By Eddie Caiazzo

In the Middle-Atlantic region of the United States, autumn is one of the most revered times of year by visitors from all parts of the country.  Ingredients like apples, squash and pumpkins start making their appearance in the local cuisine. The grills are put away in favor of fire pits…and the golf courses are painted the most brilliant shades of orange, red, green and gold.

While many other parts of the country are dealing with course closures and a recession, the Jersey Shore has expanded its offering of great golf courses using the most modern designs from the area’s best architects. Taking advantage of the growth and vitality of the Jersey Shore at its peak time of the year for golf is an activity that should be on the calendar of every avid golfer.

The Renault Winery Resort, the oldest active winery in New Jersey sitting on 48 acres in Egg Harbor City – is a perfect example of an attraction that viewed golf as a valuable added amenity. In 2004 it debuted Vineyard Golf at Renault Winery.

Designed by nationally-acclaimed architect, Ed Shearon, Renault was stop number one on a two-day, one-night trip to the area.  Exiting the Atlantic City Expressway early and taking a drive through the historic town of Hammonton gives the proper entrance to the property from route 561.  The short journey on Bremen Avenue through the woods brings into view a vibrant Tuscany-themed setting.

The main drive concludes at a fountain, with the Tuscany House Hotel to the left, and the golf course to the right.  The Indian Summer weather was very kind to the courses at the Jersey Shore this year, and Renault was in fantastic shape overall.

The course could at times be visually intimidating with some strategic fairway bunkers and water hazards, but the worst spot for the ball to land was in the vineyards themselves that lined a few of the holes like five, six and seven.  On a mild weather day in the 60s with some clouds, there is not a course that could rival the Renault golfing experience – but in the heat of a regular summertime at the shore, be prepared to be in direct sunlight for much of the round.

From Renault, the journey continued for an overnight at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel, an immediate left turn entering Atlantic City.  Situated directly across the street from the Tanger outlet stores and the AC Convention Center, the amenities and location are unrivaled.

For business meetings and other social gatherings, the Tun Tavern (attached to the Sheraton) offers award-winning pub fare and a microbrewery.  TVs line the bar area, but the venue is large enough that there is no intrusion if a diner chooses a table.  Spend $10 in the Tun, and parking across the street is free.

If work needs to be done while staying at the Sheraton, the rooms are definitely set up to accommodate — wi-fi covers the entire hotel, there is a direct internet connection offered for faster speed and a heavier workload.  Sheraton Rewards members enjoy the increased amenity of a large lounge with free continental breakfast in the morning and happy hour fare in the afternoon.

For the golfer, the Sheraton is the premiere venue to begin planning a golf vacation to the area, located a few miles from the airport and within 25 minutes of every golf course in South Jersey.

“We realized that we were centrally located and the most convenient hotel to all of the great golf in the area,” said Carla Caulk, director of sales at the Sheraton. “Golf is not an afterthought with us. We put together great packages and make sure every need of the golfer is taken care of. We do everything but make the putts for birdies.”

A party bus from Joe’s Limousine Service, based in Mullica Hill, was the chosen mode of transportation and preferred Sheraton partner for transport to and from the golf course.  Not only was the party bus clean and comfortable, but it was a very stylish way to travel — offering leather seating and complimentary champagne with crystal glassware.

If journeying from far away, Joe’s also offers award-winning airport transportation.  This gives the option of going right to the golf course from the airport, or heading to the Sheraton to get checked-in before leaving for the course.  This provides maximum convenience, especially when traveling with golf clubs – and not having to move them until the bag drop is reached. 

Atlantic City still is always turned on, regardless of the negative media coverage that has been received as of late.  The closing of Showboat and more recently the Trump Plaza and Revel Casinos have received top billing in the mainstream media over the course of 2014.

What is not being reported is the success the city has been having with major events and conventions, and the burst in revenue as a result of free concerts like Lady Antebellum and Blake Shelton held during the summer.  Add the renovated Steel Pier to the mix along with world class dining from chefs such as Wolfgang Puck, and Atlantic City still is the premiere resort town on the east coast.

