Myrtle Beach Vacation
Over a very competitive game of dominos, my brother (Scott) mentioned that we needed another marathon golfing vacation. No argument here, the question was where to go. We considered Oregon and Brandon Dunes, San Diego or Lake Tahoe, South East Florida, Hilton Head, Gulf Shores, and a couple other locations before deciding to check out Myrtle Beach for a vacation. Our research discovered the Grand Strand, which Myrtle Beach is a part of, a 60 mile crescent of wide, sandy, white beaches stretching along the beautiful Atlantic Ocean in South and North Carolina and it:
- is home to over 110 golf courses and was voted the #1 Golf Destination in the US - the question quickly became "how many can we play in 7 days?"
- has the highest concentration of courses listed in Golf Digest's Top 100 Best Golf Courses - will we be able to afford some of the best?
- is known as the "playground for fun, excitement, and relaxation" and earned the title as the #1 "Family Beach in America" - sounds perfect and I'll bet there are lots of fun beach bars
- has 1,700 sit-down restaurants and plenty of fun bars - good, we'll need lots of calories for all the golf swings that will be required during the week
- is where "tee times and bar stools are inexhaustible, good used golf balls are easier to find than vegetables, and everything is divisible by 4 to make it easy for golfers to handle"
Done Deal! We selected a time to go, booked a weeks stay in my brother's timeshare at the Sheraton, and after a lot more research and phone calls we had tee times at 10 of the best courses in and around Myrtle Beach; rented a jet ski as well as a pontoon boat; scheduled a ride on a Segway; made reservations at three theater shows; and got several recommendations on good restaurants, lively hot spots, and good beach bars. Wow, with all that we best be well rested before we jump on the airplane for a golfing vacation in Myrtle Beach.
I thought about giving you a blow by blow description of each day but quickly decided it would result in an article that would take hours to read and put most of you to sleep by the 10th page! So I'll just try to net it out in several paragraphs with highlights. Let's get started with golf.
Grand Strand Golf Courses
Wow, I could spend several paragraphs raving about the golf courses along the Grand Strand - lots of choices from very exclusive and upscale and pricey to reasonably priced munis, near perfect conditions, excellent course layouts that range from easy and relaxing to demanding and treacherous, as well as, several specials and coupons and golf packages. However, the first problem is trying to decide on which courses to play, how much to budget, and how many cases of Advil and extra golf balls would I need. Our selection criteria was based on wanting to play several of the top rated Golf Digest courses, price and our budget, several recommendations by other local golf pros, and how many rounds my body could take and still have some energy for other things we wanted to see and do.
Over the 7 days we were in Myrtle Beach we played 11 courses and loved every course we played. There were clearly some highlights like:
- the unique and challenging layout at the Fazio Course at Barefoot Resort
- the perfect conditions at The Dunes
- the number of times the ball looked fuzzy on the first tee, seemed to move out of the way on several swings causing several giggles from my fellow golfers, or could never find that small moving cup - all of which seemed to happen on early tee times after a night of partying
- the caddies and golf staff wearing knickers and the free excellent clam chowder at the Granddaddy of Myrtle Beach Courses, Pine Lakes Country Club
- the amount of Advil that we devoured and how much we enjoyed sipping on those delicious Margaritas that Scott had to buy us to pay off his golfing bets
- playing 5 of Golf Digest's Top 100 Courses
- having to wake Scott up - he fell asleep on his belly putter after taking so much time lining up and trying to focusing on sinking one of his early morning putts
- the service and amenities at Myrtle Beach Golf Club
- the stares and snickers we got from total strangers noticing our red sunburned faces or getting a sniff of our sweat soaked shirts and smelly socks
- the amount of water or beer we needed to consume to clear our heads or to fight the muggy and humid weather
- all the "wows" at the tee box or the "wow, that was fun" we uttered while while playing True Blue
- when we set two records late in the week - our first toe dipping in the ocean after 5 days in Myrtle Beach and in bed early one night by 11:30
- playing two holes at River Golf Club that are in "The 100 Greatest Holes along the Grand Strand"
- setting a new record of 198 holes in 7 days - well Mr & Mrs Texas Outside set a new record, Scott was too hung over, too tired, or some other lame excuse and only played 163 holes
- playing courses designed by some of the best - Palmer, Dye, Fazio, Love, and Norman - all in one week
- making a sand pile for the grand kids with all the sand I collected from spending so much time in the bunkers
Overall, we rated True Blue the highest - 9.6 stars and probably liked the Barefoot Resort courses the best. Here is a link to a summary of all the Myrtle Beach Golf Course Reviews which will take you to the individual review for each course.
