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The River Club golf course south of Myrtle Beach, S.C.: Nearly a walk on the beach

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- The River Club in Pawleys Island, on the south end of the Grand Strand, was built in 1985 by Tom Jackson, a prolific designer who has left his mark in Myrtle Beach, creating Aberdeen Country Club, Black Bear, River Oaks and River Hills, among others.

The River Club isn't a long golf course, coming in at 6,677 yards from the tips. But hold up a minute if you think it’s easy.

Jackson brought the beach to the course and placed it in scads of bunkers, 55 in all, an average of three per hole. That is the number remaining after they removed dozens of bunkers over the years and lowered their walls for an easier escape.

Plus, the grounds crew has its fun by tucking pins behind bunkers -- a lot of fun. Those are a couple reasons the course rates 72.2 with a 135 slope from the tips. That's not so easy, is it?

But whereas sand is a constant, the rest of the golf course mixes it up. Holes vary in length, direction and strategy, from swerving to the left then jumping over water for the first hole, to a sharp dogleg right over sand for the fourth.

A particularly enjoyable hole is No. 6, a par 5 that requires a plan from the beginning to drive past a row of trees to turn left for your second shot.

If you're adventurous (and long) you can try to go for the green in two over water on the right. If that doesn't sound so smart, you can plod your way around the water via a run-up on the left. Plodding is good, said the tortoise, breaking the tape ahead of the hare, which had to take a water penalty.

On No. 10, you have to commit to a length or suffer in one of several sand traps that line the left side of the fairway on the par 4. Getting to the green is an aerial affair, given the large bunker directly in front of it.

The 11th hole, a par 5, gives you a tiny window to the green between a tree and water right and sand left. Up until then, it was smooth sailing between a nice tree-lined fairway that bends right.

Two stunning holes on the back include the par-3 14th, a nearly island green with a smattering of bunkers between water and putting surface. Sharp slopes can send less-than-perfect shots into the depths.

The 18th has a Pebble Beach air, with a long bend left around water to an offset green. The par 5 dangles all kinds of possibilities in front of you, from a safe play way to the right, or an adventurous route over a waste bunker to a peninsula that can set up a reasonable second shot to the green. For once, there aren't bunkers in front for the pin to hide behind as one last gift from the grounds crew.

The River Club will keep you entertained the first time you play it, or the 10th time you play it.

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