The final day of our fall golf trip in the Greater Atlantic City area comprised of 18 holes at the Stephen Kay-designed parkland gem, Harbor Pines Golf Club.  Kay is an award-winning architect known for designing Scotland Run, the furthest course west of the Greater AC area, Blue Heron Pines and McCullough’s Emerald Golf Links, which shares the same route 559.

Kay is known for his challenging layouts and quirkiness in a design, but Harbor Pines plays pretty fair for the everyday amateur golfer.  Most of the holes feature very generous fairways along with short rough.  Although the sand can find many a golf ball, the legendary “Sand Creek” on the par five seventh hole can be easily crossed for a birdie opportunity if not intimidated.  The beauty of Harbor Pines compared to a lot of other area parkland courses is the ability to view each hole from the tee box, keeping blind shots to a minimum.

While the golf at Harbor Pines is very enjoyable, with industry veteran General Manager Bob Ewing in charge of operations, the entire experience is first class.  Knowing the importance of Food and Beverage operations to a golf course, the cart service was most efficient along with the best invitation for two golfers to dine in the clubhouse after a round – $20 for wings, two burgers and a pitcher of beer.  “For $10 a person, there isn’t a deal in the whole Jersey golf scene that is better,” exclaims Philadelphia Daily News golf writer Mike Kern.  “And it is not just the value, but the quality of the food is better than some area private courses.”

The food special is also offered seven days a week, and advertised prominently on the carts and in the pro shop.

For travelers looking for a golf destination this fall, Atlantic City and its surrounding golf courses should be regarded with the highest esteem.  The quality of courses and world-class amenities offer a unique journey through golf history, remaining undeniably modern.  The two day experience was fantastic, but a Monday through Thursday should be spent golfing, with a Friday and Saturday spent on the town.  From the historic Men’s locker room at Atlantic City CC to the stately and historic Seaview Resort, golfers are quickly discovering why Fall Golf in Atlantic City remains always turned on.


The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Sixth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

A total of 3,405 golfers did battle in 76 flights on 60 different golf courses for four days – then 90 flight winners and ties faced off on the Dye Course at Barefoot Resort. And, even then it went down to a playoff.  All of this to determine the Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship.

When the dust settled, 68-year-old Dennis Rasku proudly stood in front of the giant scoreboard and held the trophy.

“I never thought I would be here,” said Rasku, who works in the air conditioning business in Pompano Beach, Florida.

Most people would hear that statement and assume he is usually too busy in the summer to leave Florida and take a week off to play golf in Myrtle Beach. That would be true but there is even a great reason Rasku was surprised to be playing, let alone winning.

In January he suffered a major heart attack and was not allowed to play any golf for three months during his rehab.

“After I was able to play I just decided that I was going to do all of the things I always wanted to do,” he explained. “And playing in this event was one of them.”

Not since the early years of the event has a first-year player won the championship. And Rasku had never played any of the courses he competed on this week.

“I just came up with an open mind and decided to enjoy every minute of it,” Rasku said.” The tournament was better organized than anything I expected and the courses were better too.”

And when he returns to Pompano Beach carrying the trophy, does he expect his usual golf partners to call him Champ? “No, they will be calling me sandbagger,” the 15-handicapper admitted.

The week also was a dream week for Mark Gardiner, who won the first-ever Scratch Division championship.

After retiring from a 27-year career in the Air Force, Gardiner spent the last three years doing nothing but playing golf. It paid off. He shot 73-78-76-74 during the week, then saved the best for last by posting a sparking 1-under-par 71.

“I have to thank my wife, who is still in the Air Force,” said Gardiner. “She made it possible for me to do this.”


The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Fifth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Today was Armed Forces Day at the 31st World Amateur Handicap Championship in Myrtle Beach … at least in my foursome.

I played with Gary Skinner from Fredericksburg, Virginia – a 20-year Marine who retired with the rank of Lt. Colonel. He now trains Marines on radar jamming aircraft.

