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TPC of Myrtle Beach: South Strand gem offers a taste of golf as a pro

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. -- From the name, you know the pros play at the TPC of Myrtle Beach.

And you can expect a perfectly groomed golf course with tough play and excellent, deferential service. Right on all counts.

What makes TPC Myrtle Beach differ from its Tournament Players Club brethren is the parcel on which it sits. It's a bit inland, so it's not tabletop flat, and it's carved through a pine forest, conjuring images of August National or the Village of Pinehurst in North Carolina.

Further distinguishing the Tom Fazio creation, it seems for every bunker he dug to stunning depths, he created a sharp ridge elsewhere to funnel your ball or baldly reject its attempt at advancement.

Everything about the golf course is big, from the greens -- some up to 50 yards deep -- to the drop-offs at the fairway edges that require blind, short-iron shots to return to shoe level of your compatriots.

You'll remember the multiple dimensions, hitting to a green well below or trekking up a fairway to a plateau green. You simply don't expect so many elevation changes so close to the Atlantic.

And Fazio isn't too flexible. You'll play the golf course his way with little margin for error. He's not exactly stingy, but the fairways are just wide enough and the run-up to the greens accessible only from a particular side.

Miss a bit in one direction, and the opportunity to run the ball to the green exists no more.

The golf course starts with a contoured dogleg-left par 4 with recessed bunkers on both sides of the fairway to an enormous 50-yard green, also flanked by bunkers. These such perils arise often during your round.

The par-4 third hole requires a launch of nearly 200 yards from the back tees over a marsh to an uphill fairway. The front tees sit beyond the marsh, but the next set still requires a 131-yard carry. Achievable, but daunting.

TPC Myrtle Beach pushes you to step up your game

No matter which of the five tees you play, this golf course pushes you to step up your game. Whether you bite off 6,950 yards from the tips or 5,118 from the front, the mechanics remain. TPC Myrtle Beach often rewards success with a forward roll or a nudge closer to the pin. For example, on the 10th hole, a long drive gains some yardage as it rolls down a hill. But it's still a tough shot to the offset green, with water right and rear and bunkers front and left.

And Fazio penalizes attempts that fall short. No. 17 features a deep bunker left that could lead to more trouble. Too hot out of it, and you'll land in the pond right of the huge green, which slopes in that direction.

The closing hole, a par 5, requires ginger placement of each shot at the proper distance and preferred site. The hole includes a stream on the right that swoops across the fairway about 200 yards out. From there, a pond snuggles close to the left side the rest of the way to the green. Huge bunkers dominate the right side, starting about 110 yards from the green, and the putting surface sits offset to the left over water. It's a delicate operation.
 
TPC of Myrtle Beach lives up to its name in all aspects. It's a wonderful opportunity for us mere mortals to play where the big boys work -- but at our speed, thanks to a golf course that makes each tee set an equal challenge. You'll enjoy the triumphs and heartbreak, the lucky bounces and bad breaks. Just like they do on TV.

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