At its apex, Myrtle Beach had more than one hundred and twenty golf courses in operation. Now there are a little more than ninety, as economic contraction, widespread housing construction and a general malaise in the golf business have siphoned a noticeable percentage of the course traffic in what’s known as “the golf capital of the world.”
However, Barefoot Resort, an upscale, four-course entrée restaurant in North Myrtle Beach, is bucking the trend. Since the quartet of courses debuted simultaneously in the spring of 2000, tee sheets remain busy, green fees remain on the upper end of the area’s spectrum, and the Barefoot buzz continue to resonate positively throughout the world of traveling golfers.
The major appeal of the golf resort is the marquee status of the four designers: Davis Love III, Greg Norman, Tom Fazio and Pete Dye. Another attraction is the lack of commuting that the all-inclusive resort offers, particularly in comparison to the nonstop traffic patterns on the US 17 corridor, which is the “main drag” through Myrtle. Another plus is the totally different aesthetic of the four courses. Unlike many multi-course developments, where it’s difficult to tell one offering from the next, Barefoot Resort has truly distinct differences in the four golf offerings
The rankings help to tell the story. Of all the courses in greater Myrtle Beach, three of the four offerings at Barefoot fall within the top sixteen. (Only the Norman course is the outlier, ranked just outside the top forty.)
Golfers love the Love Course above all. The appeal comes largely from the faux plantation ruins on the short par-4 fourth, and then again on the longer par-4 sixth. It’s a crumbling construction and a conversation starter, but it’s also a Disney-esque contrivance; all style, no substance. The Love Course has wider fairways than the other offerings and tough, turtleback greens with numerous swales and runoffs, which repel off-line shots. Speaking of aesthetics, they are compromised a bit as players take a long tunnel under highway 31 to get to the west side of the property to play holes 14-16. The remaining fifteen holes are on the east side of the roadway.
The Norman Course is defined by numerous waste areas and closely mown chipping and pitching areas. Fairways are a premium. There are only sixty acres of dedicated turf, with plenty of pine straw and sand bracketing the landing zones. There are four back nine holes close by the Intracoastal waterway, which offers some wonderful visual appeal. But there’s a greater housing presence here than elsewhere, and members often refer to the course as ‘condo alley.’
The Fazio Course is a terrific test, the favorite of many members of the Barefoot Landing professional staff. It’s a stroke harder, a par 71, with deep and very well placed fairway bunkers. It’s visually dazzling, with several petite risk/reward par-4s on the back nine. The greens on the Fazio Course are twice as large as the other offerings, and full of roll and pitch. They may be easier to hit, but are harder to putt. Only the first two and last two holes are on the east side of the highway, the balance on the west. Unlike the Love Course, where the highway seems to always be buzzing in the background, Fazio’s effort is more tranquil. Wetlands abound, keeping the housing presence minimal.
Finally, the Dye Course is the most unusual and the most thought provoking of the bunch. While decidedly different in many ways, the previous trio all has that low country feel. But the Dye effort is a Myrtle-meets-Scotland sensibility, all ochre fairways, ungainly mounding, pot bunkers, odd angles and visual intimidation. The landing areas are more generous from what they appear on the tee, bracketed with waste areas. For those who know the course it’s a bit easier from the tee box, but newcomers will inevitably tighten up, and steer their pellet into the sandy maws they were so desperate to avoid when staring down from the tee box.
There is no shortage of off-course activities at Barefoot Resort. The Alabama Theatre offers live entertainment from some of music’s marquee performers, as well as seasonal and Holiday extravaganzas. Alligator Adventure is a top-notch reptile zoo, with hundreds of alligators and crocodiles, extremely rare exotic snakes, lizards, tropical birds, tortoises, albino alligators, gray wolves and flamingos. The Barefoot Princess Riverboat cruises the Intracoastal, offering sunset and dinner cruises along with unique sightseeing opportunities.
Restaurants abound, and Greg Norman’s Australian Grille is (pardon the pun) near the top of the food chain. An open kitchen and water views provide the sizzle, but the food (and extensive wine list) is the steak. Speaking of which, they are all premium black angus beef, aged nearly a month, and uniformly delicious. So is the extensive fish menu, including jumbo diver scallops and seared salmon Rockefeller.
“If it swims, we’ll catch it.” That’s the motto of the Flying Fish Public Market and Grill, another superlative dining experience at Barefoot Landing. Shrimp and Grits, Crab Cakes, and all sorts of fresh fish options, prepared in a variety of styles and with custom toppings (herb cream sauce, honey lime butter, mango salsa, tapenade, etc.), make this eatery a ‘go to’ for anyone who enjoys the bounty of the sea.