I also played with Charlie Waters of Goldsboro, North Carolina — a 25-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, who retired with the rank of 1st Sergeant.

To both, I would like to say, “Thank you for your service to our country.”

It was a pleasure to play the final round of the four-day tournament with both – as it was to play with Bud Cole, an insurance agent from central Illinois.

We played the River Oaks course, at the geographic center of the Myrtle Beach Grand Strand. It is in the third year of a resurrection under new ownership. The new Champion Bermuda grass greens were outstanding and a highlight of the course. The quarter-pound all-beef hot dogs cooked outside on the grill were pretty good, also.

Waters, who posted low score for the flight on Round 3 at Avocet with a 78, continued the torrid pace with a 76. He carded three birdies on the day.

Cole also displayed a solid round with an 81.

Skinner fell prey to a wild driver on this very tight golf course, carding an 88.

After six straight days of play (two practice rounds and the four tournament rounds), my swing also left me … especially the driver. I hit only six fairways all day (after hitting 12 fairways each at Carolina National and Avocet). It proved to be fatal, especially since the rough was extremely penal.

For the first day all week, I failed to card a birdie and stumbled home with an 85. It put me in 11th place out of 42 players in my flight for the tournament. Not horrible, but not what it could have been, considering how well I hit the ball most of the week.

But, with 3,405 golfers competing, I am in the company of about 3,300 golfers who are singing the should-a, could-a blues right now.


The International Game of Golf
Comes to Myrtle Beach World Am

Fourth in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Over the years – approximately 12 visits to Myrtle Beach to play in the World Amateur Handicap Championship – there have been plenty of opportunities to play with competitors from other countries.

I have played with visitors from Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Columbia, France, Italy and Spain. Now I can add Portugal to the list.

In Round Three of the world’s largest golf tournament I got to play with Jose Candido Olveira, an attorney and an ultimate gentleman from Portugal. He spoke almost no English and I certainly don’t speak Portuguese. So we conversed in Spanish throughout the round.

Bob Hunter from Kansas City was the third player in our group. We were without a fourth. Hunter and I conversed mostly in the international language of “football.” He played collegiately, first, for Wichita State. After the tragic plane crash that killed most of the team, he transferred to SW Missouri State. The linebacker then spent two training camps with the then-St. Louis Cardinals, coached by Don Coryell. He now owns a tax consulting business.

Our venue was the Avocet course at Wild Wing Plantation. Once a proud collection of four golf courses, Wild Wing now has only one course – but it was always the best of the bunch. Avocet was in superb condition and provided a good challenge.

Unfortunately, I suffered through another totally schizophrenic day on the course. On the plus side there were three birdies (one good for my second skin of the week) and six pars. I hit 12 out of 14 fairways and had a respectable 33 putts.

Those stats should have added up to a very good round … but they were cancelled by way too many compound mistakes. A triple-bogey and four double-bogeys resulted in a disappointing 84 … on a day when I could have moved up the leaderboard. After climbing to 10th place after the second round, I slipped to 12th.

For the third straight day Dale Redger of Tempe, Arizona leads the flight. Rounds of 77-79-81 have forged a seven-shot lead.

Consistency – what a wonderful concept for success in competitive golf.


Third in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

When people are planning a golf trip to Myrtle Beach for the first time and seek advice, I immediately ask where they are planning to stay. People, especially first time visitors, have no idea of the magnitude of the golf footprint along Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand.

Courses from the far north – just below Wilmington, North Carolina – to courses at the far south – near Georgetown, South Carolina – stretch for a magnificent 90 miles. Lack of coordination in terms of picking golf courses close to the intended accommodations, can create a golf vacation where more time is spent driving the car than is spent driving the golf ball.

Case in point. Despite headquartering in a central location at the Sheraton Convention Center in downtown Myrtle Beach, as I do every year for the World Amateur Handicap Championship, at least one round always entails a long drive.

Round Two for my flight in this year’s edition of the world’s largest golf tournament was in Bolivia. No, not as far away as the South American country. It was at Carolina National … in Bolivia, North Carolina. The Fred Couples-designed gem is one of the northernmost courses along the Grand Strand. Despite a lack of any traffic at the time of our departure from the hotel (7 a.m.), it still took one hour to reach our destination.

