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Where It All Began: Myrtle Beach

Chris Rogers Chef Bellamy dishes the chowder at the seventh tee.

Photo: Chris Rogers

When I parked my vehicle in the club's lot, I was met by an assistant dressed in plus fours and white gloves and driving an outsize cart.

"Aren't you hot in those clothes?" I asked.

He gave me a big smile. "You get used to 'em," he said. "Come on, climb in."

As we drove toward the pro shop, I sat back in the cart and took in Pine Lakes. It was the first week of May, and the trees and plants were blooming beneath a gently warming sun. On the driving range to my right, a big turtle moseyed across the grass.

We were only three hundred yards from the steady Sun Belt traffic, yet I felt like I'd entered some faraway nature preserve. The place felt instantly good.

Myrtle Beach was just a woodland when twenty-two-year-old Franklin Burroughs showed up in northeast South Carolina in 1857. Determined to "make something" of himself but exceptionally low on funds, he had to get creative—and fast. So to pad his pockets, he bid on a public works project to build a gallows in the nearby town of Conway, North Carolina. Somewhat to his surprise, he was awarded the contract, which he fulfilled in short order. A few weeks later, he won a second contract, this one to build a bridge, and before long, young Burroughs found himself a local success story. He kept building public structures and began acquiring timberlands and businesses. He prospered, married and had children. Eventually, Burroughs (and a partner named B.G. Collins) owned 80,000 acres of South Carolina beachfront forest as well as most of the region's pine-pitch industry, a string of mercantile and naval stores, several farming and milling businesses, a steamship line and a railroad.

One evening at the height of his career, Burroughs took his eldest daughter, Effie, down to the strip of white sand fronting the Atlantic Ocean. As they stood there watching the sunset, he placed his hand on her shoulder and said: "I may not live to see it, and you might not, but someday this whole strand will be a resort."Burroughs died in 1897, but his son (also named Franklin) kept the dream alive. In 1912, he spun off part of the business into an effort to develop a resort community.

That new company was called Myrtle Beach Farms.

"Let's pick up the story in 1926," Mac Main said. A longtime golf pro around the American southeast—and for several years the pro at Pine Lakes—Main is a sturdy man who was sporting a brush haircut and MacGregor tartan necktie in the club's honor during my visit. "That was the year John T. Woodside came to Myrtle Beach and bought some property from Myrtle Beach Farms."

Woodside, a South Carolina textile magnate, was the guy who introduced golf to the fledgling resort. His plan was to build a destination called Ocean Forest in the style of the Homestead or the Greenbrier. It would include everything from hunting and fishing to equestrian sports and golf. Woodside hired McCoy as his architect and—employing a massive yardstick—began measuring off chunks of real estate. The Ocean Forest Hotel would sit on a four-mile stretch of Myrtle Beach shoreline; the golf course and clubhouse would be a mile or two inland.

For this venture, Woodside bought 64,488 acres, agreeing to pay $950,000. His aim, according to a contemporary local newspaper account, was to assure that the "Myrtle Beach of the future will not be merely a two- or three-months winter resort but an ideal all-year-round playground, the Atlantic City of the South."

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