Pawleys Island, S.C.
With only eight completed courses to his credit, the late Mike Strantz did more to transform the face of modern golf course architecture than did many more experienced designers with hundreds of projects on their resumes. Trained in fine arts and agronomy, Strantz worked at commercial art and on golf course maintenance before turning full time to course design and construction.
With his untimely death from tongue cancer last year at age 50, Strantz left a fascinating legacy, one marked by boldness of imagination and no little controversy among golfers. His work produced sharply polarized judgments, with some golfers, particularly traditionalists, decrying his work as totally contrived and others, including myself, in awe at his creativity while acknowledging that on occasion, he could go overboard.
His first solo project, Caledonia Golf & Fish Club, opened in 1994 and broke the Myrtle Beach, S.C., mold thanks to its classic shotmaking sensibility and intimate, shoe-horned efficiency.
True Blue, opened in 1998, sits across the street yet could not be more different in style and temperament. It manages to be expansive, rollicking, outrageous and occasionally maddening, but also solid and without a single clunker hole (something that’s bedeviled Strantz’s work outside the Myrtle Beach area.)
Ambitious golfers prone to overestimating their ability will get clobbered here if they play from the wrong tee markers, especially if they don’t pay attention to the many carry points to hazards. The course plays from 4,995 (69.6 rating / 122 slope) to 7,062 yards (74.3 rating / 145 slope), so it’s impossible not to find the right distance.
As with any imaginative design, what counts isn’t just yardage but position, shotmaking and angles. What more can one ask of a daily-fee course than to take golfers seriously and allow them to have some fun?