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2 Play the Tips played Caledonia on Monday, April 30, 2012

Caledonia Golf and Fish Club

Once Upon a Time in the Land of Caledonia


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Caledonia's entrance gives you the feeling that this will be a round to remember.
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Once upon a time, there was an enchanted land unlike anything you've ever seen.  Live oaks and spanish moss greeted you at the gates.  Towering pines sprung up from emerald green grass, beholding glistening cool waters and sand as white as snow.  Charming bridges (bereft of trolls) granted passage over trickling streams, taking you from one mythical scene to another.  The journey's midpoint was marked by a bubbling cauldron, teeming not with eye of newt and toe of frog, but potatoes, clams, and broth.  It was stirred not by an evil witch, but a kindly old man.  The land was devoid of all evil.  It was pure.  It was magical.  It was and forever shall be known as the land of Caledonia. 

Driving into Caledonia Golf and Fish Club is like moving through a painting.  The driveway serves as a gateway of sorts, separating the real world from the wonderment within.  The portal is every bit as mystical as Platform 9-3/4 or Professor Kirke's Wardrobe.  The arrival inspires imagination every bit as much as the first trip through Hogsmeade Station or the first glimpse of Narnia.  Lucky for you, though, Caledonia isn't fantasy - it's just fantastic.  

We were excited to play Caledonia, as it had been on our short list of courses to play for quite a while.  Aside from Dave's round just across the street at True Blue that morning, neither of us had played a Mike Strantz before.  After a jaw-dropping entrance, we were glad to see that the golf course at Caledonia seemed to get better and better as you went along. 

The first few holes are highlighted by the par 3 third, a one-shotter than could call for a number of different clubs due to its 57-yard long green.  The par 4 holes 4 and 5 challenge the player off the tee.  The fourth dares you to play it close to the fairway bunkers on the right to avoid an awkward angle into the green.  The fifth provides a fairly wide landing area, but overhanging trees block out the approach from the left side, forcing the golfer once again to toy with the fairway bunkers on the right. 

The par 4 seventh is a treat.  Your tee shot is struck through a sort of tunnel formed by group of trees surrounding the teeing ground.  A carry over water is required if you're playing the back tees, and the left side of the fairway is favorable.  The hole can get especially tricky if the pin is on the right side of this massive green, as the golfer will have to hit his shot clear over the top of a tree that juts out in to the fairway about 50 yards from the green.  The ninth might not be the best par 3, but it makes a strong case for the most interesting.  Though it measures only 118 yards, this one-shotter can give you fits.  This two-tiered green angles away from the tee to the right and features two small landing areas that fall off steeply into bunkers over the back.  Up-and-downs are no piece of cake here. 

On to another of the charming qualities of Caledonia: the chowder shack.  On the way over to the tenth tee, there is a dainty old shack tended by a kindly old man stirring the contents of a cauldron.  Make sure you stop; the Manhattan Clam Chowder bubbling up in that iron pot is quite tasty, and just the treat you'll need to get you geared up for the back nine. 

There are almost too many good things to talk about on the back nine at Caledonia.  The shot playability is extremely good, calling for different shots to take advantage of the shapes and slopes of the course.  There are also plenty of interesting features, like the tenth green, which sits off to the right and below the surface of the fairway.  Not only does it create a bit of a blind shot, but it makes going for the green in two a difficult task since the shot needs to carry the massive bunker along the right side. 

The tilted eleventh green plays beautifully to a right to left shot, and enjoys a surprisingly tranquil setting for being the closest hole to the main road at the entrance.  The twelfth is a slightly doglegging par 4 that calls for a fade and features a 54-yard deep green.  Looking back on the hole from the green, one can draw striking similarities to Augusta National.  The tall pines, perfectly manicured features and white sand make for a setting that causes you to sit and stare for a minute. 

Walking around the corner of the sharp dogleg left 13th, you are introduced to the lake that sits in the middle of the property.  You get a better view, though, when you head to 14.  If you're playing from the tips, you better not have a fear of rickety bridges.  The path to the back tees on the par 4 take you over a tongue of the lake, and gives you an excellent view of the two-shotter that hugs the water on the left.  The green is especially pretty, as it slopes to the left and pretty much straight into the water.  Probably the best par 4 on the course, however, is the 16th.  The fairway opens up to the left a little, giving you a safe landing but a tougher approach.  The green on this 417-yarder is perched just over water, demanding a well-struck iron to a two-tiered green.  The combination of the water and the slope of the hole and the surrounding trees produces aesthetics unmatched anywhere else on the course. 

In terms of experience, there are very few holes that can match up with the 18th at Caledonia.  Make no mistake, it's a nice hole in its own right - a short tee shot with a demanding approach over water - but the 18th gets its fame for another reason.  On an average afternoon, groups who have finished up will tend to congregate on the back porch of the clubhouse.  A few cigars and a few drinks later, bets will start to be taken about who in the group coming up the final hole will hit the green.  The acoustics are such that every word spoken on the porch can be heard from the fairway.  So if the shot wasn't difficult enough, you've now got the pressure of impressing the people on the porch - or at the very least trying to avoid causing the inevitable groaning and lament when a shot falls short.  It's a fitting end to one of the more special rounds of golf you're sure to find. 

Here's what happened when Dave hit the green at the 18th.

 

There is something different about the old rice plantation out on Pawley's Island.  It's a feeling you get when you travel through the tunnel of foliage.  When you walk the rickety bridge.  When you tense up over your final approach, eager to impress the audience.  It's a feeling that you seldom come across.  It's a feeling that doesn't leave you.  You leave the feeling.  It remains there, awaiting your return. 

In the land of Caledonia. 





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TAGS:  SOUTH CAROLINA, CALEDONIA, GOLF, MYRTLE BEACH, MIKE STRANTZ