|The fairways at True Blue Golf Plantation, one of architect Mike Strantz’s earliest designs, wind their way around an old indigo and rice plantation.|
I am astonished to see True Blue as 28th on the list of SC courses, it is firmly inside the top 10 in my mind. I played True Blue in late March in beautiful weather and was a little disappointed in the conditioning of the course. I chalked this down to the time of the year and the fact its a public course but I don't let conditions affect how I rate a golf course. If this was a private members club, I'm sure it would be ranked much higher.
Mike Strantz could be my favourite architect ever. The way he angles tee shots over large waste bunkers is my favourite design feature of his. Even though he gives you plenty of fairway to bail out on, there is something satisfying about cutting a little off a corner and seeing your ball sail over a large wall of sand to find yourself in the perfect position for your approach. The bail out often gave you a longer approach to the green but none of Strantz courses are long, so playing it safe from time to time doesn't make the hole too long. The par 4 5th was a great example of this, with a downhill tee shot and a waste bunker on the left, the ideal play was to either fly the corner of the sand, or draw it tight down the left to give you a speed slot and a shorter, better angle into the green. I however cut my drive a little and it stayed on top of the hill, leaving me a longer shot over trees and sand to get to the back right pin. I managed to pull it off which is another Strantz design feature, he shapes holes to look harder than they are, so when you pull off a good shot, it makes you feel good about yourself.
The 6th hole has two greens which I liked, it gives you two completely different approaches depending on the green they choose for that day. There are also a bunch on long slender greens which look like two separate greens at times, this also gives the feeling of playing a different hole depending on the pin locations. The par 3 third is one of the most beautiful par 3's I've seen. With a beach bunker wrapping around the front, its only a short iron or wedge to the inviting front pin location, but its about 40 yards longer to the small back portion of the green, once again giving you a completely different feel for the hole.
Holes 10, 15 and 17 were the weakest in my opinion with wide open fairways and little strategic value on what side is best to approach the greens. Two of the poorer holes coming toward the end of the round can often give me a deflating feeling about the course, but I teed off the 10th and got to enjoy the stretch of great holes 18th - 5th toward the end of my round.
The 18th was a familiar looking closing hole. 437 yards with a lake all the way down the left side and the green sitting out over the water with the clubhouse above. My first impressions were "oh no, another PGA tour finishing hole". I've played TPC Sawgrass (which I loved) and Trump Doral (the less I say about that course the better) and this 18th was much better than both of those. It was a very pretty setting with a beautiful rolling fairway. The huge slope splitting the green into two sections looked a little severe, although it gave the opportunity to feed a ball toward the pin and finish in style if your approach shot was executed well.
All in all, this course was extremely enjoyable to play. With the variety of pin locations and the beautiful ambiance, I could play here over and over again. It was a nice mix of plotting your way around and/or picking heroic lines and seeing them come off. I have played many of the great courses around the world and although this is not a classical design by any means, it has an abundance of interesting architecture that has to be experienced if you are in the Myrtle Beach area. It is in my top 15 courses I've played and I think we need more courses like this. It wasn't long and it was fun to plot my way around. I can't wait to get back and play it again.
To see this course 28th on the list of courses in South Carolina is a surprise but this may be owing to it being one of the more high priced courses in the region but the old adage you get what you pay for definitely applies to True Blue. It is a marvellous course and a typical Mike Strantz thinking golfers course. You can often get a package deal with Caledonia Golf and Fish and this would be golfers heaven for a 36 hole day and make the trek to the far end of Myrtle Beach well worth the day out.
True Blue is what I refer to as Caledonia on steroids. It is a great course. Conditioning is excellent. Staff welcoming. It features more of the risk reward Stranz is known for. Thus the Caledonia on steroids analogy. Seeing it as 28th in the state on this list speaks to the depth of talent in the state. It's not 28th best though in my mind. The course puts some severe challenges in front of you with forced carries and severe green complexes. If you go to Myrtle and play toward the south end. True Blue is a must play. Myrtle is a very large area. Getting to courses at the other end is quite a chore. It is proper to align your play at places near to where you are staying.
True Blue Plantation and sister course, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club are the only two companion courses by the same designer to make Golf Digest’s list of “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses”. Both layouts are “must plays” by designer Mike Strantz, the creator of another fabled course, the unique and sometimes controversial Tobacco Road in NC.
Built in 1994, Caledonia was rated the 5th “Best New Public Course in America” by Golf Digest. With a 4 ½* rating, Caledonia has often been compared to Augusta National for its floral beauty and exquisite styling. Time only permitted that we play one course on this stay so we opted for True Blue and were not disappointed but I definitely want to come back to tempt my fate on Caledonia
True Blue was built on a Colonial indigo and rice plantation that is lined with tall pines and live oaks offering surprising elevation changes for the area. Completed four years after Caledonia, it was immediately recognized as one of the “Top 10 Best New Public Courses” by Golf Digest and is still ranked as the “#1 Public Course in the Myrtle Beach Area”. True Blue has wide fairways, rolling terrain, large greens with water on 7 holes and more sand than the “Sahara Desert”. This course is a true test of skills. There are 5 sets of tees from 4995 to 7126 yards so pick the right yardage to suit your game. You may think you can ‘overpower’ this course but be forewarned that the par 5’s are all three shot holes.
To prove my theory, from the tips the 1st hole is a 624 yard dogleg left that punishes you for being too aggressive. Not only is there a waste bunker all the way down the left side, there is a large bunker on the right side. Once you have run this gauntlet, there is the green side water and series of bunkers that guard this enormous green. Need I say more?
Hole #3 has been billed as one the greatest holes along the Grand Strand. This spectacular par 3 is surrounded by a lake and a beach of sand, made more complicated by a sliver of a green to work with. Good luck!
True Blue will keep you honest but also serves up great rewards both on and off the course. If you need a little ‘sustenance’ after you round, let us suggest you drop by the clubhouse for an outstanding bowl of New England style clam chowder. The best I’ve every tasted and just like the course it will leave you wanting more!
True Blue is a blast to play and one of my favorites in the Myrtle Beach area. The holes are all unique and each presents a different challenge. The teeing areas are very generous and the course really gets down to business at the green complexes. There are any number of slopes and run offs that challenge golfers of all levels. The par 5 5th is great fun. The hole dog legs left around a lake and with any kind of decent drive the hole begs the player to go for the green. The last three holes around and over water are a bit of a let down, and I have never been a fan of the 18th due to the narrow hitting area and steeply sloped green but overall Imthink golfers of all levels would enjoy playing here.