Arrowhead Country Club: Great Greens, Not Much Else

It took me a baker’s dozen years of becoming familiar with the Myrtle Beach golf scene before I finally got around to playing Arrowhead Country Club. Now that I have, I can say this for certain: at least it was in good condition!

Arrowhead opened in 1994, laid out originally by Tom Jackson. “But what about all those billboards crediting Raymond Floyd with the design?!” you might retort. Well, here’s hoping Ray didn’t spend much (or any) quality time on the site, because the layout is one of the most disappointing in the Myrtle Beach area. Like many area golf courses, houses line most of Arrowhead’s holes. But all the worst Florida traits are on display here: excessive, ugly mounding, too much water, too many forced carries, and holes that play narrower than Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s reading of the Constitution. If you hate having the option of hitting driver off more than a few tees, then Arrowhead is just the course for you!

To have a golf course be on the shorter side is one thing, but not all short golf courses are created equal. The great Donald Ross designed some courses that would be considered short by modern standards, yet, when you play them, you’re astounded at the number of long irons you find yourself hitting, be it to a long par three, a couple longer par fours or while going for a par five green in two.

That doesn’t happen at Arrowhead, where the longest par four on any of the nines is the 411-yard seventh hole on the Lakes nine. The other two nines—the Cypress and the Waterway—never let the golfer feel like he can make an aggressive swing. It’s all just dreary target golf. Fairway wood, short iron, fairway wood, wedge, “Oh, look at the condos” fairway wood, short iron, rinse and repeat.

At least the par threes at Arrowhead are pretty good. The sixth hole on the Cypress nine is a toughie: 213 yards to a green angled from front-left to back-right, with a bunker and a hillside down to some of Arrowhead’s ubiquitous water guarding the right. Just in front of the green is one of Arrowhead’s only interesting features: a small rock-lined eyebrow ridge. A ball sputtering along the ground toward the left side of the green will carom into the eyebrow and shoot off in God-knows-what direction. It’s actually a throwback type of feature that one would normally find on classic courses of the British Isles. If only Jackson and, I guess, Floyd, had thought to use it in a couple other spots. There might be some more much-needed intrigue and whimsy at Arrowhead.

The course’s saving grace is the conditioning which, in a word, is excellent. It is certainly in better nick than many courses that charge up to twice what you are likely to pay to play Arrowhead. The highlight is the Champion Bermuda greens, which are as smooth and fast as you like. And since they don’t feature many interesting undulations (alas, all the positives are cut with negatives), a well-struck putt on the proper line has a great chance of going in. So at least it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.

Posted 8/6/13