MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- As a pure golf experience, International World Tour Golf Links holds its own. In other words, if you didn't know that the 18 holes at World Tour Golf Links were copies of some of the most famous holes in golf, you would probably just think that it's a pretty good golf course.
But that's not why golfers who visit Myrtle Beach put World Golf Tour on the short list and are willing to pay around $100 to play it (used to be considerably more than that a few years ago). They want to play the holes -- or representations of them -- that they've seen on TV. And that includes Amen Corner, the famed 17th at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, the first and 18th holes at the Old Course at St. Andrews, and the 16th at Pinehurst no. 2, just to name a few.
Never mind that there's rough behind the green on the copy of St. Andrew's 18th (a necessary evil to keep golfers from hitting into the clubhouse) or that the grass is Bermuda throughout, the copies are good enough to give golfers the feel that they're playing those holes.
Starts at the entrance
In front of World Tour's 25,000-square-foot clubhouse are the flags of six countries and 10 states represented by the courses the original holes pay tribute to at World Tour.
Upon check-in, golfers receive a "passport" to give to the starter, who delivers an eloquent speech about the holes golfers are about to play. International World Tour Golf Links' Open nine begins with the first at St. Andrews. On the Championship nine, it's the final hole on the East Course at Winged Foot. And if you start on the International Course, you're in the wrong spot.
That's because the International nine was closed in June. Whether it's permanent or not remains to be seen. According to staff, the ownership is weighing its options on whether or not that land can be commercially developed or if the golf business picks up, they could be reopened again. For now, though, the greens are gone and maintenance is minimal.
Which nine to close was a no-brainer, however, even though many players thought the International nine -- which had holes inspired by Seminole, Valderrama, Jupiter Hills, Wentworth and Inverness, just to name a few -- was less forced, perhaps, than the other two. But taking away Amen Corner on the Championship nine and St. Andrews and TPC Sawgrass on the Open nine weren't viable options.
"Ninety percent of the people who came here wanted to play those two nines," Head Professional Matthew Rauth said of the Open and Championship layouts. "Then if time allowed, they played the third nine."
World Tour: The highlights
For someone who has never played the original courses, the anticipation will surely build for Amen Corner, but there are plenty of other holes of note as well, and one of them is another hole from Augusta National.
That would be the par-3 16th at Augusta, depicted as the seventh hole on the Open nine. While you don't exactly get the feeling from the tee, the green is certainly severe, and certain pin positions are hard to find, just like Augusta. You can probably forget, however, trying to skip the ball off the water, since it's difficult to maintain the water level the way it is in Georgia.
Another par 3 of interest, of course, is the third on the Open nine, which is the 17th at the TPC Sawgrass. Those who have played the copy at the Tour 18 in Houston will notice right away that the green seems much smaller, which is more like the original. At Tour 18 the green is 25 percent larger than the original to accommodate the heavy traffic the course receives. This one is a little tougher to hit.
As for the rest of the course, golfers get a chance to play holes inspired by courses they'll probably never have a chance to play. That includes Colonial, Cypress Point, Pine Valley and Oakmont, as well as pricey public or resort courses such as Pinehurst No. 2 and Bay Hill and British Open venues such as English Turn, St. Andrews and Royal Troon.
International World Tour Golf Links: The verdict
For most golfers, these types of courses afford them the opportunity to dream and compare their skills to what they've seen and will see on TV. Anything that sparks enthusiasm among golfers is a plus, and golfers who play International World Tour Golf Links rarely lack enthusiasm.
While some of the holes are obvious -- St. Andrews, TPC Sawgrass and Augusta National -- many aren't all that recognizable, especially without a scorecard. You'd have to be a member at Olympic Club, for example, to recognize that the seventh on the Championship nine is the 14th at Olympic. But that's okay, it's a strong and enjoyable hole nonetheless.
Speaking of Augusta National, you have to use your imagination a little. There's rough in front of the green, for example, of the facsimile of the 12th at Augusta. It doesn't appear nearly as hilly as the real course, and the use of warm-season grasses -- somewhat of a necessity -- also takes away from the look. Still, it's close enough.
World Tour also has expansive practice facilities, including a large grass range, short-game area and practice green, a magnificent clubhouse, and pretty good dining that features international and regional-inspired sandwiches and dishes, such as fish and chips, and Reubens.