUSIC TO YOUR EARS
In just a few short years, the Myrtle Beach area has emerged as one of the nation's leading destinations for live entertainment. With 11 theaters now entertaining thousands every night, visiting duffers and their families can enjoy the best of country music, as well as many other options.
Missouri-born musician and entrepreneur Calvin Gilmore initiated the trend in 1986, when he opened The Carolina Opry (843/913-1400) in Surfside Beach, just south of Myrtle Beach proper. In 1992, the original Carolina Opry moved into a new 2,200-seat Myrtle Beach facility, complete with its own recording studio. The hugely popular show offers a wide variety of music, including country, bluegrass, Western swing, big band, patriotic, and show tunes, as well as comedy. More recently, Gilmore assisted in bringing another show, Legends in Concert (843/477-5678), to his original Surfside Beach theater. The already-legendary show features impersonations of the biggest stars in show business.
Country music supergroup Alabama, which got its start playing for tips in Myrtle Beach, opened its Alabama Theatre (843/272-1111) theater in 1993. Located at Barefoot Landing, the 2,200-seat Alabama Theatre features three different kinds of shows: Alabama performs at least 12 shows a year; celebrity guests, including such stars as Loretta Lynn, Billy Ray Cyrus, and many others, perform at least 35 shows a year; and Celebration, the house show combining Opryland-style singing, dancing, and music, plays on the remaining nights.
The 2,700-seat Palace Theater (800/905-4228) is part of Broadway at the Beach, another huge entertainment destination. This entertainment/theater complex, with many stores and restaurants, a very popular aquarium, and a hotel, has hosted such celebrities as Kenny Rogers, LeAnn Rimes, B.B. King, Bill Cosby, and many more. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring The Rockettes, has become a holiday tradition.
The remaining theaters in Myrtle Beach offer other forms of entertainment, with dining often included in the mix. The Crook & Chase Celebrity Theatre (843/236-8800) is home to TNNs Crook and Chase Show, Radio Countdown Show, and a Broadway-style musical titled Summer of 66. The Dixie Stampede (843/497-6605), owned by Dolly Parton's Dollywood Productions, features a rodeo with a Civil War theme and a four-course southern dinner (designed to be eaten with your fingers--no silverware needed). Patrons sit in either the Southern or Northern section of the arena and take part in a friendly rivalry by cheering for their side in a number of animal races and participatory contests. Finally, Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament (843/236-4635) provides an entertaining look at the Middle Ages, complete with jousting, knights on horseback, and a medieval banquet.
HAVE IT ALL
Those searching for the key to planning a perfect Myrtle Beach vacation need look no further than Myrtle Beach Key Attractions (800/819-2282 or 843/444-3207). Their Key Attractions Packages offer quality, convenience, flexibility, and fun.
The package choices include: Thrill Rides & Excitement, Golf, Family Fun Style, Family Theater, Championship Golf, and many others. There are a wide range of accommodations and real estate rental choices, many championship golf courses (and par three options, driving ranges, and miniature golf), and a huge choice of key theaters, shopping and dining complexes, and attractions. They even offer the Myrtle Beach Key Attraction Shuttle Bus to nearly all of the Key Attractions of Myrtle Beach.
From great golf to unparalleled entertainment and attractions, its easy to see why Myrtle Beach golf vacations are so popular. The Grand Strand is truly grand to visitors on and off the links.