The very first golf resort in Myrtle Beach, Ocean Forest Hotel & Country Club, opened in 1927 right before the Great Depression. On March 12, amidst the greatest economic downturn since then, the club (renamed Pine Lakes in 1944) held its grand reopening following a 20-month, $15 million renovation of its Robert White course and antebellum clubhouse.
Talk about lighting striking twice! Well, maybe it’s good luck. Just as Ocean Forest went on to become a playground for the rich and famous and was even the birthplace for Sport Illustrated in 1954, Pine Lakes has recaptured its luster and will no doubt become a must-play for visitors to the Grand Strand.
Architect Craig Schreiner has restored White’s original vision, while the white, pillared clubhouse, designed by Henry Bacon McKoy after completing work on the Lincoln Memorial, gleams anew and looks like something out of The Great Gatsby. A new 6,000-square-foot wing houses the pro shop, locker rooms, grill, pub and patio.
The only course in South Carolina listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, Pine Lakes helped establish Myrtle Beach as one of the top golf destinations in the U.S. (there are now 102 courses). White, a native of St. Andrews who emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800’s, is one of the fathers of American golf and served as the first president of the PGA of America from 1916-19.
Pine Lakes was one of 19 courses he designed (others include Long Vue in Pennsylvania and Shorehaven in Connecticut), but over the years, the course lost its strategic, Scottish character through a mishmash of redesigns and greens and bunkers that shrank by one-third of their original size.
Using schematic drawings made by White and 1937 aerial photography discovered in the clubhouse, Schreiner, who lives in Myrtle Beach, reversed the nines to create the strongest possible finishing holes, deepened the bunkers, enlarged the eponymous lakes and added native waste areas. He also re-grassed the entire course (greens included) with SeaDwarf Seashore Paspalum, an eco-friendly turf with very little grain that no doubt would have pleased White, who was a greens-keeping pioneer.
As part of the reopening ceremony, White was included in the first class inducted into the newly created Myrtle Beach Hall of Fame at Pine Lakes. Afterward, I was paired for a round with the sister of another inductee, Carolyn Cudone, who won a record five straight U.S. Golf Association Senior Women’s Amateur Championships from 1968-72–the longest stretch of consecutive wins in any USGA championship. She also started the Myrtle Beach Junior Golf Association.
Sadly, Cudone past away a week after her induction. Because of her declining health, she wasn’t able to play much in recent years, but her kid sister, Billie Mosher, who’s 86, could really hit it. We had a blast trying to negotiate some of Pine Lakes’ deep bunkers and the large, undulating greens. The 6,675-yard, par-70 course has some shorter, birdie holes on the front, like the 359-yard, dogleg-left 4th that wraps around a wetlands home to deer, hawks and raccoons.
The back nine is a little longer and more challenging, especially the 438-yard 14th, which requires an approach over a pond to an uphill green off a slight downhill lie. About the only drawback is that there is still no range so golfers have to warm up elsewhere if they’re intent on hitting balls before they play. But that just makes the club even more a throwback.
Put Pine Lakes on your itinerary during your next visit to Myrtle. Just be sure to bring your plus fours.