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Where It All Began: Myrtle Beach

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

Photo: Chris Rogers

In 1927, Woodside unveiled the twenty-seven-hole Ocean Forest Club golf course and stately clubhouse. He'd also started on the big hotel: a ten-story, 220-room monster along that strip of soft sand beach already being called the Grand Strand. The hotel would have ballrooms, stables, swimming pools, shopping arcades and a broad patio overlooking the ocean for moonlight dancing. There, each night, Woodside fully expected his more risqué guests to "brown bag" their hooch (Prohibition was still in effect), and the hotel was ready to sell them soda and buckets of ice for a dollar. The plan seemed perfect. Those nightly dances would be just scandalous enough for great publicity.

Everything stayed on schedule until October of 1929 when, as builders were finishing up the massive hotel, Black Monday crashed into Wall Street. Though the hotel opened as planned in January of 1930, the crash had ruined Woodside. Before defaulting, he spun off the big hotel and golf course and managed to hang on to them. By 1933, however, Myrtle Beach Farms had reassumed most of the rest of Woodside's holdings.

But the seed had been planted: Woodside's golf club had gained national renown. "Bobby Jones and Gene Sarazen played the course," Main told me. "Everybody of that era played here." And eventually, the original landholder would do what Woodside could not. Myrtle Beach Farms took Woodside's grand, year-round tourist destination idea and succeeded with it mightily. Working street by street, golf course by golf course, Burroughs & Chapin—the modern descendant of Franklin Burroughs's original company—teamed with local businesses to carve a tourist city from a pine forest. By the 1950s, Myrtle Beach was a destination for vacationers from up and down the East Coast, complete with a permanent carnival, nightly swing dancing on a concrete pavilion overlooking the beach, and dozens of golf courses and hotels. In another decade, Myrtle Beach would ascend to Golf Capital of the World.

And what of Woodside's hotel and golf property?In 1974—after a succession of owners—the Ocean Forest Hotel was demolished. The fates were kinder to his celebrated golf course. In 1944, Woodside sold it to hotelier Fred Miles, who changed its name to Pine Lakes International. Eventually, the course shrank from its original twenty-seven holes to just nine, before a new back side was added. In 2002, Burroughs & Chapin purchased Pine Lakes to be the crown jewel in its real estate portfolio, and the circle was closed.

As I waited for my 12:50 tee time, the tartan-clad starter—a man with the appropriately Scottish name of Robert Bruce—briefed me on my upcoming round.

"Pine Lakes makes it a policy not to harass wildlife on the property," he advised. "Please honor that policy." He then added, "Be sure to have some water handy before you get to the tee on seven. That's where Big Dog is going to have a cup of our good Low Country clam chowder waiting for you. It's a tradition here. He uses the same recipe started by our original chef, Mr. Eddie Dingle, in the 1940s.But be warned: It's spicy. Some folks say all that hotness adds twenty or thirty yards to their next tee shot.

"Behind the starter's table I noticed a waist-high granite block. At first I thought it might be a grave. Rather, it held a bronze plaque depicting Sports Illustrated's first cover from 1954 and identifying Pine Lakes as the magazine's birthplace. Apparently it was here, at an off-site meeting of the Time-Life national sales staff, that the idea of a national sports weekly was first presented.

To kill a few minutes before teeing off, I wandered inside the cavernous clubhouse, where other totems of Pine Lakes' history were on display. On one wall of the pro shop, matted inside a tasteful wood frame, was an article from a 1989 issue of Time magazine. It noted that, because Ralph Lauren sportswear's breast-pocket crest looked so much like the Pine Lakes International crest—a mix of laurel branches and monogram-style PL initials topped by a crown and backed by crossed clubs—Pine Lakes had taken Polo Ralph Lauren to court and stopped the company from using the "remarkably similar" logo on its togs.


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