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.