Parkland Merges with Saltmarsh at Pawley’s Plantation

A talked-about national trend at clubs and public-access courses, Tee it Forward, was on display this morning at Pawley’s Plantation. Our foursome of Golf Road Warriors, a bit iffy about our readiness for battle, dialed ourselves down a few tee colors so we could live to fight another day. We played the Jack Nicklaus-designed course amid maritime forest and some sweeping marshland at about 6,250 yards. It was a hybrid of the white and blue tees, but still a day of golf that Sloped out to about 133. If your experience at this smoothly run operation is similar to mine, it will include a half-dozen pars, a lone birdie, and yet several holes with ball-in-pocket before reaching the cup.
It will also go down in your logbook as a great day on the links, testifying to the fact that Nicklaus in his early design days liked to tighten the screws on Joe (Half-Decent) Golfer while constructing a brawn-and-beauty layout with nuances and boldness both. These were the days when Jack liked to bisect fairways with hazards. He laced the center of the fourth fairway with three bunkers (I drove it into the last one) and he left a spreading specimen oak directly in front of the 11th green—it psyched me into hitting a semi-worm-burner for my second shot. On the back nine, Pawley’s Plantation emerges from the parkland-woodland acreage into a vast saltmarsh environment. Three holes (two of them testing one-shotters) are framed by this topography. No. 13 is a short par-3 that sits as an island amid the glades of waving grass and salty mud, defended by wind and by the inner psychological demons of the golfer, himself.
In the early going I decided that this course would only faintly reward my better shots, which generally are cracked rather than crafted. Then I started carefully picking my tee spot between the marker blocks, and clubbing more wisely, and using all the knowledge yielded up by my fellow Warriors’ putts, and the scoring went better.
What you generally feel as you move about this course is that expense wasn’t spared in the construction of it and turfgrass care today is doting to say the least. The last few holes don’t show this tendency as much, but overall the greensites have size and some grandeur to them, with a big, swerving putting surface matched or mirrored in a few cases by yawning bunkers tucked close up. The marshland holes are hit-and-hope-ish, if the wind really blows. But if you’re just out to have fun, as we were, that will be part of the fun—make or miss.

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