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Wachesaw Plantation East south of Myrtle Beach: A Clyde Johnston design still worthy of the pros

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. -- Wachesaw Plantation East has the "cred" that it's a professional golf course, having hosting four LPGA tournaments from 1997 to 2000. It was named Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year in 2007 and has landed on several "best of" South Carolina lists in Golf Digest.

And it hasn't lost its shine. The course is in great shape with nice, smooth greens and lush fairways that tumble over all kinds of mounds and contours that make the course most assuredly a Clyde Johnston design.

It also throws in several Carolina holes, which are marsh carries from the tees. It's nothing to worry about, though, because the carries are pretty manageable.

That's true of the whole golf course: It's manageable if you pay attention. Johnston has a clear path for each hole. You just have to succumb. The main trick is to keep it on the fairway, so use a driver sparingly. Longer is not better on this course because many fairways are elevated with drop-offs or slants into trouble at worst, uneven lies at best.

At the greens, Johnston keeps it that color with turf bunkers and mounds instead of sand-stuffed bunkers. It makes for pretty scenery.

The number of sand bunkers varies from hole to hole, some with none, some with fairway bunkers or bunkers bunched up at the green. Fortunately, there isn't a lot of water on the course, so the cost of replacement balls will be less than at other places.

Two of the most stunning holes are the ninth and the 17th. The ninth starts with a large waste bunker right off the tee, to a sharp drop-off that slopes into water on the right. At the far corner of the dogleg right are bunkers, which are closer than they appear on this short hole. The trick is to get your ball past all of that noise for a short shot to the green. The green is an unusually shaped entity one could be facing from across water and behind two more waste bunkers right at the green. It's a complex hole that's a good romp.

The 17th saves its awesomeness for right before the green in the form of a mounded, firth-looking creek. The front of the green has a drop leaf that can bounce back some shots into the gully.

Wachesaw Plantation East's third hole, a par 5, is one of the most creative. The fairway rolls down into a marsh carry about 130 yards from the green. That's not the really cool part, though. A ridge stretches across the run-up about 70 yards from the green to thwart imperfect approaches, and a turf bunker causes trouble left of the green. A large sand bunker takes care of the right.

The entire golf course is an exercise in finesse, from staying on the fairways to avoiding mounds and turf bunkers near the greens. Sometimes the challenges are hard to see, but you'll detect them soon enough.

There also are plenty of choices of how much course to take on. Five tee sets range from 6,933 yards from the tips to 4,995 yards at the front.

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