Grand Strand Fun Things To See & Do
Between all of that golf we squeezed in a number of other fun activities and here's a quick summary of most of them:
Racing at NASCAR Speed park - Scott drives a fancy BMW convertible and figured he could win back some of his golfing losses at NASCAR Speed park which is home to 7 different race tracks and 8 other fun rides plus food, lots of video games, and more. After two hours we had raced on five of the seven race tracks (one was for small kids)- and Mrs Texas Outside was up two rounds of margaritas! Scott was really depressed - he though his need for speed, his expertise racing his BMW convertible through the Hill Country, his disregard for all bumping and hitting rules, and his recklessness was sure to mean we would be treating him - never happened! On the last ride, the Competitor which is a tight oval track with high banking and side-by-side racing in single and double seater cars, we let him take the lead until the last lap when Mrs Texas Outside blew past him after drafting me! I don't think he slept all night trying to figure out how she took him down so easily, how it hurt his pride, and how costly all those margaritas were going to be!
Biking Along the Boardwalk & Beach - one morning we shocked ourselves by not playing golf and we rented some beach cruisers (bikes with big cushy seats, wide handle bars, fat tires, and a good cruising gear plus mine had a big basket that was perfect for holding the dominos, camera, a couple beers, koozies, sun screen, and map) from Bicycles-N-Gear - which was perfect because they are 4 blocks from the beach and smack dab in the middle of Myrtle Beach. We spent an hour riding south which is lined with hotels and billboards promoting special rates, pools, free internet, and other specials to grab your attention; a few restaurants, a small amusement park, and a fishing pier - but no fun beach bars. We had planned to bike to Market Commons because they had water ski and jet ski exhibitions, live music, and arts and crafts but our tummies and desire for a Bloody Mary took over and the bikes immediately turned around and headed for the trail along the beach and a highly recommended beach bar, Bumz Beach Bar. After a good snack (too early for lunch), a couple spicy bloody Marys, and a quick round of dominos on their deck watching the surf roll in, we were back on the bikes which suddenly seemed a little more difficult to maneuver! For the next couple hours we rode along the boardwalk, checked out a couple shops, stopped for a cold drink at another beach bar to enjoy the live reggae band, and then sadly headed back to Bicycles-N-Gear to return the bikes and rush off to the next adventure. The only thing that got Scott to turn in his bike in was after following some lovely beach bunnies for miles and finally building up the courage to talk to them, he peddled up to them just as they parked the bikes and the girls sat down with three huge muscle bound guys - Scott was back on his bike in a nano second and heading for Bicycles-N-Gear.
Cruising the Inland Waterway - after biking we rushed north to cruise the Intra coastal Waterway on a pontoon boat that we rented from Thomas Outdoors Watersports, which also rents fishing boats, kayaks, and jet skis as well as offers a jet ski dolphins tour. After a quick lesson on driving a pontoon boat (Scott wasn't paying any attention of course) and several lectures and words of caution on staying in the middle of the channel or risk running aground, we set off up the Intra coastal Waterway for Bird Island. The Intra coastal Waterway is a 3,000-mile waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts with stretches of water that consist of natural inlets, salt-water rivers, bays, sounds, or artificial canals. It provides a navigable route along its length without many of the hazards of travel on the open sea. The section we cruised was 100 to 250 yards wide with it's banks covered with a scattering of nice homes, a beautiful looking golf course, some restaurants, marinas, resorts, and more. Our slow chugging pontoon boat got buzzed by a number of jet skis and ski boats and, passed by several large and expensive sailboats and power yachts heading south. The big yachts have little respect for what they consider dumpy little pontoon boats and each time one passed us we had to grab our beers and hold on as their huge wave made us feel like we were on a roller coaster ride at Six Flags. As usual, it wasn't long before my tummy again took over and drove the pontoon boat directly to the nearest waterfront restaurant. The tide was out and the restaurant's boat parking was built to handle large yachts which meant it was an exciting adventure for us to tie up and try to climb up 7 feet to the restaurants deck - all the patrons eating lunch on the deck had an enjoyable time watching us and gave us a resounding cheer when we finally made it up to the deck! After some good seafood, we successfully got ourselves back in the Inland Waterway heading toward Bird Island to another resounding cheer from the restaurant patrons. Several more roller coaster rides (we started putting our hands in the air and yelling whoopee) we arrived at Bird Island which is a small popular boating destination with sandy beaches at the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean. We ran the pontoon boat up on the sand, Scott planted the anchor, we popped open a cold beer, and dove in the cool refreshing water. We did however have to dive in the water a couple more times to chase down the pontoon boat which was dragging it's anchor back toward its home base - Scott thought he had set very securely and because he was sound asleep on the beach didn't notice the boat drifting away. After enjoying the beach and water and exploring the island for an hour it was time to head south to return the pontoon boat. We got there safe and sound and stopped by Thompson Watersports next door neighbor or an appetizer and cold brew to conclude a fun day.
