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Pearl Golf Links – West Course: What Could Have Been…

The Pearl Golf Links consists of two 18-hole, Dan Maples-designed courses on a big, impressive tract of land—one that features both unusually significant elevation changes and scenic marsh side land. In short, while Maples has designed a number of very nice golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area, he missed the mark in a few places at the Pearl’s West Course.

The Course
Is the Pearl all bad? Of course not; there are a number of solid—even quite good—holes out there. A great deal of the challenge at the West comes on the greens, many of which slope quite severely from back to front. Playing the course will likely remind the visitor of courses near home, where putting from above the hole is a recipe for disaster. This is abundantly true on holes like the short par four sixth and short par three 13th. To access front pins on either of these holes, being five yards short of the green in regulation is much, much better than being half as far away but above the hole. In this way, the course encourages thoughtful play, which is more than can be said for some tracks. Furthermore, the course does manage to close on a relatively high note, with the par five 18th hole reachable in two if the player wants to fly a broad collar of oyster shells that form an interesting landscape border to the green complex.

But there are also some mediocre patches that somewhat sour the experience of playing the course. Almost all of these are easy fixes, because the course sometimes suffers when certain holes—especially the tee shots—are narrower than they need to be and force a certain shot shape. For example, on the par four 5th, the longest two-shotter on the front side, almost all players are forced by overhanging trees on the right to hit a shot shaped from left to right. This would be less problematic if it weren’t necessary that that mean starting the ball at a water hazard that lies just left of the fairway. It is okay to demand precision from the players, but it is often better to give them a little more breathing room and keep them from feeling the need to play über-defensive golf. Taking a few trees down here and in other spots would greatly enhance the course.

The Experience
The Pearl is solidly in the middle tier of Myrtle Beach area golf facilities. It is never going to be confused with Augusta National or even the likes of Barefoot Resort or Caledonia, but it is a peaceful enough place with friendly enough people. The clubhouse could use a little updating but is certainly serviceable. The course, with its medium-speed Bentgrass greens, is in nice shape, especially considering the middling price range.

The Verdict
Shorter, more accurate ball-strikers are bound to like the West Course at the Pearl a bit more than will Wild Things. The course is worth checking out if you’re nearby, but if you go more than 30-40 minutes to play it, you may walk away disappointed by what could have been.

(posted 4/9/14)

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