The fairways at True Blue Golf Club, one of architect Mike Strantz’s earliest designs, wind their way around an old indigo and rice plantation. Unveiled in 1998, four years after the course at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club debuted next door, True Blue was only the architect’s fourth golf project to open for play.
In The American Golf Resort Guide author Daniel Wexler writes: “with five par fives consuming 50% of the real estate, the remaining 13 holes aren’t so very long, and there are touches of predictability in holes like the 190-yard island-green 3rd and the 406-yard dual-green 6th, but exciting golf abounds here.”
Feature holes among many include the short par three 11th (playing 184 yards from the back tees, with the tee shot forced to carry an expansive waste area to a warped hourglass-shaped green) and short par fours at the 8th and 13th, where birdies can be made but only with proper thought (and execution) on both the tee shot and the approach.
In The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses Tom Doak said that “a few of our favorite Strantz features are found here, specifically the button hook par-5 4th that plays around a hazard and his [Strantz] stylish, large scale bunkers that sweep up to imaginatively configured greens. However, the water strewn finishing three hole stretch is let down by his own inventive standards.”
True Blue is an interesting design by Mike Strantz. The course is more suited for the longer/better players for whom there are many more decisions to be made as to strategy due to the sharpness of its many doglegs. It has a lot of doglegs whether it’s a par 4 or par 5. It offers generous fairways where much of its defenses are on the inner corners of the fairway. For longer hitters they have multiple opportunities on the tee to try to carry a ball over these inner corners/defenses by cutting the dogleg. If they can pull it off, they will be rewarded with as many as four clubs less into a green. This is important as True Blue is very much a second shot golf course due to difficult green surfaces and green surrounds. If the longer hitter decides to play conservatively, True Blue offers generous fairways but a much longer second shot into the green.
For the shorter hitters, if one is not quite long enough to reach the proper line into the green or hit a shot slightly offline, the approach shot becomes problematic due to the difficulty of the green surrounds.
In addition to its many doglegs, Mr. Strantz also angled many of his greens thereby making it even more critical to get a ball close to the pin to avoid either a very long putt or being short or long into the sand/water that inevitably is right next to every green.
Whether a long hitter or a short player, if one misses the green, the green surrounds are built in a way that makes recovery less probable than on many other courses. This results in a golf course where double-digit indexes should likely play a tee one forward from where they might typically play in order to have an enjoyable scoring day.
The fairway bunkering and use of marshes create a lot of “eye candy” and visual disguises at times. Some of the fairway bunkers are very deep but most offer a reasonable change to advance one’s ball. Yet most of the defenses from the tee are easily avoided by the average length player. For the longer players, there is a fair amount of decision-making on the tee to be more aggressive by playing over many of the hazards placed on the edges of the fairway as opposed to playing away from them. If one can execute these longer carries from the tees, there is a substantial reward with as many as a three club difference into the tee. I did find the course to be more interesting for the longer/better player.
Whether before the changes or after the changes, this is very much a second-shot golf course. Nearly all of the danger is in getting to the green given the width of the fairways. Many of the greens have severe tilts, substantial tiers, and mounds/swales. Most of the bunkers near the greens are deep. There is contouring near many of the greens that can eliminate certain types of recovery shots one might want to try. I found I had a better chance on most holes of trying to save par from hitting my third shot from 80-125 yards away, rather than try to get close to the green and hit some sort of wedge.
One negative to the green complexes is there are few holes where one can use putter from off the green. On True Blue, it appears that Mr. Strantz wanted you to recover with a good short wedge game rather than a putter. Additionally, for chances at birdie one truly needs to be within twelve feet or less and for par, one should not be beyond twenty-five feet as the putting surfaces make putting from longer distances a real test for one’s putting.
I played here on December 8, 2020 on a cold day (never above 40F degrees) although there was no wind. It is a course that I would want to play again when the weather is much warmer resulting in the ball going farther, having two less layers of clothing, and no shivering. I think I would appreciate it more.
