A Brunswick Stew

The tranquil beauty of North Myrtle Beach’s Brunswick Islands makes for a feast of great golf, food and memories.

Every spring most avid golfers are treated to the visual feast of color, tradition and championship golf known as the PGA Tour’s southern swing.

But why should the pros have all the fun?  

If you desire quiet, lush, championship golf in an antebellum setting, the Brunswick Isle area bordering North and South Carolina is where you want to be for year-round play.

In contrast to its more famous neighbor, this area, also known as North Myrtle Beach, is laid back, serene, and tranquil. It houses more than three-dozen courses that will test golfers of any levels. For help in planning your trip, contact the folks at Coastal Golfaway.

Flights are best routed through Wilmington, North Carolina. From there, an easy 50-mile drive down Route 17 delivers you to the Southern tip of this golf oasis.

In addition to many hotels, The Glens Group offers two and three bedroom condos on a weekly basis that are clean and modern that you can combine with their golf courses. The Sea Trails Plantation has over 200 villas that will fit most needs. The Colony at Oyster Bay also has excellent golf villas available.


A great way to start a golf trip is to visit the highly honored Tidewater Golf Club, which Golf Digest rated “The Best New Public Course” when it opened in 1990. Always ranked as one of the “must plays” in South Carolina, the course is set on a bluff above marshlands, so you will experience the natural coastal beauty that seems to come straight out of a Pat Conroy novel. This 7,044 yard gem has several signature holes that wind through woods and tidal creeks. Make sure to have your camera on number 4 and 13.

Spend your first evening out at Filets Restaurant. It is located off the Inter Coastal Waterway next to the last swing bridge in the area. Sit on the waterfront and savor the unhurried pace along with fine food. The menu includes both steaks and seafood and offers a complete wine list. Start with the creamy lobster bisque brimming with fresh lobster meat. The stuffed local grouper will hit the spot. Carnivores must try the “Par 4,“ an 8-ounce filet topped with crab, scallops, and béarnaise sauce.


Before hitting the links on day two, indulge in the time- honored tradition of a Southern breakfast, typically two eggs, bacon or ham, grits or pancakes, and toast. There is no need for a fast food meal here as the area has many family owned “pancake houses” that serve up this fare at reasonable prices. The Golden Griddle Pancake House is a favorite of both golfers and locals. Owned by the same family for 31 years, this spot is warm and welcoming and serves up fresh home fries like Grandma made.

Another favorite, Dino’s, has been serving breakfast for over four decades—90 percent of the staff has been there 15-plus years. They can accommodate large groups, have a $5.95 golfer special and you can pick up tees as you leave. If you venture further south, stop at Nibils where former amateur boxer, Jack Cahill, has been serving up seafood omelets and other treats for 29 years.


Travel north on Route 17 to play the 27 holes of Heather Glen. Owned by the Glens Group and opened in 1987, the Clyde Johnson and Willard Byrd layout boasts wide, tree-lined fairways filled with moguls. No homes crowd the course and you cannot see the adjoining fairways. The still, lush, quiet play is delightful.

If you have a hankering for Italian foods then stop by Benny Rappa’s Trattoria. The chalkboard menu changes daily at this small intimate “neighborhood “place. You will enjoy freshly prepared rustic dishes in an unrushed manner. If you desire something special they will make it for you if Benny has the ingredients on hand.


Your next stop is Legends Golf Group’s venerable Oyster Bay Golf Links. Golf Digest named this 6,700-yard course “resort Golf Course of the Year’ when it opened 30 years ago. It is heavily played by locals. Abundant with sage grass and marsh carries, watch for the gators who roam the course—some of them are big boys. Oyster Bay requires accuracy, as water factors into most of the holes. It also includes two island greens lined with oyster shells.

This night indulge and treat yourself to a Calabash seafood buffet. Not your ordinary buffets, these are feasts that have something for everyone. There are several to choose from but the one most locals favor is The Original Benjamin’s Calabash Seafood. The Howard family owned restaurant has been in operation for more than 30 years and serves up some 170 freshly prepared items nightly.