Once there, it was a treat. For the second straight day we played a course in magnificent condition. All three nines of the 27-hole complex contain scenic portions along the Lockwood Folly River.

The weather was perfect – 83 degrees, a nice breeze, brilliant sunshine – and to make the experience even better, I played with three great fellow competitors (a repeating theme in this event).

Don Hanlon is a retired retail exec who grew up in Manhattan, lived for a short while in the Philadelphia suburb of Drexel Hill and now resides in Aiken, South Carolina – just across the river from Augusta, Georgia. He had a bad day on the course, shooting an uncharacteristic 94, but you would never know it. His demeanor kept us all loose.

Art Woehrman lives in Rockville Maryland and also enjoys retirement. After a career in the Navy, onboard submarines, he worked in private industry as a nuclear missile technician. His game is straight down the middle off the tee and he hit some laser-like iron shots. Some troubles on the greens led to an 87. This iss his rookie venture in the World Am.

Mark Dudley, with whom I played two years ago, had a strong putting day – until a couple of late hiccups. The strength of his game also was accuracy off the tee … and it led to an 86. He works for E.I. DuPont in Richmond, Virginia.

If scores seem a bit high for players with a handicap index of 8.1 to 8.5 … they were. The hole locations on the very undulating greens at Carolina National were very difficult. Some bordered on unfair. Nobody in the foursome made any really long putts. In fact, it was almost impossible to get any long putts to finish close to the hole. The crested locations repelled approach shots and caused most putts to roll away at the last minute.

I was extremely proud of the fact that I had “only” 34 putts in my round. Again I hit the ball well (though not as well as the first round) and, again, double bogeys were my downfall. I had three more “doubles” — and what seemed like rather harmless mistakes led to all of them.

I also had two more birdies and finished with a round of 82. That was the fourth-lowest score of the day and boosted me to 10th place, up from 18th. Dale Redger, first day leader with a 77, followed with a 79 and has put six shots between him and second place.


Second in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

Under absolutely ideal weather conditions, the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship got under way on Monday, August 25. Almost 4,000 players competed on 60 golf courses throughout the Greater Myrtle Beach area – 4,000 players and at least that many stories.

How about George James, playing in the Mid-Senior Division at the TPC of Myrtle Beach. He showed up at the golf course breaking the all-time record for wearing the most golf accessories.

He wore two golf gloves, with two sweat-absorbing wrist bands in place immediately above the gloves, a safari hat with a drape flowing down from the back to cover the neck, an elbow brace, a knee brace and dangling from his belt was a bag that contained his distance measuring device and various other gadgets. He must have started getting dressed Sunday night, in order to make Monday’s 9 a.m. tee time.

And then there was Keith Campbell, who owns a cottage rental management business in Brunswick, Georgia. An affable guy with a strong golf game, he looked like a cross between a member of the ZZ Top band and a character on the Duck Dynasty television show.

He was the polar opposite of another good-natured player in my foursome, Gene Patterson, the spit-shined news anchor for the ABC affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee.

They helped me get through a Jekyl-Hyde round that should have qualified me for schizophrenic therapy.

Our fourth player was Dale Redger, an ultra-serious player who tied for low round of the day (77) on the very difficult TPC Myrtle Beach course. Despite his good fortune, he never cracked a smile throughout the round. The Tempe, Arizona roofing supply dealer actually played with baseball pitching great Roger Clemens two years ago in the World Am. When a comment was made about the apparent excitement of that pairing, he replied with a sour comment, “It was actually very annoying. Television camera people were around all day.”

Back to my schizophrenic round – it featured a birdie, and an eagle that earned $125 from the skins game, a number of nice pars … and, from the other end of the spectrum, a four-putt, three double-bogeys and a triple-bogey.