A Birds Eye View of The Beach - one afternoon after a morning of golf and during some great beach bar time, we couldn't help miss the boats towing a tandem parasail and the helicopter that kept flying up and down the beach. Since we had some free time, we drew straws and the helicopter ride won! Next thing we knew we were flying over the beach and restaurant where we had lunch. Huffman Helicopters offers several choices for sightseeing helicopter rides from a short $20 intro tour to a aerial tour of the beach to North Carolina and back down the Intra coastal Waterway. The three of us boarded our chopper, put on the headsets playing some soothing music, and took off to check the sites and hoping to spot a new adventure or at least a fun bar - which our pilot was kind enough to point out and then fly over. Guess where we went as soon as we landed and it was perfect with buckets of beer, peanuts, and a good burger right on the beach - a no brainer for us!
Racing Wave runners - After golf while enjoying a good lunch overlooking the marina, we noticed a wave runner rental shop (Myrtle Beach Watersports) and before we knew it the three of us were zooming over the water on our wave runners. My brother is notorious for his reckless abandon, independence, and independent spirit - plus he never follows the rules or instructions - as you may have noticed earlier in this article. So it was with reluctance that we agreed to be on the same wave runner excursion with him. I wanted to warn our wave runner tour guide but decided that he would quickly figure it out after Scott asked several questions about horsepower, how fast the wave runners went, would we be able to jump wakes and waves, and other similar reckless questions. And of course he immediately lived up to his reputation - as we sat on the wave runner tied to the dock getting our instructions on how they work, Scott jumped on his wave runner, about fell into the water, and immediately gunned it and just about jerked the wave runner's rear end off because he was still tied to the dock! As the guide looked at Scott's red face with a sheepish embarrassed grin on it, I think the guide got a feel for what he was up against. For the next 45 minutes we had a blast - roaring up the narrow smooth water slews, out to the ocean to jump some huge waves, past some nice homes, and several twists and turns spraying water as we tried to keep up with our guide who set the pace. Of course Scott violated several of the rules by trying to pass the guide, blaze his own trail, and cutting too close to a fishing boat which got him a raised fist and finger as well as a lecture from the guide! And his macho early enthusiasm about jumping waves in the ocean quickly ended when we got to the mouth of the bay entering the ocean, got a warning that the waves are high and rough ("but go for it") from our guide. He saw the huge waves and the air our instructor was getting and took off cautiously (hard to believe) - he barely made it up one tiny wave before heading back to the smooth water. As Scott headed for calm water, we jumped several big ones and got what seemed like six feet of air, only to learn later it was about 6 inches. Over drinks he claimed he wasn't scared (yeah, right), he just preferred to go fast on the smooth water! After some thrilling jumps we went zooming across smooth water, cruising by some nice homes, and a raced back to the dock. To my surprise, Scott made it back to the dock without any damage to the jet ski or his body - which is a new record!
