The Caledonia Experience: A Cut Above The Rest

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For golfers who visit Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there are always two questions which you must answer.  How many golf courses will you play?  And, which golf courses will you play?  While golfers are spoiled for choice when they visit this classic collection of coastal golf, one golf course that you must play in Myrtle Beach is the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club (369 Caledonia Drive, Pawleys Island, SC), located in the southern section of the greater Myrtle Beach area.

Once you set foot on Caledonia, you immediately sense that this club is a cut above the rest.  Your special experience begins when you travel along the entrance.  Just as the Augusta National Golf Club has Magnolia Lane, Caledonia has Caledonia Drive.  Barely big enough for two passing cars, Caledonia Drive divides the 1st and 10th fairways and is lined by a series of live oak trees that have created a natural canopy.  It could easily be renamed Live Oak Lane.  It’s an entrance which confirms that you are getting ready to play a very special golf course.  This positive experience is confirmed when you arrive at the bag drop, where you are welcomed like a long-lost friend.  The hospitality is genuine and the level of service from everybody at Caledonia is truly a cut above the rest.  And, most importantly, the quality of the golf experience and Caledonia’s overall scenery are an 18-hole highlight reel.

Situated along the coastal marshlands, nine of the holes at Caledonia are impacted by water.  What would you expect from a golf course that is built on a former Colonial rice plantation?  The most influential water hazard is on the 18th hole, a left-to-right dogleg par four, where both the tee shot and the second shot are influenced by wind and water – with the water being the nearby tidal marshes and Waccamaw River.  Yes, it’s possible to hit two balls into the water on 18 – off the tee and from the fairway — if they are not properly struck.  Proceed with pragmatic caution when playing the home hole.  If you are careless and don’t respect the presence of Mother Nature, the 18th can be a card killer – not the way that you want to conclude the Caledonia experience.

To help you navigate Caledonia, the scorecard is filled with helpful hints such as a short written description of each hole, an image of every green which lists the depth (in feet) from front to back, and an aerial picture of every hole, giving you an idea of each hole’s geographic flow.  Having access to information like this is like having a caddy in your back pocket.  There are no helpful hints on the ebbs, flows, and contours of every green.  You get to figure out the greens upon arrival, as there are no advance scouting reports available.  But, Caledonia’s putting surfaces are very well maintained, true, consistent, fair, and just fast enough.

“It is somewhat cliché, but we try to provide an old country club feeling at a busy public course,” says Marc Guertin, Caledonia’s head golf professional.  “Our course designer Mike Strantz was also a very talented artist and Caledonia is a wonderful example of him being able to bring his artistic vision to life. The golf course is both challenging and extremely fair to golfers of all abilities which lends to the appeal. The intimate nature of the routing through the live oaks and the large putting surfaces, provides a vastly different challenge every time you play. The ownership takes pride in the property that they grew up on, duck hunting and fishing, and they go through great strides and expense to maintain the grounds. A full time horticulturist is on staff to assure something is always in bloom when the native azaleas, dogwoods, crepe myrtles and other flora are taking a month off.”

This great golf course has been made greater by the many flowering plants and shrubs which appear on site.  The most picturesque hole is probably the par-three 11th hole, where the green is guarded on the front by a meandering stream and bordered on the back by colorful flora.  Take a selfie from the tee before stroking your tee shot at the 11th.

One of the unique aspects of the Caledonia experience is the staging area where you will meet the starter.  Here, you’ll also find three or four small greens where players can have a few last-minute practice chips and putts before they start their round.  And, if you are hungry, complementary samples of fish chowder are served to all golfers before they start play.  It’s good and tasty.  I highly suggest you try it and I’m sure that you will like it.  It’s made by the cooks in the Caledonia kitchen.  The recipe, though, is not available.

Because of this course’s coastal proximity, a variety of ducks are seen in the nearby streams, brooks, ponds, lakes, lagoons and marshlands.  Not surprisingly, the four tees are named after the ducks in the area:  redhead (red/lady tees), wood ducks (white tees), mallard (blue tees), and pintail (black tees).  The scorecard specifically states that the pintail tees (6,526 yards) are only to be used by golfers with a 6 handicap or less.  In keeping with Caledonia’s bird theme, the 150 yard markers on every hole are actual bird houses located along both sides of the fairway.

After playing Caledonia, stop by the True Blue Grillroom for a post-round libation.  The seafood dishes are superb.  And, the views of the 18th green and the surrounding tidal marshlands from the Antebellum-style clubhouse are stunning.

I am not the only golfer that is fond of Caledonia.  Golf Magazine lists Caledonia as Top 100 You Can Play.  Golfweek ranks Caledonia as one of America’s Best Modern Courses.  Golf Digest states that Caledonia is among the Top 100 Public Courses in America.  Caledonia is now in my own top ten list of favorite U.S. golf courses.

When you are ready to invest in the Caledonia experience, book a tee time with the computer (www.fishclub.com/caledonia) or make a toll-free telephone call (800-483-6800).  And, if you have a specific question about Caledonia, email the pro shop:  caledoniagolf@sc.rr.com.  Once you complete your Caledonia golf experience, you’ll agree that it’s a cut above the rest.  And, worth repeating on every visit to Myrtle Beach.

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About Author

Mike May

Mike May is a freelance golf writer based in Wellington, Florida. Mike, an avid golfer, is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America. He traces his roots as a golf writer to the 1983 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale — which he attended for all four days — and then voluntarily wrote his own account of that major championship event.

In addition to being a golf writer, Mike coaches girls high school basketball, officiates high school soccer, and works with a cause (PHIT America) that is focused on bringing daily P.E. back to all U.S. schools. Mike is a 1985 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a degree in broadcasting.

Mike can be reached on email at: mmaymarketing@gmail.com

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