Stay and play in pristine Pawleys Island

In 2010, McConnell Golf made its then-sixth club acquisition, The Reserve Golf Club on Pawleys Island, S.C., for several different reasons. First, The Reserve offered McConnell Golf members an outstanding design by the legendary Greg Norman — providing a prominent new face in the enviable stable of McConnell Golf architects. Equally important, the 700-acre private gated Litchfield community is a popular beach vacation destination where many McConnell Golf members already owned second homes. For McConnell Golf, The Reserve was a natural fit.

Little wonder why folks are enchanted by this serene coastal escape. A narrow barrier island less than four miles long nestled between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean on Myrtle Beach’s South Strand, Pawleys Island is one of the oldest resorts on the East Coast, having served as the summer home to wealthy antebellum rice planters, who retreated to the island to escape the heat. The island’s slower pace and laid-back lifestyle encourage leisurely hours in hammocks with views across the wide expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Residents and visitors alike proudly call Pawleys Island “arrogantly shabby,” reveling in its simplicity and natural beauty.

In 1998, Greg Norman chose Pawleys Island to make his first mark in the Carolinas as a golf course architect. On 350 pristine acres walled in by the longleaf pines and hardwoods of the Waccamaw Neck, “The Shark” crafted a minimalist masterpiece, adorned by waste bunkers, native grasses, white sand stacked sod-walled bunkers, which provide a stunning contrast to the flat, brown sand waste areas and flawless green complexes that are enormous and crowned in places. There is no semblance of rough on the golf course. Since opening, The Reserve has garnered numerous state and national rankings.

“My ultimate goal (at the Reserve Club) wasn’t to create an extremely difficult course, just one that’s very challenging,” says Norman, who won more than 90 tournaments worldwide including two British Open Championships and claims the distinction of having held the No. 1 position in the world rankings for 331 consecutive weeks. “While you don’t have to hit it straight every hole, you always have to think straight.” 

When McConnell Golf purchased The Reserve, it converted the green complexes from Penn G-2 bentgrass — a cost-prohibitive, cool weather grass that fights the summer heat — to Champions ultra dwarf Bermuda. McConnell also spruced up the extensive fairway, waste, and greenside bunkering with new feldspar sand, the same type used at Augusta National Golf Club, site of The Masters. The Reserve also features one of the widest practice ranges at the beach, a short game area with a practice bunker and a true-rolling practice green. The result? In 2014, The Reserve was voted South Carolina’s “Club of the Year.”

The Reserve has hosted several championships, including the 1999 South Carolina Open, 2001-02 Carolinas Opens, 2003-05 Carolinas PGA Section Championships, 2014 South Carolina Amateur, 2012 S.C. Senior Championship, 2016 Carolinas Women’s Amateur, and a U.S. Open qualifier in 2000. In April, The Reserve will play host to the ACC Women’s Golf Championship.