Will a PGA Tour visit bolster Myrtle Beach tourism? We’ll see

It was long overdue, but the PGA Tour now has a tournament in Myrtle Beach. (Joy Sarver Photos)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Having about 100 courses, an oceanside setting and tons of lodging and dining options made Myrtle Beach a popular place for golfers to visit.  It wasn’t good enough for the PGA Tour, however – at least not until this year.

Golf’s premier circuit brought its first-ever tournament to the stunning Dunes Golf & Beach Club in May. Even without a great field the Myrtle Beach Classic received a warm welcome that encouraged city leaders.

“This high-profile sporting event not only enhances our area’s reputation as The Golf Capital of the World, but also reinforces the strong community spirit that defines the Grand Strand,’’ said Karen Riordan, president and chief executive officer of Visit Myrtle Beach. She called the inaugural playing of the event “a standout success.’’

Tournament director Darren Nelson reported that over 1,300 volunteers turned out to get the Classic off to a good start.

“With the continued dedication and support from the Myrtle Beach community the event is poised to continue to grow and evolve, further spotlighting the Grand Strand as a premier destination for golf and recreation,’’ said Nelson.

The tourney reported over 40,000 spectators attended the pro-am and four tournament rounds and claimed that the 15,281 ticketholders for Saturday’s third round was 5,000 more than expected. TV coverage on The Golf Channel was also helpful.

Chris Gotterup earned the champion’s blue jacket as the first winner of the Myrtle Beach Classic.

Oh, yes.  The golf was good, too.  Chris Gotterup, an up-and-coming 24-year old, was 22-under-par en route to winning by six strokes on a course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1948. Another young hotshot, Thorbjern Oleson, set a course record with a 10-under 61.

Vanna White, a mainstay on TV’s Wheel of Fortune and a North Myrtle Beach resident, played in the pro-am and said what many were thinking about the only new tournament on the PGA Tour in 2024.

“We relate Myrtle Beach to golf, and it’s been that way for a long time,’’ she said.  “It’s  time the PGA Tour came here.’’

No argument there, and the area’s biggest tournament – the 41st annual World Amateur Handicap Championship – is still to come, along with a myriad of other events that have been annual attractions in Myrtle Beach.  The World Amateur will bring bring over 3,000 players to Myrtle Beach from Aug. 26-30. It’s the world’s biggest golf tournament and this two-time participant has fond memories of the experience.

The PGA Tour certainly needed to put one of its tournaments in this golfing hotbed.  Now we’ll find out if Myrtle Beach really needed the PGA Tour. Chances are both parties will benefit from the relationship that will continue for at least a few more years.

Grande Dunes will host the final round of Myrtle Beach’s World Amateur Handicap Championship.

In the meantime the Myrtle Beach golf community has continued to upgrade its courses.  Our stop took us to Grande Dunes first. It has re-opened after a lengthy renovation and will return as the site of the Flight Winner’s Playoff, the climax to the World Amateur.

Next stop was Myrtlewood, a 36-hole facility that offers the Pinehills and Palmetto courses.  We played Pinehills, a layout in the final stages of a bunker renovation.  We got rained out after 10 holes.  Still, a fun day with our return likely as soon as we get back to the area.

Finally, we hit the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club – arguably Myrtle Beach’s most popular course. (At least it is our favorite).  Caledonia and neighbor True Blue make for a nifty double-round day if you choose to accept the challenge.

Because we’ve been to Myrtle Beach many times over the past 20 years we can attest to the quality of lots of other courses – Pine Lakes, River Club, Pawleys Plantation, TPC Myrtle Beach, Founders Club, Barefoot Resort’s Fazio, Dye and Love courses, King’s North at Myrtle Beach National, Oyster Bay, Thistle.  The beat goes on.

The key to Myrtle Beach’s success isn’t  because the PGA Tour has finally arrived there.  It’s because course leaders haven’t been reluctant to re-invest in their properties. For the vast majority of visitors over the years that’s been the most important thing.  That’s why Myrtle Beach has maintained its prominent position as a golf destination.

Myrtlewood (above) has two 18-holers, both fun layouts, while Caledonia (below) has a most memorable finishing hole with the clubhouse as a backdrop. There’s frequently an audience on the veranda cheering on the players as they finish their rounds.