I played with a local resident who plays True Blue one-three times a year and has played there since its opening in February, 1998. As such he has seen many changes to the course. The first design was very difficult resulting in the club marketing a round of golf there as “heaven and hell.” He has a logo golf ball to prove it. Golfers came to play this fascinating and difficult course, but that was the problem. They played it once and never returned due to its reputation for difficulty and high scores. As we went around the course, my playing partner described many of the changes that Mr. Strantz was asked to make to soften the course, which he did not long before his death from cancer at the age of 50.
From the Gold tees, the course is 7126 yards, par 70, rated 74.7/141. The Blue tees are 6812 yards rated 73.2.138. The White tees are 6375 yards, rated 70.9/133. We played the White tees due to the temperature and I felt as though we were played 6650 yards. The layout has five par 5’s and five par 3’s with the front nine being a par 37 and the inward nine a par 35.
1. Par 5 - 624/600/499. I glanced at the Gold and Blue tees well behind me but more centrally located to the fairway with a waste are of 100-125 yards to carry. The waste area ends essentially where the White tee is which is placed to the right side of a sharp dogleg left hole thereby creating a straight tee shot. The longer hitters will have to navigate a winding fairway with trees on the right and three long bunkers and a waste area that continues down the entire left side of the fairway. Perhaps it was the time of year but the green complex is unattractive/ugly. The way the sand sits on the land combined with two angled bridges made me think the hole was undergoing construction. There is a “u” shaped water feature that is on three sides although the left side bleeds away into a tree. Between the water that is about fifteen yards wide including the banks, there are bunkers on all sides to this elevated green. The green is angled left to right and has a small landing strip fronting it. The back right of the green is shallow. Thankfully, the green is flat. I was told the water feature was much wider and extended well down the fairway creating an almost island-green effect. The hole is fine as a starting hole although unsightly.
2. Par 4 – 367/342/319. I do not like this hole as it is overly quirky due to the tree that protrudes from the right into this dogleg right. You play out of a chute and a drive of 210 yards will go into the waste area on the right side. A drive of 235 yards will go into the waste area on the left side. The right side of the fairway will find you blocked by the tree if you are anywhere close to it. Go into the waste area on the right and you have to stay below the low tree branches but the waste area continues to the green. Obviously the play off the tee is a short club out to the left side. The green is silly. It is long, thin angled left to right with a substantial tier in its middle. The tier substantially slows any putt from the lower front to a back pin position. I understand what Mr. Strantz was trying to do here given the shortness of the hole, but the green is simply too thin and if you miss it, only the most perfect shot from the surrounding bunkering will provide a chance at recovery.
3. Par 3 – 190/160/141. You play over water to a long figure-eight green angled a bit right to left. This island green has only water on the right side with about seven yards of sand on the front and left and four yards at the rear. The previous incarnation of this hole had the sand pushed up so high it looked like a wave crashing on a beach as it hid the front third of the green. It is nearly impossible to hold this green to a front pin position. The middle of the figure eight green is also difficult to hold. Perhaps the only part of the green that can be held is the back. We had a front pin position and the only one of us to hit the green on the line to the front pin had his ball roll over into the back bunker. I went last and hit a higher shot that unfortunately hit the rake at the top of the green on the front collar and went into the front bunker. Alas, we will never know if my shot would have stayed on the green.
Getting to this green requires one to drive nearly 3/16’s of a mile. If one were to try to walk this course, this walk would be depressing as you seem to get further and further away from the green the more you walk. It’s an okay hole, if the green were widened by 3-5 yards as it is unfair. From the tee it is visually appealing as the sun sparkles on the water and you are in a secluded area surrounded by trees.
