26 OCT 2016: As Halloween approaches, it’s time to consider a trip to Mystical Golf in Myrtle Beach where I’m sure you’ll find the trio of golf courses to be quite bewitching, but let’s face it -the main reason folks head down to Myrtle Beach over the winter is to golf their brains out for bargain prices.

Sure the Grand Strand has become more gentrified over the last decade with sophisticated dining, spas and terrific shopping, but great golf at incredible prices is the main draw and no place on earth rivals Myrtle Beach.

Claude Pardue, the marketing whiz behind Mystical golf which comprises three courses— The Witch, The Wizard and Man O’ War—has conjured up an irresistible cauldron of package deals. The Witch and Man-O-War courses are ranked in the “Top 15 Courses in South Carolina” in Golf Channel’s Golf Advisor rater reviews. The three-day Gold Package is less that $115 US (per person, per day, taxes included). And that even includes a few beers and meals.

Pardue told me that he chose Dan Maples as his architect for all three of his courses because, “Dan listens to me and builds the kind of course I want, not his own ego trip.” Obviously Maples doesn’t use the cookie-cutter approach to his designs, each of the Mystical courses has its own distinct layout and personality. Even the clubhouses are unique. The Wizard has a castle, the Witch has a pointy roofed house and Man O’ War has a fish camp on stilts over the water.

On property once owned by a paper factory, Maples moved an astounding 1,000,000 cubic yards of earth and in doing so brought the feel of Scottish links golf to The Wizard, complete with stone bridges and burns. At 6,721 yards from the tips this par-71 has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. Don’t get too smug about your score until you’ve finished the grand finale of fairways 16, 17 and 18 which include plenty of water and a couple of devious, almost-island bentgrass greens.

Over at The Witch, Dan Maples has brewed up a totally different experience. The first nine is built in the middle of the 500-acre Waccamaw swamp.

“We constructed The Witch in 1989 and did not disturb one inch of wetlands,” says Pardue, who had an environmental conscience before it became politically correct.  In one of its “Best of” issues, Golf Digest gave the Witch four and a half stars and applauded its tee markers which are made of cypress roots and resemble shriveled little witches.

Nearly 4,000 feet of wooden bridges wind through acres of cypress forests draped with spooky Spanish moss. Alligators, plenty of other marsh critters and waterfowl create a magical and somewhat eerie sensation on the first nine. There’s not a house or highway in sight—just you, nature and a tight challenge on every hole.

The Witch displays a dual personality that changes on back nine. Suddenly golfers are confronted with huge elevation changes created by natural dunes. Pardue doesn’t believe in signature holes, but my vote goes to number nine, a fiendish par-four requiring you to fly the wetlands. You won’t forget the whimsical distance markers on the driving range. Aim for a witch!

Prepare to do battle on Man O’ War, a watery tract rising from an 80-acre lake with back-to-back island greens. Your arsenal should include a few extra Titleists in case a few of your wayward balls go for a dip. Just before the turn, Man O'War presents its signature hole, the par-four ninth. Believed to be the only hole along the Strand that features an island fairway and island green, it invites golfers to first hit over water and then onto a green near the tip of the island.

Service with a smile is another reason to play the Mystical trio. Pardue believes in keeping his customers happy and that includes frequent visitations from the cart girl, reasonable prices in the snack bar and pro shop and starters who don’t drone on for 15 minutes when all you really want to do is let it rip. www.mysticalgolf.com

No jacket, no tie, no attitude

Once you’ve worked up an appetite for something fishy, head to funky Murrels Inlet, dubbed Seafood Capital of South Carolina. With names like Bovines, Dead Dog Saloon and Drunken Jack’s you would be correct in assuming that these places are big on atmosphere and devoid of pretension.

For a splurge, head to Greg Norman’s Grille in North Myrtle. I recommend the cowboy steak washed down with a glass of the Shark’s own Shiraz. You will need a doggy bag.

Getting There

Sure you can drive but wouldn’t you rather spend more time on the fairways than highways? Porter Airlines provides seasonal non-stop service from Canada between Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport and Myrtle Beach International Airport, beginning February 15 through May 20, 2017.

Magical Myrtle Beach
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Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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