SUNSET BEACH, NC – The Willard Byrd Course is the third of the Sea Trail Resort & Golf Links layouts and completes a marvelous trio. Opened in the fall of 1990 some players consider the Byrd Course the best of the group, but that’s for you to decide.
The course is not exceptionally long (except for those of us that are distance challenged) playing at 6750 yards from the Blue tees, 6251 yards from the White tees, a manageable 5561 yards from the Gold and a lady friendly 4697 yards from the Red tees. The course/slope ratings reinforce the playability for golfers of all skill levels – Blue 72.8/132, White 70.7/127, Golf 67.5/114 and Red 69.1/111.
Although driver is in play on every hole, there are no forced carries and each of the seven dogleg bends is reachable. Even with fairly wide fairways, the emphasis off the tee is placement. Be aware of green side hazards and pin placements. However, keep it on the fairway!
Like the Maples and Jones Courses playing from the rough will be a challenge. Balls settle making it difficult to get clean impact, or pull to the left when a solid strike is achieved. In either case it will be difficult to hold any of the large greens coming out of the rough.
The greens are considerably larger than most in the Myrtle Beach area. The manageable length of the Byrd course provides mostly mid to short iron approach shots. There’s plenty of green to work with, but be aware most are tiered. A grossly pulled or pushed approach will present a very long putt.
Champions Bermuda grass greens are featured on the Byrd Course, as opposed to Bent grass on the Maples and Jones layouts. Having been plugged less than three weeks before our round they putted very slowly. However, by early July the greens will be back in great shape; mowed, rolled and putting as you might expect. One caution is in order. The greens appear to have more undulation than what is really there. When we got putts to the hole, we seemed to be missing regularly on the high side.
Usually, you can pick out the Par 3s, 4s or 5s as the character setters for a golf course – playability, challenge, beauty – something always stands out. Not so on the Byrd Course because everything stands out.
From simply a playability standpoint the Par 5s are particularly interesting. Each has something different to offer, but No. 18 is a finishing hole that regardless of how you score will entice you to return. Although a fairly narrow fairway, the hole is only 469 yards long from the blue tees. A good drive puts you in great position to score, but even if things go bad you leave knowing you’ll do better next time.
For challenge the Par 4s fit the bill nicely. Again, they’re not particularly long, but do require a well-placed drive. No. 4 is a perfect example. It requires a drive slightly right of center to make sure you have a clear look into a receptive green. To far left and you’ll find fairway hazards, or be unable to see the green. To far right puts you in pine straw and possible OB. A really long hitter can drive it through the fairway.
The Par 3s might be the winners combining all elements that make great golf holes. Each is interesting, but offer challenging length from the Blue tees and quite playable from the White tees. However, each is very appealing to the eye. Regardless of the tee box you play you’re going to like No. 12. The shape of the green and being well protected by bunkers make this one a bear.
The Byrd Course is a good one and an excellent value for both visitors and locals. Put it on your short list. You’ll be glad you did.