Despite hitting the ball well most of the day, I displayed the short game of a blacksmith with a nervous disorder. I turned what should have been a lead-contending round into an undistinguished 85 that put me firmly in 18th place out of 42 players in a flight of players with handicaps from 8.1 to 8.5.

The good news is that there are three competitive rounds remaining … and the weather report is excellent for the rest of the week. More golf … more stories.


First in a series of daily first-person stories from the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap Championship – the world’s largest golf tournament.

By Tony Leodora

After an entire year of waiting for the chance to redeem my past failures, the eve of the 31st Myrtle Beach World Amateur Handicap has finally arrived. This beach town is buzzing with excitement as almost 4,000 golfers have descended on the area – all with the same high aspirations for this week of stroke play competition.

The checklists – a necessary bit of preparation if there is even a ghost of a hope for success in this annual test – have all been checked and double-checked.

  • Bring an extra dozen golf balls, out of respect for all of the ponds and wetlands that will be found in Myrtle Beach. Check.
  • Pack rain gear, for those predicted afternoon thunder storms. Check.
  • Bring extra golf gloves. The heat and humidity of Carolina’s Low Country will be at its seasonal worst throughout the week. Check.
  • Pack a few cigars for post-golf relaxation. Check.
  • Bring the audio putting tips, for review throughout the week. Check.
  • Bring an extra putter, in case those audio putting tips do not work. Check.
  • Pack an extra supply of sunscreen and insect repellant. Check.
  • Leave all of those negative swing thoughts back in Pennsylvania. Check (I hope).

Now that the preparation is complete, it is time to start concentrating on the task that lies ahead. That starts with the inspection of my course rotation. From past experience, you can usually expect to play one A-level course, two B-level courses and one C-level course in the four days of competition.

This year, a total of 60 courses are being used for the World Am. By going to the tournament website it is possible to see the course assignments. I quickly discovered that, this year, I had hit the equivalent of the World Am jackpot.

Round 1 – The TPC Myrtle Beach is the only course in the entire area that received a 5-star rating from the readers of Golf Digest. Annually it is in excellent condition. For a number of years it served as the final round for all players who emerged as champions in their flights.

Round 2 – Carolina National. The bad news is that it is one of the farthest drives from my headquarters for the week, the Sheraton Convention Center hotel in the heart of Myrtle Beach. Carolina National is well north of the North Carolina border, in the town of Bolivia. The good news is that the Fred Couples design is a picturesque and solid design, set along the Lockwood Folly River.

Round 3 – The Avocet course at Wild Wing Plantation is the only 18-hole course remaining from what was a 54-hole complex. And it was my favorite. It was designed by the team of Jeff Brauer and PGA Tour player Larry Nelson. It is a player-friendly layout that should provide a bit of a respite after two days of challenging layouts.

Round 4 – River Oaks might be the closest golf course to my hotel for the week. The short commute will be welcome after a week of driving up and down the Grand Strand. The course has a lot of water on it. Hopefully, after a week of practice and playing, I’m hitting the ball straight.

Check this website daily throughout the week to read all about the birdies and double-bogeys, the varied characters encountered during the day at the golf courses … and each night at the World’s Largest 19th Hole.


By Eddie Caiazzo

With Father’s Day approaching fast, not only is getting out to play a round of golf on the top of Dad’s list, but so are the latest gadgets.

At GolfTalk Live, it is our job to make sure dad has a wish-list filled with the best golf products.  Here is the 2014 Father’s Day gift guide:

Alphard Duo Golf Cart
This is a golf bag and push cart combined.
With a two-step setup, go from the trunk to the course in seconds.  Packed with an assortment of features offering unparalleled convenience and comfort, The Duo Cart is 30% more compact than a standard full-size golf bag – and it will also fit with ease in a standard golf travel bag.

More details and an order form can be found at www.alphardgolf.com.  Enter promo code DAD15 at checkout to receive 15% of all orders before 6/15/2014.

Bridgestone Golf Balls
Bridgestone goes to great lengths to ensure players are hitting the proper ball.  The e6, along with their entire premium line of golf balls are made in the U.S.A.  Leading up to July 4th, there will be special red, white and blue packaging to celebrate U.S. Production of the e6.

