By BOB GILLESPIE
When golf began in Myrtle Beach 90 years ago, there was one course: Ocean Forest Country Club. Today, there are nearly 100, but only one “The Granddaddy”: Pine Lakes Country Club, which occupies the same footprint as Ocean Forest and, more recently, has decided to return to honoring its heritage.
Starting in October, Pine Lakes – located on Granddaddy Lane, of course – resumes a number of history-laced amenities that once were trademarks of the historic course.
When golfers arrive, they’ll be greeted by bag attendants clad in black knickers, red shirts and red knee socks, and by starters wearing Royal Stuart tartan kilts, white button-down shirts and tartan bow ties. The pro shop staff will don similarly-themed outfits of black slacks, white shirts and tartan ties.
And in March 2018, players reaching the course’s sixth tee will be greeted by attendants serving mimosas in champagne flutes. That fall and winter, the offerings will change to 6-ounce cups of clam chowder, to help warm chilled players.
Those special touches, once part of the Pine Lakes agenda, had been missing since around 2006, after course renovations by a previous ownership group, which modernized the old course (good) but did away with traditions (not so good).
Adding those back, says head professional Jonathan Brock, was a “no-brainer.”
“We wanted to bring back what Pine Lakes was known for,” said Brock, a native of Anderson, S.C., and the club’s top man since early 2016. “We had longtime customers who’d always talk about how Pine Lakes used to be, and our (Founders Group International) CEO, Steve Mays, was completely on board with going back to our old traditions.”
The notion of bringing back kilts, mimosas and clam chowder emerged in 2014, when Founders Group, which operates 22 Grand Strand golf courses, took over Pine Lakes. It was time, Brock said, for “The Granddaddy” to start looking and acting its age.
“(Mays) wanted each course (under the Founders’ umbrella) to stand out from the others, and tradition is that for us,” he said.
In fact, Pine Lakes – especially its clubhouse, originally designed by Robert White – is listed on the National Register of Historical Places. White, the first president of the PGA of America, also was co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. The 18,368-square foot clubhouse began life as a resort hotel, and was refurbished in 2009.
In 1954, the club also became the birthplace of Sports Illustrated, which began when a group of 87 Time-Life employees met en route home from Florida. There, they outlined plans for the first-of-its-kind magazine. The clubhouse’s History Hall displays old photos and other memorabilia of that meeting, which was held in the now-restored Snug Pub.
More recently, Pine Lakes also is home to the Myrtle Beach Golf Hall of Fame, which has 14 members (two more will be added this fall) enshrined in an outdoor courtyard behind the bar and dining area. Plaques honor each Hall of Fame member’s career, as well as SI’s founding. There are also plaques for White and for famed professional golfer Gene Sarazen, who once shot a round of 78 – his age then – at Pine Lakes.
“We saw the memorabilia, and we listened to our guests,” Brock said.
Pine Lakes originally had 27 holes, but was later consolidated into 18 holes. Then in 2006, architect Craig Schreiner’s renovation kept 16 holes’ corridors but replaced two others, using 1937 aerial photos of White’s original design to maintain the course’s feel. Today, the par-70 layout plays as long as 6,675 yards, with four sets of tees. The signature hole is the par-3 11th, short by modern standards but with a green – the smallest on the course – tightly guarded by a pond in front and buffeted by ocean breezes from the Atlantic, just 2 miles away.
Brock is considerably younger than his course, but he has an appreciation of its history. “It (the restoration of the amenities) had been on my mind since I took over,” he said. “Other courses in Myrtle Beach all have their niches, and I thought, ‘What do we do to stand apart?’ And the answer was: go back to our traditions.
“Those traditions had faded away as ownership changed,” Brock said. “Now they’re coming back, which we think shows our management’s vision.”
Not to mention a vision of the past, too.