Peaceful & Scenic Gardens - After that fun trip, the adrenaline was still flowing so we decided to slow it down by visiting nearby Brookgreen Gardens - Scott was so tired he was going to have a cold beer to quench his thirst and then take a nap in a hammock on the beach he had spotted earlier. Brookgreen Gardens is a national historic landmark that is home to beautiful gardens, rich historical sites, a world renowned art collection, nature trails, a couple tours, a small native animal habitat, and more. The grounds are beautiful with tall stately oak trees draped with gray eerie Spanish Moss and the sculpture garden has an amazing collection of over 1200 works form the early 1800's to the present. Brookgreen Gardens was an opportunity to add a little culture to our trip. Click on the link to lean more about.
Riding Around The Park - Oh boy, here we go again! I was reluctant about our next adventure which was renting Segways from Myrtle Beach Segway for a cruise around Market Commons and a nearby park without a tour guide to try and keep Scott somewhat controlled. I was sure Scott would find another way to break all the rules and possibly damage us, the Segway, a pedestrian, someone's property, or himself. Of course he didn't pay any attention to the instructions prior to our takeoff, but he did ask how fast they went, said helmets are for sissies, and jumped on his Segway and ran right into a wall before we were out of the store! Once he got outside, I must admit he seemed to quickly master his Segway, moved the speed button from turtle to cheetah, and took off in a cloud of dust. For the next hour broke just about every rule -he went down the wrong way on a couple streets, went into a restricted area, scared the bee gees out of a couple senior citizens, ran two tourists off the sidewalk, ignored all the stop signs, jumped a couple curbs, and almost ran me over as I was peacefully cruising along on turtle speed enjoying the scenery! But best of all was when he forgot the instructions on how to get off the Segway and the Segway took off with him chasing it into the street - a You Tube moment that had us doubled over with laughter! The shop owner wasn't laughing and Scott was very red faced again!
Believe it or Not - Ripley's has a huge presence in Myrtle Beach that kids and adults of all ages will enjoy. There is a Ripley's:
- Museum with over 500 amazing oddities you'll need to see to believe
- Mirror Maze is an interesting adventure as you wind your way through a maze of mirrors
- Haunted Adventure is a state-of-the-art three story haunted house filled with MOSTLY live actors
- Moving Theater takes you on a wild ride on a hi-tech motion simulator while you experience two action packed films with amazing special effects
- Aquarium a very well done aquarium teaming with over 10,000 exotic sea creatures and more than 350 individual species - we visited the aquarium and loved it
More Fun in Myrtle Beach
In addition to all of that great golf, good food, and exciting adventures, we still had some spare time to:
Dine, Dance & Sing till the Sun Comes Up - After a fun round of golf, it was party time and we set off to check out Broadway at the Beach which is a huge complex with restaurants, shops, attractions, and bars surrounding the small Lake Broadway. It was jumping! Broadway at the Beach was loaded with live music, flashing light, street vendors, and lots of tourists and locals out for a fun Friday evening. We immediately set a goal to have at least one drink at each of the recommended clubs and started out by going to Malibu's Surf Club and it's two sister clubs - Club Boca and Foggy Botttomz. One is a rock dance club with a young crowd dancing to a lively DJ, another is a more laid back with an older crowd and a very good live band, and one reminded me of the good 'ole younger hippie days with cages with go-go dancers, psychedelic loud music, and a dance floor packed with a younger crowd. All three had reasonably priced drinks, a fun friendly crowd. We ended the evening at Crocodile Rock's dueling piano bar and closed the evening singing and laughing to some dynamic piano playing. Fun time but the music and good times don't close till 3PM which meant that getting up for a 7:30 AM tee time was going to be very challenging. During our stay we also discovered several fun beach bars and several with live music - doesn't get much better than music, drinks, and food right on the beach.
Enjoy Drinks, Good Food, and the View - About 10 miles south of Myrtle Beach is Murrells Inlet which is a historic fishing village and a quaint, little town full of history, beauty & colorful characters plus the Marsh Walk. The Marsh Walk is a short boardwalk with great views of the saltwater marsh with its wildlife, birds and spectacular scenery on one side and several restaurants and bars and a marina on the other side. We were in heaven again as we hopped from bar to bar sampling the drinks, appetizers, good food, and the view. A great place to spend some time.