Go to a Bridgestone Ball Fitting live and in person, or use their data on www.bridgestonegolf.com to determine which ball is the correct one to be playing.

Linda Hartough Golf Landscapes
9th Hole at Pinehurst No. 2 Painting and Green Glory: A Visual Tribute to the Courses of the Majors

This year’s 9th Hole at Pinehurst No. 2 print is the 25th and last image in Linda Hartough’s U.S. Open series commissioned by the USGA.  This collector’s item starts at $225 unframed and in various print types.

Green Glory: A Visual Tribute to the Courses of the Majors is a coffee table sized publication featuring all of the courses where majors have been held since 1950.  The text, images and paintings are by Linda Hartough, and the photographic images are by Patrick Drickey.

The book costs $75, and both items can be found at www.hartough.com.

Mantis Golf
Original Mantis Mallet Putter
New Mantis “B” Blade Putter

Mantis putters were a “Tony’s Top 10” winner, as selected by GolfTalk Live host Tony Leodora, and featured in “Eddie’s Closet,” as previewed by Eddie Caiazzo.  The Mantis line of putters have a patented green finish to match the color of the green.  This is to maximize attention to the ball and line of the putt.  Both putters produce a smoother putting stroke with more consistent results.

Both putters are only $159.99 each, and available at www.mantisgolfco.com

Nexbelt
The belt with no holes.

The Go-In series for golfers was a featured Product of the Month in 2013 on GolfTalk Live, and the success has continued for Nexbelt.  The company took home a national award from the 2014 PGA Show.  With more than 90 designs and the unique quarter-inch ratcheting system, they are offering a Father’s Day sale of 20% off all men’s belts.

Sale ends on midnight, 6/15/2014.  Go to www.nexbelt.com, place your order and enter the word FATHER at checkout.

Personal Golf Fan
“Isn’t it about time comfort was par for the course?”
The slogan of the patented Personal Golf Fan tells the story.  With the days heating up, this product is sure to keep golfers cool throughout their entire round.  The Personal Golf Fan fits almost every golf cart manufacturer cup holder, generating the equivalent to a 20 mph wind.

Go to www.pgffan.com to order, use promo code FAN to get free shipping.

With so many great golf products to choose from, it can be overwhelming to find exactly what Dad is looking for.  Make it easy by choosing one or more of the items on this list.  Be sure to check the GolfTalk Live homepage each month to see the Product of the Month.

Featured this month is a beautiful Bulova Accutron II watch that can be picked up for over $100 off the retail price at Inside Jewelers on West Chester Pike in Broomall, PA.

For more product features, follow @TLgolftalklive on Twitter and “Like” GolfTalk Live on Facebook – Listen to GolfTalk Live every Saturday morning at 7 on www.wntp.com.


By Tony Leodora

For the past three years the team of Ken Gibson and Jeff Ploppert have shown the ability to rise to the occasion. They proved it again when the GolfTalk Live Winter Invitational Series invited the best-of-the-best to compete in the season-ending Tournament of Champions at Play-a-Round Golf on Lancaster Pike in Malvern.

The tandem combined for a record-setting net score of 11-under-par 25 in the nine hole final, winning by six shots over a field of teams that qualified with strong performances during the year.

Ploppert contributed with a pair of timely birdies on the only holes where his partner struggled, but quickly admitted that the team’s success was really a one-man show.

“Ken was absolutely on fire today,” said Ploppert, after Gibson shot a 38 gross/28 net on his own ball. “I honestly don’t believe he can play any better than that.”

Gibson shrugged it off by saying, “Some days it just all falls into place.”

Finishing second was the husband-wife team of Jim and Eileen Whitmore at net 31. Third place went to the duo of Jim Woodward and Artie Schenck.

As always, the management team of Steve Graves and Steve Graves Jr. hosted the event, set up the course (back 9 at TPC Sawgrass) and provided the scorekeeping.

