Claude Pardue was an entrepreneur who owned a golf course in the Pinehurst area of North Carolina. In the late 1980’s he traveled to Myrtle Beach to find a piece of property that would make a great golf course.
He found a 500-acre parcel between Conway and So. Myrtle Beach. “As soon as I walked the property, I knew that I had found the spot where I would build a magical golf course,” recalled Pardue who will be hosting over 40 writers and their guests and allowing them to experience and play his three courses for the third straight year in October.
The parcel was partial swampland and also included some rolling hills. “I envisioned the front nine heading off into the swamp and then the back being played up and down the hills,” said Pardue who mentioned that there is almost a mile of bridgework on the golf course, mostly on the front side.
“I named the course The Witch and it opened in 1989,” said the effusive Pardue who talked about the great work that course architect and fellow North Carolinian Dan Maples did on the design. Since the course takes you through this beautiful swampland, you see many alligators, birds of prey and the most spectacular cypress and live oak trees with hanging moss.
The course measures 6,796 yards from the back tees, but the 6,259 from the white are a great test. On the front side the swamp abounds, so a straight ball will help you score much better. The fairways throughout the course are quite wide and generous and the greens are large and undulating Tifdwarf Bermuda.
There are no houses on the property and you feel you are in another world until you get to number 11, a long par 5 that runs parallel to a road (the only one!). Soon after it opened Golf Magazine wrote “There is probably not another course like this Dan Maples jewel any place in the world.” It was rated one of the top new courses in the country when it opened and still garners a 4 ½ star rating from Golf Digest. It truly is magical.
The success of The Witch had a huge bearing on Pardue getting the rights to land available to build two other courses. “International Paper had a 400-acre parcel of land just off Route 501 near the Myrtle Beach National courses. One of the executives of International Paper loved the Witch and in 1994 told me that the company would be interested in selling this parcel of tall pines to me if I’d build a couple more courses,” remembered Pardue who had relocated his family to Myrtle Beach a year after the Witch had opened.
Again Dan Maples returned to check out the property with Pardue and together they designed and constructed two other excellent courses, The Wizard and Man-O-War, to complete the triumvirate of mystical golf courses.
“The key to this parcel was the building of a 102-acre lake right in the middle. The Wizard is on the left of the property as you enter and incorporates the lake on holes 1, 16, 17 and 18. “We took most of the dirt that was removed to build the lake and put it on The Wizard, to provide mounding on many of the holes,” said Pardue who served as the general contractor on the project. Holes 16-18 are a great test of golf and will long be remembered. You have to hit your tee shot over the water on the long par 4 16th, and then 17 is an island par 3 with an elevated tee. “I wanted to have a spot where you could see most of both courses, and it’s at the back tee of 17,” added Pardue. The par 4 18th has water up the left that juts out into the fairway in front of the green, so your second shot is truly risk/reward. Make par and you can smile when you head into the clubhouse built like an old castle. Both The Wizard and Man-O-War have bentgrass greens similar to what we play in New England.
Looking at the scorecard for Man-O-War might give you cause to purchase a few more balls. Don’t be intimidated, although there is water on 17 of the holes including water that crosses over the fairway on 3, 5, 10, 11, 15, 17, and 18. What is truly amazing about the layout and what made this so intriguing for me is that it is all one body of water. The lake has so many fingers that stick out and in between almost every hole. Mystical.
Man-O-War measures 6,967. The three other teeing options make it perfect for anyone to choose the correct distance. None of the holes have long forced carries over the lake and its fingers. My favorite holes on this course were the tough par 4 ninth that is actually an island fairway and green and the island green par 3, fifteenth. Actually both 14 and 15 are island greens. Number 18 is a risk/reward par 5 that is actually quite easy to birdie with a good drive close to the lake.
Pardue, who might be the most generous man I know, takes the whole group out to dinner one evening, and last year we were taken to the Alabama Theater. Rated the number one show in MB, the comedians, singers and dancers made the night a true joy.
The Mystical Golf package (www.mysticalgolf.com) is definitely something that you should experience. All three courses are very different, but at each course you will get great service, excellent layouts and a very fair price. The Golf Channel rated the three courses as “One of the best deals in golf,” and Golf Magazine rated the 15th at Man-O-War as one of the five most memorable island greens in the world. You can call them at 843-282-2977 for details about their many packages and scheduling rounds of golf. You won’t be disappointed.