The 27-hole Thistle Golf Club takes its name from an ancient Scottish course. As you drive through the gates you will notice that the clubhouse suggests Muirfield Golf Club. Inside it has a regal and traditional feel. Holding court is Gene Weldon the Director of Golf. Gene is golf’s “Don of the Grand Strand,” a fountain of knowledge about every course in the area and a source of great golf stories. Because this is a semi private club they never overbook. The 12-minute gap between tee times provides an exclusive feel. A day on this links-style layout is like drinking aged malt scotch; it goes down smooth but hits hard.

The Parson’s Table, housed in a one-time church erected in 1885, provides a religious eating experience—and not just because of the transcendent food. Ed and Nancy Murray, the restaurant’s previous owners, searched for and purchased stained glass windows from old churches being torn down and placed them in each room in the restaurant. Their son, Executive Owner and Chef Ed Murray Jr., has earned national recognition for his inspired cuisine. After indulging in his slow roasted prime rib in the Saint Matthew room, I can understand why.


Your next stop is the Arnold Palmer-designed Rivers Edge Golf Course. Given 4.5 stars by Golf Digest, this scenic layout is bisected by the Shallotte River and traverses high bluffs and miles of marshlands. Bring your “A” game—or plenty of golf balls. Water carries and mounded greens abound. The signature ninth hole, a 536-yard par 5, is both beauty and beast. It requires a long straight tee shot placed to the right. Next you have to shoot to a narrow neck followed by a high, soft shoot to a long but very narrow green. If you think you have the “mojo” to reach this in 2 you will have to carry over 200 plus yards of marshlands to the well- bunkered green. If you to do this your name gets into the local paper but it only occurs 4 or 5 times a year. Like a mint julep, this exclusive course is green, sweet, and packs a wallop.  

Kick back and enjoy casual fine dining at The Boundary House Restaurant, located on the border of North and South Carolina. The setting is a sea lodge with high- vaulted ceilings. The menu is extensive with a home cooking feel. The meat on the ribs falls off the bone and the sauce is sweet and succulent. The fish and chips are special and worth trying. Fresh fish is brought in from the nearby piers daily and the chef calls out to boats each morning to see what’s biting in order to plan his menu. Treat yourself to the freshly made bread pudding, drizzled with honey.  


The Ocean Ridge Plantation is home to five courses known as “The Big Cats.” Panther Run, Lion’s Paw and Jaguar’s Lair roar, but Tiger’s Eye and Leopard’s Chase bite. These last two are championship tests. Opened in 2000 Tiger’s Eye treats you to 7,010 yards of visual beauty. It plays through mature oak trees, and pines, as well as ponds and natural waste area. The new and ferocious Leopard’s Chase is 7,155 yards from the tips and features man -made ponds and significant mounding. The landscape changes on each hole. Adding to the challenge. As an incentive… if you play three of the Cats you get a fourth round free.

As you travel north on Route 17 you will find the 7,217 yard Cape Fear National at Brunswick Forrest. Architect Tim Cates had 1.5 million yards of soil moved in order to create a hermetic golf experience of  wide fairways, “beach type” bunkers and quiet that is only interrupted by a serenade of birdsong. The thick air here requires at least an extra club or two.

If you are looking for a romantic spot for dinner then head over to The Brentwood Restaurant and Bistro and taste the award-winning low county and French creations of Chef Eric Masson. Housed in a 100 year old restored mansion the manor has six private rooms each with its own fireplace. The Fresh Salmon Poached in Court-Bouillon is a must for seafood lovers. Both the Roasted Rack of Lamb and Filet Mignon are superb. The vegetables are brought in fresh daily from local farms. This is an elegant setting and music is provided on weekends. Eric also does cooking classes at the restaurant and on cruise ships.


To end your trip on a high note, take the 30-minute ferry ride to Bald Head Island, where a golf cart will whisk you to a place of unparalleled service. There are no cars on the island, so the tranquil atmosphere takes hold at once. Bald Head Island Club’s elegant clubhouse suggests a private club, and all the amenities are first class. George Cobb, the creator of the Par Three at Augusta National, designed the 6,823-yard course, and Tom Cates added to its pedigree with a recent make over. Fifteen of the holes feature water, and the combination of forest and ocean holes prevents any sense of monotony. The staff takes justifiable pride in the course that comes as close to “Golf In the Kingdom” as any experience this side of the Pond.

Colorado AvidGolfer is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.