“This was, by far, the best year we have had for the Winter Invitationals,” said Graves Sr. “We were almost sold out every week and had a tremendous group of people playing. It was a nice mix of the old standbys and a number of newcomers. We are already looking forward to next season.”

The GolfTalk Live Winter Invitationals are held on a number of Saturday mornings throughout the winter, immediately following the live broadcast of the award-winning GolfTalk Live radio show. The show began its eighth year on the air March 1 and is hosted by Tony Leodora.


Tony’s Test Drives
One in a series of occasional reviews of courses, destinations, equipment or products by our traveling golf writer and host of the GolfTalk Live radio show.

By Tony Leodora

I can’t hide it any more. I must make a public admission.

I have been conducting a 20-year affair with a temptress who has a large legion of other lovers.

How could I resist. Her beauty is beyond explanation. Her allure is sexy and seductive. She has given me an enormous amount of pleasure – for the last 20 years.

And also a fair share of frustration.

But I never get tired of the experience. The passion still burns bright.

My 20-year love affair is with Caledonia Golf and Fish Club – located at the south end of Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand.

It was love at first sight.

I first visited Caledonia just a couple of months after it opened, in January of 1994. The late Mike Strantz, had just finished work on the course – his first solo venture after a number of years working with the design team of acclaimed golf course architect Tom Fazio.

The creative artistry of Strantz had dominated many of Fazio’s projects in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s – and it was quite evident at Caledonia.

Strantz painted a work of art on the landscape canvas that once was a bustling rice plantation at Caledonia. Amidst the abundant live oaks, draped with Spanish moss, and the scenic low country wetlands, Strantz seemed to concentrate as much on beauty as he did on strategic golf.

Walking the property with Strantz, and talking about his debut solo project, there was a lot of conversation about the merits of Caledonia. He pointed out some of the construction challenges, highlighted the design strengths and commented on the finishing touches – such as ornamental plants and flowers, wooden covered bridges, and the wrought-iron and brick overpasses that allow golfers to manipulate their way through the wetlands.

At one point, Strantz stopped dead in his tracks and gazed out at the impressive landscape. In a comment that seemed more inspired by genuine amazement, instead of a lack of humility, he said, “I think we’ve got something very special here.”

The thousands of golfers who have visited Caledonia over the last 20 years agree. So do the golf course rating panels.

Caledonia has been rated in a number of Top 100 lists – including Golfweek’s Top 100 Modern Courses, Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play, and America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses by Golf Digest.

Bob Seganti is the director of golf operations at Caledonia – as well as the neighboring sister-course at True Blue. He expanded his duties from True Blue, taking over both jobs after the death of longtime Caledonia Director of Golf and best friend Todd Welden last fall. Seganti is a native of the Philadelphia suburbs, but came to the Pawley’s Island area in 1995. And never gave moving away a thought.

“I fell in love with the area right from the start,” said Seganti. “And the same thing with the golf courses. Caledonia is just a classic beauty and just an outstanding rout. It’s almost a floral garden, with all the feature trees and landscaping. True Blue is like its naughty sister. It is a challenging course that is loved by hardcore golfers.”

For 20 years Caledonia has served as one of the leaders with regard to golf excellence in the Myrtle Beach area. People still regard it as the jewel of their annual golf trip. Even if they are staying on the northern end of the Grand Strand, the long drive to Caledonia, on the very southern end, is never too long.

“People never seem to tire of this golf course,” Seganti reported. “They come early, they stay late. They sit on the rocking chairs on our back porch and watch the golfers trying to deal with our 18th hole.”

While the 18th hole is one of the most memorable tests at Caledonia – because of the demanding tee shot and even tougher second shot to a green that is staunchly protected by water – it is only one in a memorable collection. It has been called “a collection of 18 signature holes.”

And it’s hard to believe it has already been around for 20 years.

“We have a number of special things planned for this 20th anniversary year,” said Seganti. “There are some specials we will be running, and some special events we are planning.”
It is a year-long birthday celebration for a course that definitely deserves celebrating.

And, after the latest rendezvous, there seems to be no reason to break up this 20-year love affair.