But then, “solid” and "honest-to-goodness” aren’t nearly as marketable terms at “Mystical.” And besides, there is something a little magical about this threesome designed by architect Dan Maples.
First off, there’s the convenience factor. All three courses are located within minutes of the unofficial heart of Myrtle Beach (where US 15-501 intersects US 17, the major north-south artery that runs the length of the Grand Strand from Georgetown, S.C., to the south to Wilmington, N.C., to the north) via that same 15-501 corridor. As any realtor will tell you, location is critical, but it’s even more so when you have an 8 o’clock tee time and want to get those last few winks of sleep.
Next is something we’ll call the ‘hospitality factor.’ It’s hard to imagine any golf operation, whether in Myrtle Beach or beyond, making its guests feel more welcome and appreciated than do the staffs at The Witch, The Wizard and Man O’ War.
The welcoming tone is set right at the top, starting with Mystical Golf president and CEO Claude Pardue, an amiable man who takes customer service a lot more seriously than he takes himself. Always quick to engage those around him with a warm smile and an firm handshake, Pardue is the type who rarely if ever meets a stranger. His humor can be self-deprecating, but don’t be fooled by his ‘aw shucks’ façade.
Pardue is an insightful businessman who is proud of the product his Mystical Golf trio offers. What’s more, he knows exactly what his golf clientele is seeking and makes sure his company, facilities and associates deliver.
“We know travelers seek value, and we strive to provide our guests the best bang for the buck in Myrtle Beach,” says Pardue. “We like to say vacationers only need one visit to our courses and golf villas for us to make a customer for life.”
That brings us to the third tine of the trident – value. No less an authority than GOLF Magazine has named all three courses in the Mystical Golf family to its “Best Value in America” list. And while walk-in and package rates vary with the season, suffice it to say that a golf vacation that includes these three courses is never going to break the budget.
For example, the “Fully Packed” stay-and-play package offered this fall (through Nov. 19) includes sunup-to-sundown golf and deluxe accommodations starting at $106 per person, per day for quadruple occupancy. And that includes taxes. The package features one round on each course, and if you wanted to play an ‘emergency’ 18, replay customers need only pay a cart fee of $23 before heading back to the first tee.
The package also includes three nights’ lodging in a well-appointed, three-bedroom golf villa (four beds); complimentary daily breakfast at IHOP, a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, including non-alcoholic beverages and taxes, and a $15 gift card toward a golf shirt in any one of the three pro shops. As with all guests, each player also receives Mystical Golf’s trademark “lunch and two beers” each day in the grill.
If you want to stay beachfront, a number of hotels partner with Mystical Golf to offer attractive package rates. For example, the Sea Mist, located at 11th Avenue South, is convenient to all three courses. Breakfast at Tara’s, just one of the hotel’s eateries, is included. But be warned: after downing your fill of Tara’s made-to-order omelets, French toast, pancakes and Belgian waffles--not to mention all the grits, hash browns, meats, pastries, fruits and juices one could want--you may have trouble finding room for your gratis “lunch and two beers” at the turn.
After breakfast, head out to one of the three Mystical Golf courses with your buddies and let the real fun begin. It doesn’t really matter what course you play first. All are enjoyable tests, and despite the fact they share “parent” ownership, these three siblings are about as different as any three kids could be.
The eldest of the three, The Witch was built in 1989, cut from thousands of acres of black-water cypress swamp that is home to ‘gators, bald eagles, osprey and even black bear. Barely 6,700 yards from its back markers, The Witch often personifies the term “target golf,” as holes hopscotch their way from one piece of high ground to another.
More than 4,000 feet of low, wooden bridges connect the puzzle pieces of turf, providing an impromptu nature tour along the way. Don’t be fooled by the imposing and seemingly ever-present wetlands; there is more room out there than you think. Though trouble awaits the marginal shot at almost every turn, The Witch is quick to reward the player who thinks clearly enough to select and execute the proper shot.
If you start at The Witch, then move to either The Wizard or Man O’ War, the toughest adjustment you’ll have to make it dialing back your putting stroke. While The Witch features Bermuda greens, the younger siblings, both built in 1996, sport fast and flawless bentgrass putting surfaces.
The Wizard is the shortest of the three, when you consider yardage relative to par. Just 6,721 yards and playing to a par of 72, this is a course that rewards shot-making skill over raw power. Within the otherwise flat landscape, holes are framed by rolling mounds covered in tall native grasses, giving The Wizard a look that at times conjures up loose recollections of a seaside links.
But the lush fairways and the receptive bent greens do not accommodate the low, running shots that links courses not only tolerate but often invite. So take an extra look at your yardage book before picking your club.
Unlike at The Witch, water and wetlands don’t come into play that much at The Wizard. In fact, many of the hazards cutting narrow swathes through the course are dry creek beds. But that doesn’t mean water isn’t in play at all.
In fact, one of the most dramatic uses of water comes at the opening tee shot where Maples chose to wrap a 90-degree dogleg right around a huge lake. The effect creates the prototypical risk-reward cape hole, given the right wind. Bite off part of the lake and the hole becomes easily reachable in two. If the wind isn’t cooperating, play safe to the corner of the dogleg and try to score an opening birdie with a wedged third shot.
Just across that same lake lies the Man O’ War course, a layout literally defined by water. Measuring 6,967 yards from the tips, this par-72 track has water on every hole, thus partially explaining its 141 slope rating. At one point on the back nine, you play back-to-back holes with island greens – the par-4 14th and par-3 15th – and at three other holes, Nos. 6, 10 and 11, your approach shot must carry water that fronts the green. There’s even one hole, the par-4 ninth, where the entire fairway and green are surrounded by water.
But with all the aqueous stuff about, this isn’t a course with a gluttonous appetite for golf balls. Yes, there is water nearly everywhere you look, most of it tied into a massive 100-acre lake. But the course is far from claustrophobic; there is always plenty of room to play golf.
So there you have it, three courses with three distinctly different personalities, all sharing an owner that demands excellence from his entire staff – from the maintenance crew to the grill room, from the bag drop to the pro shop. The result is a golf destination sure to please even the most discerning traveler.
For more information or to book your own trip, go to www.mysticalgolf.com or call (843) 282-2977.