The Maples Course at Sea Trail Resort & Golf Links offers a few touches that give it a unique look on the Grand Strand.
Several moss-draped oaks and pine trees grow in waste bunkers that line a few holes; brick and stone walkways lead the way to tee boxes through waste bunkers; an open cemetery is passed en route to the second tee box; and despite meandering through a heavily developed residential community, the course also has a handful of holes that run along the Calabash Creek.
“I’ve seen waste bunkers with pampas grass growing out of them, but never trees,” said Frances Pritchard of Conway, a member of a foursome that reviewed and rated the course in early December. “It’s a nice addition.”
The Dan Maples layout is not overly demanding in length, measuring 6,797 from the back blue tees and 6,332 from the white. And you shouldn’t lose many balls. Tree-lined fairways rather than hazards account for the course’s biggest challenge.
In addition to Frances, a hostess at Papa’s restaurant who carries a handicap of 28, the foursome included me, Pete Veum, a retired salesman from Myrtle Beach who plays to a 13, and Ed Wydro, another retiree from Little River who plays to an 18. Pete played the back tees, Ed and I the white and Frances the 5,090-yard red. The course also features 6,035-yard gold tees.
“It’s a fair challenge from the white tees,” Ed said. “Under normal circumstances, the average player would have a tough time but a good time. The course makes you think a little bit.”
“Which is a real problem for us,” Pete added.
Over the summer and fall, the Maples Course closed for $500,000 in renovations, and changed its greens from Bermuda to an A1/A4 blended bent grass. Due to the increased speed associated with bent, several green complexes were redesigned to reduce their undulation, though there are still significant mounds, ridges and slopes on most.
“I thought they putted well for only being a month or two old,” said Pete, who has played the course three times. “In the summer, they’ll be very fast. They’re much better than they were before.”
Sea Trail also refurbished bunkers with a light, white sand, and managed to improve air circulation throughout the course without significantly altering the course’s tight, tree-lined characteristic.
“You have to be accurate on the second shots on the par-4s and the third shots on the par-5s,” Pete said. “They all narrow down as you go to the green.”
There are approximately 50 bunkers on the course, but many aren’t in traditional landing areas and greens are generally open in front with no more than two bunkers protecting any of them. The course’s rough is not very penal.
“The rough is not too deep, but it’s high enough to let you know it’s there,” Ed said. “That’s the way it should be for the average player. It’s there, but you can play out of it.”
Because it’s a residential course, out of bounds lurks close to the fairways of many holes. But so do friendly neighbors. A bowl of candy was left at the base of a tree behind a home adjacent to the cart path off the 15th women’s tee box, and was accompanied by a sign wishing everyone a merry Christmas. Pete and Ed abstained, possibly fearing a terrorist scheme, but Frances and I each grabbed a piece. “They’re so skeptical,” Frances said. “Some people are just nice.”
The par-3s are all between 150 and 172 yards from the white tees and 170-198 from the blue tees, and holes 5, 11 and 17 are straightforward with an open entrance to the greens. “The par-3s looked a lot alike,” Pete said.
The third hole is the most distinctive of the par-3s. It features split tee boxes, with the red and gold to the left and blue and white to the right, where a pond to the right of the green comes more into play and a short but wide tree that is growing out of a waste bunker in front of the green must be carried. “It’s a different look,” Ed said.
The course gets much of its yardage from the par-5s, especially from the back tees, where they start at 545 yards and stretch to 575. The one reprieve from the white tees is the 490-yard 12th. Otherwise, they measure between 525 and 553 yards.
The fourth hole is a straightforward par-5, while the sixth is designed for three shots. It features a gradual bend to the right that makes it difficult to get a good angle to the green on the second shot, and a small pond 20 yards from the green on the left side to further deter bold attempts.
The 12th hole has the creek to the left but is open to approach shots and can be reached after a long drive, and the 575-yard 15th has a waste bunker running all the way up the left side to the 150 marker, and another small waste bunker with a dead tree to the front-right of the green.
Though the majority of the doglegs turn to the left, the par-4s offer a variety of yardages and looks. “The course is laid out really nice,” Frances said. “It’s not a humdrum course. Each hole is a little different.”
The diversity of the par-4s is demonstrated in the front nine’s closing holes.
The seventh hole measures 410 from the back tees and 375 from the white. A drive of between 200 and 225 is required to get past the left tree line on the sharp dogleg-left, with an approach shot from 130 yards or less to a green that slopes to the front and back due to a middle ridge.
The dogleg-left eighth is 410 from the blue and 380 from the white, and requires a drive over water through a chute of trees, then approach to a green protected by a pair of bunkers to its right. More of the fairway’s left side is open to drives from the white tees, considerably shortening the hole.
The ninth hole is perhaps the toughest on the course because of its length of 455, 445, 420 and 360 from the four tee boxes, and one of the smaller greens on the course with a large ridge separating its right front and back portions.
The course’s first two holes are short par-4s with Calabash Creek running along the right side of each, and the closing hole is a very birdieable par-4, measuring 410 from the blue, 330 from the white and just 250 from the red, with housing on the left.
By Alan Blondin