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Myrtle Beach golf: The Heritage Club in Pawleys Island, South Carolina offers a lot of challenges, a little history

PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- When you arrive at the Heritage Club you'll know you're in the South -- the pre-Civil War South, with white-pillared mansions, Spanish moss-covered oaks and rice plantations.

The mansion really is the clubhouse, a two-story affair right out of central casting. This Myrtle Beach-area golf course is thick with live oaks and what was a rice plantation is now a carefully sculpted golf course that stretches beyond 7,000 yards at the tips, even though it's only a par 71, missing a par 5 on the front.

The setting is watery, with several holes flirting with ponds one imagines once irrigated the rice crop. Water comes into play on nearly half the holes.

The Heritage Club also reminds you of its history. The fourth and fifth holes are flanked by rows of live oaks that once lined the entrance to the plantation's homestead. The cart path passes right by the family cemetery of the plantation founders.

Designed by Larry Young in 1986, the Heritage Club sprinkles in some surprises of its own, such as the dual fairways found on the par-5 second hole. Go to the right for a longer, safer route to the green or risk more water if you opt for the left fairway.

Or the thrilling approach to the fifth green if the pin is on the left of the 50-yard green. You have to go up and over huge bunkers, but below tree branches reaching in from the left to access the pin.

Once on the greens, the challenges just begin.

"We have a lot of buried elephants," said First Assistant Professional Sean Pearson, referring to the wild ridges and mounds found on many greens.

One example is the par-3 13th, with a 52-yard hunk of real estate that is the green with a huge ridge across the middle. Not only that, the green slopes in several directions.

The golf course also changes pace in regard to length. Some par 4s are long, flirting with 460 yards from the tips, while the ninth hole is only 354 yards from the tips. The 10th hole, a par 5, exceeds 600 yards, but it's a serpentine affair, giving long hitters two corners to cut.

The Heritage Club runs the gamut with straight holes and doglegs in each direction. Every one of your clubs is going to get a go at one shot or another.

One of the best parts of the Heritage Club is the inviting clubhouse and back patio that overlooks marshland. A gazebo is stocked with food-at-the-turn fare and a beverage cart is a frequent sight.

Despite the grandeur of the clubhouse and the estate it once was, the Heritage Club is a welcoming, friendly place. You can sit with new friends and old and recount how the course schooled you in golf and provided glimpses of life 200 years ago. Most golf courses can't do that.

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