Course Review : Caledonia Golf & Fish

There are a lot of golf courses in Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand Area. But whenever the courses are ranked, there is normally one course that jumps to the top. That course is Caledonia Golf and Fish Club. If you want to sample Carolina’s low country golf at its best, book yourself a round at this course that will normally occupy a spot in most ‘top 100 courses you can play’ lists made in the USA.

In a minute …

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club, designed by the late Mike Strantz, surprisingly only opened in 1994. I say surprisingly because the course and clubrooms feel like they have been part of the land for 100’s of years. The course is located in Pawleys Island, approximately 30 mins south of Myrtle Beach proper. It has a sister course nearby called True Blue Golf Club, which, as the name may suggest, is a course dominated by water and much more of a traditional resort course.

I will be upfront and honest and say I don’t really understand the fishing reference in the name. I assume you can catch fish in the many bodies of water within or surrounding the course. I didn’t see anyone fishing the day I was playing, but if you have a spot in your golf bag for a rod, by all means, have a crack.

Rates top out at $199 for a round, but there are lower prices off-peak and great packages to play Caledonia and True Blue.

First impressions …

Playing Caledonia was a very personal quest for me. On two previous trips to Myrtle Beach, I had planned to play Caledonia, but once due to rain and once due to ‘once a decade’ snow, the course was shut. Fair to say I was gutted to miss out.

So on my third trip to town, I made sure Caledonia was the first course we booked. This in itself is a great tip. Many courses in the general Myrtle Beach area have availability most days. Caledonia may not. So if this is on the must-play list for you, get this round booked first.

Driving into Caledonia will probably be as close as I get to drive down Magnolia Lane. A tree-lined road slowly reveals a pristine course and eventually a beautiful plantation-style clubhouse. You really do know you have arrived in the south!

The course

Caledonia feels more like art than it does a golf course. Beautiful green fairways, contrasting white bunkers, still lakes, and overhanging trees. Once again, I could not help but think that Augusta must be a bit like this place (with less water)

Built on an old rice plantation, you are never far from twisted live oaks and hanging Spanish moss. The course is far from long, but you cannot go all-out attack due to several interesting angles and strategically placed angles. The greens have been carefully contoured to confuse the lazy putter but the conditioning, at least on the day I visited, was faultless.

Unfortunately, when I played Caledonia, I had a bad front nine (we started on the 10th). A true attack of the shanks, which leaves me in a cold sweat just thinking about it. So some of my memories are hazy. But I certainly recall that driver was not a required club, but numerous holes provided birdie opportunities if you were brave enough. My personal favorite holes were

18 – A short tee short and sharp dogleg right with water/rice fields all the way down the right. Position yourself well, and you will have a short but still tricky wedge starting back at the impressive clubhouse.

11 – A medium-length par three with everything you want to see in South Carolina golf. A small meandering stream, overhanging moss, and crooked oaks. Just make sure you take an extra club if the pin is at the back

14 – A longer par 4 where the position of your tee shot is everything. Go far left, and you are wet. Go partially left, and an oak tree blocks you. Stay on the right and get a good angle but to get close on your approach, you have to flirt with water to the left and behind the golf. Like all of Caledonia, the trick is not to be distracted by the beauty of the course.

The par 3’s on-site certainly were the highlights for me, other than the 9th I mentioned below.

Hacker notes

Facilities are reasonably basic. In fact, on arrival, I realized I had no golf tees, and neither did the course! In the end, we had to raid the head pros bag.

There is also no range on site ( you can use the range at True Blue if you wish ), so if you need a good warm-up, it’s best to be aware of this.

Lasting thoughts

If there is one well-documented criticism of Caledonia, it is the 9th hole (our last day). It is only 118 yards, which in itself is not the issue. Rather, it feels like it was squeezed in late as if the designer realized he was one hole short.

After an amazing day, of course, it was a true letdown as a finishing hole, and we were not even sure we were playing the real 9th, to the point we asked the pro if that was a temporary hole, and somehow we had missed the real 9th.

It will be interesting to know how the future treats Caledonia. Apparently, it is a course that already suffers in wet weather from the ever-rising sea levels. I am not sure if the course itself is under significant threat long term, but it would not surprise me if that were the case.

Rating

8.75 out of 10 – Visually as close to Augusta as I may play. Short enough to be fun but still demonstrating a lot of strategy and guile. The only letdown is the 9th hole.

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