Beach Witch: Grand Strand golf doesn't get much better

Myrtle Beach golf: The good Witch casts her spell

CONWAY, S.C. -- Course owner Claude Pardue "guaranteed" we would not want to play 36 holes at The Witch Golf Club. Not because we wouldn't like the golf course but because of the heat and humidity paired with the fact that The Witch was built on swampland. The holes, at least on the front nine, are framed by dense forest, which allows for very little air circulation.

We took Pardue's guarantee as the gauntlet and vowed to play the course twice on this hot summer day. And we did. Not because we wanted to prove our boisterous host wrong but because we liked the golf course. That some of us wanted to improve on our morning performance also factored into the decision.

Simply put, The Witch ain't easy.

The Witch's spell

Pardue heads up Mystical Golf, an appropriately named golf ownership and management company that has two other courses -- The Wizard and Man O' War.

The three courses, all designed by Dan Maples, are unique. The Wizard and Man O' War share the same property, which includes a 100-acre lake. The Witch is in its own little world. And by world, we mean a rather large expanse.

Built on 500 acres, much of it swampland, The Witch meanders through wetlands without disturbing the habitat. Four thousand feet of bridges see to that, and the holes bump against the natural lakes that often come into play.

This makes for a layout that would be difficult to walk, of course, but enjoyable in a golf cart if you're not pumping it into the woods. Fortunately, the local rule calls for the forest to be played as hazards, unless the ball is found and playable, and then you can proceed at your own peril.

One of the more unique aspects of the golf course is the tee markers, which are the small hardwood stumps that pierce through the water in the swamps. They resemble a witch's hat.

The golf course is really a tale of two nines as well. The front uses up the majority of the land, has the most bridges and is played through the wetlands and deep forest. It's also the longest.

"What many people don't realize is that the front is 3,600 yards," Pardue said. "So for the first nine holes, it's really like you're playing a 7,200-yard golf course."

The key is surviving the front to get to the back, which has a totally different look. There you'll find elevated tees and a few holes that are a little more open. While it's shorter at 3,207 yards, it's also a par 35.

Overall, the course plays to a par 71 and 6,796 yards on the back of three sets of tees.

Memorable holes at The Witch

Once you play the Witch, you know it. The holes are all fairly memorable, and the second time around, you have a pretty good idea of what club to pull on which hole.

Early on, you get a test with the 416-yard, par-4 second, where you'll get a glimpse of several bridges leading you over water. The par 5s are all different. There are good risk-reward opportunities, like the 542-yard 11th, and there are holes, such as the 592-yard eighth, that require three solid shots.

The most diabolical hole is the shortest par 4 on the course, the 349-yard ninth. This dogleg left has wetlands in front of the green and marsh off the tee. Tall trees block any approach shot coming from the left side of the fairway.

The key is to hit your tee shot on the right side, and the owner advises players to hit as much club as they can without going into the wetlands to get a short club in their hands to a firm green that's well protected by deep bunkers.

The golf course also has a nice collection of par 3s, including the seventh, a 186 yarder that plays over water to a green protected by a bunker in front.

The Witch: The verdict

The Witch is one of the best mid-priced golf courses in Myrtle Beach, period. In fact, all three Mystical Golf courses are great values, always in great shape and fun to play.

What makes the Witch special is that it is unique and well thought-out. Where else can you find cardboard flying witches for targets on the driving range?

Mystical Golf also excels in service. Our group never went more than two or three holes without seeing a beverage cart piloted by a pleasant, friendly cart girl. The food and beverage service inside is also well run, and the golf shop is well stocked.

Lessons are available from the professional staff, and practice facilities are more than adequate. My guess is you could never go wrong playing The Witch.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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Myrtle Beach golf: The good Witch casts her spell