Willbrook Plantation: A smooth Confluence of Golf and History

From the very first hole at Willbrook Plantation, just across the street from our lodgings at the Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort in Myrtle Beach, we found exactly the kind of thing that the Golf Road Warriors most appreciate in a golf course: a good story to accompany our round.  I’m not talking about the kind of story where Jesus and Moses meet on the first tee, or what one of your friends did on the fourteenth hole: I mean that the course itself understands that traveling golfers are not just golfers, but travelers, and we appreciate feeling like we’ve not just been to another solid golf layout, but that there’s some background or context to give our experience real depth.

The very logo of the plantation includes “est 1798,” which certainly caught my attention knowing that there weren’t any golf courses in South Carolina back then.  What they mean is that the plantation itself was founded just over two decades after the founding of our country.  And throughout a thoroughly enjoyable round we stopped to consider a series of historical signs posted along the route of our golf journey.  They point out the sites of slave cabins and a slave cemetery, the original road leading to the plantation house through lines of trees, mounds built by slaves in the 1700s to mark the separation between different plantations, and more.  Every golf course, every piece of land, every destination you visit has a story to tell, and one of the best things we can get out of a round of golf is to also learn the story of the beautiful place we’re lucky enough to be spending the day in.  So Kudos to National Golf Management for understanding this aspect of our game and also our desire to play it in locations far and wide, and have some connection beyond the few good shots we might hit (and today it was very few)!

Pro of Pros Kevin McGuire.

Another thing we loved about Willbrook Plantation was head professional Kevin McGuire, who greeted us heartily from behind the counter, where he’d set a sign welcoming the golf road warriors.  It seems so simple and so obvious, that the professional behind the desk should be glad to see you when you show up to play his golf course, but we are constantly amazed at the indifference we experience at even very good courses.  Kevin gives pros everywhere a good name.  Later in the day we saw him behind the grill working with the lunch crew, fighting with the computerized cash register, and taking care of about twelve other things simultaneously the way old-school pros at small, charming courses in Scotland may also turn out to be the bartender, locker room attendant, caddie master, and more.

But despite what a great golf pro he seems to be, you probably won’t be headed to Willbrook merely to spend the day appreciating Kevin McGuire, or purely for a history lesson, so you’ll be glad to know that 18 well-crafted and eminently walkable golf holes await.
The Golf Road Warriors started our morning round on the back nine as the sun rose and the day warmed and the dew burned off the Bermuda grass.  And that’s worth noting, as players like me, accustomed to playing on bent grass and rye grass will face a period of adjustment– in my case about fourteen holes before I figured out: 1) dont miss the fairways; 2: if you do miss, watch where your ball goes as it will dive into the Bermuda faster than Flipper dives for a kippered snack; 3) take more club and swing like you mean it to get the ball out; and 4) pay attention to the grain on the greens, and if you don’t know what this means you shouldn’t be playing golf in South Carolina!

The back nine commences with a wide, welcoming fairway that set the theme for our day.  In general the tee shots here don’t require too much prestidigitation or even deep thinking, for that matter– hit it toward the striped 150-yard poles but also pay attention to angles to greens and give yourself a good “leave.”  On number ten, a tree to the right of the putting surface really defines the entire hole, which is to say that balls hit to the right side of the fairway may not have a clear path to the green.  The water to the right really never comes into play– and if four warriors all missed it, you probably will, too. From the left side, which runs long and open toward two greenside bunkers you’ll have a shot over those hazards to reach the green.

Fellow warrior Bob Fagan, who seemed disappointed by his 75 today, gave me the sound advice of opening my clubface when hitting out of the rough here and it made sense as I’d already hooded and hooked two shots.  But I’m a slow learner and his advice didn’t quite take at first.  The next hole, number 12, struck us as having a lot going on, including a huge waste area outlined with railroad ties, a lake to the right, greenside swales and bunkers, and more.

Morning dew, grass, leaf.

By fifteen, our first par five of the day, the course began to really express it’s personality– a solid, dependable, good-looking companion without much flash and no trickery.  It brought to mind  a well-crafted piece of furniture that you could settle into comfortably for a four-hour spell.  It wasn’t until Fagan bounced a long, straight drive off the cart path and thorugh the fairway, and Jim Frank hit the same tree twice off the tee– once with a draw and then with a fade– that we realized that the best drive on this hole is just left of that tree and over the fairway bunkers guarding the corner.  Beyond there a creek awaits, which you might cross on your second shot if your first is any good, or otherwise might call for a layup.  The hole plays 572 yards from the back tee and would certainly be played better during subsequent rounds– or so we told ourselves.

Number eighteen presented the first drive with any real pucker factor– a long scythe of a dogleg right where the tee shot must avoid sand to the left and an over-hanging tree to the right.  My low-running draw– a pure accident– proved to be the perfect shot here.  The hole narrows toward the green, making a straight second shot necessary to really even have a third shot, or at least one that can be aimed anywhere near the pin.

The front side (our back nine today) opens well and ramps up at number two, with water all along the right side from tee to green and steep-faced bunkers nya-nya-nyaing on the left.  Play toward the water to have the best look at the green.  Number six is one of the best holes on the front– 383 yards with water, water everywhere, and more bridges in site than at the dentist’s office.  Hit your tee shot to what is essentially an island fairway which just happens to precede an excellent par-three island green on the next hole– at 147 yards just pure fun.

The round was enhanced by great service and efficiency from the moment we stepped into the shop until our final encounter with the beverage cart.

Following golf, our group of warriors frolicked by the pool and had some fun body-surfing and hitting a few shots on the beach back at the Litchfield Golf And Beach Resort.

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