Be Amazed & Bedazzled - after a day of golf and 36 holes we rushed to pick up our tickets to Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline the Palace Theatre. We got there 10 minutes before the show giving Bro and me time to take off the sweat stained golf shirts, put on a tee shirt. and make a dash to the restrooms to splash some water on the pits, face, and arms and try to get some rid of some of the smell and sand we took from the courses. Next we needed to load up on popcorn and cold drinks - we were starving and thirsty and afraid that our growling stomachs as well as our golf body odor might disturb the patrons. We did get quite a few strange looks and wrinklely noses as we walked to our seats to enjoy the fantastic Le Grand Cirque Adrenaline. For the next two hours we enjoyed a jaw dropping, visual feast of breath taking group acrobatics and white knuckle stunts in the timeless circus traditions of Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. We now understood why Le Grand Cirque has played all over the world and smashed all box office records on the way. Spectacular costumes, breath taking lighting, unbelievable contortionists, pole climbing and jumping, balancing acts, incredible feats of strength, graceful and boundless energy, mesmerizing acrobatic acts, laughs and giggles, and lots of "Wows."
Experience The Music - Carolina Opry is the only show to be named "Best of the Beach" and "Most Outstanding Attraction," is not surprising to learn that the Carolina Opry celebrated it's25th season in May, 2010! They offer a variety of shows and musicals throughout the year, we got to experience the Carolina Opry which was two hours of critically acclaimed music, comedy, and dance from Broadway to country, from classic pop to rock’n roll, and gospel to bluegrass all in a 2,200-seat theater with state-of-the-art lighting and sound.
Sand and Surf - On our way to the restaurant one evening, we realized that we had been in Trip Advisor's 2010 Travelers Choice as the #1 destination for a beach and sun vacation and we hadn't put our foot in the ocean. So the first thing we did before stuffing ourselves at another good beach bar and restaurant was run down to dip our toes in the Atlantic Ocean. The official tourist report - the sand was soft, the water was warm, and the surf was small and there are 60 miles of sand and surf. As you can tell, we aren't big beach bums -we'd rather golf, eat, explore, boat, jet ski, drink, dance, or tour than sit on the beach soaking up the rays.
Seafood & More Seafood - Myrtle Beach must be the Seafood Buffet Capital of the world with hundreds of choices - so we had to try one (Captain Georges) which was huge. It had several serving tables load with everything from soups to salads to seafood (22 items that are fried, baked, broiled, stuffed, raw, steamed, and sauteed), prime rib to pizza to BBQ ribs, side dishes of everything from rolls to sauteed mushrooms, and a whole section of desserts with ice cream and pies and cookies and cakes! After several trips to try and sample everything (we never got close!) we waddled our stuffed belly out to the car and decided we better get some exercise, so we went to NASCAR Speed park!
Sing With The Legends - By the end of the week and our last show after another 36 holes of golf in a some balmy humid weather, we had learned how to ignore the stares, funny looks, twitching noses, and "do you smell something?" comments as we took our seats (people seemed to move out of our way and the couple sitting next to Scott weren't there for the second half of the show) for the "Journey Through the Decades" show at Legends. What a fun evening of listening to a cast of fantastic celebrity impersonators performing some of the legends of music's greatest hits. The impersonators were backed by a hot live band, original choreography, and dazzling dancers and costumes. We heard Elvis, the Beatles, Blues Brothers, Buddy Holly, Metalica, Patsy Cline, and more. Great performances and lots of laughs. Thank God they had popcorn and hot tamales to feed the starving tummy. During the break and after the show, Scott was the first in line to get his picture taken with some of the performers.
Myrtle Beach is perfect for a family vacation (lots of things to do for kids plus the beach activities) or a golf outing. There are very diverse choices for lodging from upscale exclusive resorts to budget beachfront hotels. For golfers you'll find a wide variety of options for golf packages and stay and play packages. Also, stop in at any one of the Chamber's Welcome Centers and you'll find coupons and specials for just about everything. If you're headed to Myrtle Beach, then check out the following:
- Use this Myrtle Beach Golf Map to locate a course, get course info, or book a tee time
- Golf Holiday is another good site for golfing information including coupons and specials
- Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce - lots of good information on what to see and do
- According to TripAdvisor.com the top five Myrtle Beach Hotels for Golfers are Dunes Village Resort, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, Marriott's Ocean Watch Villas at Grande Dunes, Island Vista, and Grand Atlantic Ocean Resort