4. Par 5 – 548/523/493. This is one of my favorite holes on the course. Bigger hitters who can find the fairway will always go for the green in two. This is a dogleg right of nearly 180 degrees. The green is placed right at the water’s edge and anyone finding the fairway will have an approach shot of 210-250 yards to carry the water. For those having to hit two shots to get into position for their approach shot, there is a long waste area and bunkers down the left side. The green is fronted by a center-line bunker about ten yards from the green. The green is tilted back to front that will assist those who are trying to hit the green in two shots by carrying the pond. For those coming in with their third shot, the bank to the green provides both additional speed as well as a route to a flatter front part of the green.
5. Par 4 – 433/424/396. The Gold and Blue tees are more elevated than the White tees. This dogleg left offers the longer hitters the possibility of both shortening the hole substantially as well as having the desired angle to the green. To do so, they have to carry the raised waste area on the left side and avoid the tree lines. The right side of the fairway is quite wide but go too far right and the view of the green is blocked by the trees. The fairway narrow to the size of the green with a long waste area and bunker down the right side at the curve in the fairway. This waste area continues down the right side of the green which is angled left to right and has a fair amount of undulations in it.
6. Par 4 – 404/393/383. This hole offers two greens making the hole look like a capital “Y.” We played to the left green which my local resident partner said it the green that is the most used. Longer hitters try to stay as close as possible to the left side of the fairway to cut the corner of this somewhat double dogleg hole. If they can pull it off, it is a straight shot into a very visible green. But if they don’t they might get caught up in the trees on the right. The left side has a long waste area as well as a few trees that could come into play. The green is placed back into trees with fronting waste areas on both sides. The green has a horizontal spine. It’s a fun hole.
7. Par 3 – 176/164/151. I like this par 3 where the green is angled left to right with the right side placed on a hill as much as eight feet higher than the bottom. We had a front middle pin and estimated one needed to hit a 175 yard shot due to the wind in our faces. The green is flat on the front but tilted right to left on the upper tier as well as back to front. That back right pin is a likely terror.
8. Par 4 – 382/363/341. This is another sharp dogleg right. Much like the fifth, the bigger hitters have a decision here. This is a sharp 90 degree dogleg right with a large rock placed upon a rise at the inner corner. A plaque at our tee said the rock was only 180 yards away. Behind the rock is a long waste area adding another 40-50 yards of carry to find the fairway. Down the left side is a long waste area. If one pushes their tee shot to the right they will find trees. Bigger hitters are rewarded with a shot of perhaps as little as 80 yards to the elevated green while the safer play will likely leave as much as 175 yards into the green. The green has fall-offs to all sides and is sloped back to front with a middle swale and rise that can make a putt confusing as the back right of the green has a substantial break of 4-5 feet and breaks as it is coming to a stop.
9. Par 5 – 548/532/517. This is another dogleg right playing from an elevated tee with a long waste area required a drive of 240 yards if one is trying to go straight over the sand rather than play out to the safer left side of the generous fairway. If one is trying to clear nearly all of the sand it will require a carry of 280 yards from the White tees. For shorter hitters the best line into the tucked/hidden green is to be as right as possible but trees start to pinch it. One has to lay up in front of a waste area that is about 150 yards from the green and 40 yards wide. Longer hitters who have hit a good tee shot will go for this green in two and should be happy if they can find the tight/narrow opening in front of the green. The green is hidden behind a large bunker front left with a raised hill behind it. There is another bunker on the right opposite this bunker which provides for the narrow opening. For those hitting onto the green in two, they have to be able to stop their ball before it reaches two bunkers on the right side which seems like the rear of the green as it is angled right to left. The green has multiple tiers in it. My local resident partner told me the waste area used to be about twice the size making any layup shot result in a third shot of about 200 yards. The other side of this waste area was closer to the green by about 15 yards. I like this hole despite requiring me to hole off from off the green for my double bogey. Such is golf.
10. Par 5 – 599/584/559. The back nine kicks off with a consecutive par 5. From elevated tees you play down a fairway that is a sharp dogleg to the right. The right side has a waste area that ends with a four feet high lip so anyone getting close to the lip can only hit wedge out. Bigger hitters fly over this waste are or play out to the safer and wider left side. Mr. Strantz then added a cross bunker complex that goes across nearly the entire fairway. It is imperative one clear this complex on their second shot to have a chance for the green. There is a fifteen yard wide waste area about twenty yards short of the green which is angled left to right. Between the waste area and the right half of the green is a bunker. Behind the green is a waste area for the eleventh hole. This green seems thinner than it actually is due to its width. It is a difficult par 5.
11. Par 3 – 184/149/130. This is the most boring hole on the golf course with a green that has a horizontal swale halfway through and a break to the left. It is fronted by a long waste area with the green surrounded by sand.
12. Par 4 – 407/387/371. The hole is a double dogleg playing out to the right for the safer play and then back left to the green. Bigger hitters will cut this by staying as close to the right as they can, using the stairs in the deep, long bunker on the right as their aiming point. The green is fronted by a long waste area with flanking bunkers at the front. The green is relatively flat. I like the hole.
13. Par 4 – 410/397/381. This hole plays as a dogleg left to a fairway that rises before you before going down again. It is a wide fairway. The green sits behind a long waste area and a bunker with a four feet height. I was told that the rise in the “wall” before the green was so high when first build that the flag could not be seen. The green tilts sharply back to front. It is a nice golf hole but the original version, while more fun, much have been unplayable to too many players.
14. Par 3 – 158/154/138. From an elevated tee one plays across a waste area to a very strangely shaped green. The green bulges on the right side, gets very narrow close to the middle/left and is still very small for the left side. There is a lot of waste area that is unnecessary here and one can just imagine Mr. Strantz, who loved bulldozers, continuing in a circle for an hour or more just for the fun of it. This green also has a sharp back to front tilt, more so on that smaller left side. It is another nice hole and I think the best par 3 on the golf course.
15. Par 5 – 602/590/577. You do a complete turn-around from the fourteenth green, driving past the fourteenth tee to get to the fifteenth tee. This hole winds its way like a snake back and forth until reaching a green placed/tucked away on the left. Waste areas and trees down both sides are the defenses here. There are bunkers left and right at the green which is thin for the length of the hole, with fall-offs to all sides.
16. Par 3 – 208/205/181. I think the second best par 3 on the course comes next playing toa green with water down the entire left side and a bunker placed behind it. The green is slightly raised. The hole is visually pretty, not as much as the third, but lovely.
17. Par 4 – 449/419/406. Water goes down the entire right side of the generous fairway. Bigger hitters will have to be aware that the fairway both narrows by 60% and also runs out around 100 yards from the green on this dogleg right. The green sits behind the water which fronts it. There are two bunkers on the right/back of the fairway about 15 yards short of the green and then two bunkers at the rea middle. The green has a back to front tilt. I like the hole but its appeal is lessened by some of the ugliest condo exteriors I have ever seen on a golf course. It is hard to ignore them but it does detract from a quality golf hole.
18. Par 4 – 437/419/406. Much like Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, the course ends with a par 4 where the second shot needs to carry a part of the water. There is a generous fairway but then the water pinches in around 125 yards from the green. The green is long and sits right against the water. The right side is on a lower tier and one can use a spine to keep a ball on this right side if the pin is there. There is a large waste area behind the first fifth of the green which slopes substantially back to front towards the water. The green is right in front of the clubhouse much like at Caledonia. I like the hole.
I like True Blue, although I would not go rushing back to play it in that temperature again. I am glad the course was softened as it would have been too punitive. My main criticism of the course is that putter is not a potential option for recovery near most of the greens. Only on four, seventeen and eighteen is it a possibility. My second criticism is that it is not really walkable due to the routing that results in a few very long walks to the green or next tee. What I like about the course is the strategy and decision-making required for the longer hitters off the tee. For the shorter hitters, the strategy comes into play as to whether one has a higher probability of making par by laying up and trying to hit it close or going for the green in two.
If in the area one should play it for the mind games along. Isn’t golf mainly a mental game anyway?
Caledonia's sister course, a good track on its own. Fun track, lots of sand.
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.