True Blue 18_clubhouse view.jpg

In the days leading up to a review round at True Blue Golf Plantation, admittedly I was a tad concerned.

Some recent reviews posted in April on Tripadvisor were not complimentary of the course’s conditions, something that to me was at odds with my prior experiences. True Blue has always been one of the finest conditioned courses along the Grand Strand.

Here’s what I discovered.

Whoever authored those reviews was respectfully mistaken. The course was in as fine of shape as ever. The tees, fairways and greens were conditioned nicely and the course was consistent from tee to green.

Maintenance workers were toiling all day in the scorching heat during a review round in mid July.

If there was one inconsistency—and it’s a relatively minor one—it’s that the practice green was considerably faster than the rest of the course. I’d estimate the differential to at least one Stimptmeter reading.

The practice green was easily rolling 11 while the course itself was a solid 10. It took several holes to adjust, but it wasn’t a round buster.

Visually intimidating

For my review round, I was accompanied by my father, John Smith, and a couple named Chuck and Paulie from Orlando, Fla. It was a little awkward since we played from three sets of tees.

I played from the 7,126-yard championship black tees. My father and Chuck hit it from the 6,375-yard whites and Paulie played the 4,995-yard red tees.

True Blue is one of the toughest Strand courses around with a course rating of 74.5 and slope of 138. It’s visually intimidating, reminiscent of Pine Valley and Pinehurst No. 2, though ironically one of the easiest driving courses around.

Cavernous waste areas—all bunkers are played as sandy areas, even if there are rakes presents—make fairways look tight, but they’re wide open.

In my round I hit 11 of 13 fairways (there are five par 3s at True Blue), and one drive on No. 1 trickled into the rough by a foot. Yet I only managed to shoot 82.

I was actually 5 over par through 15 holes before double bogeying Nos. 16 and 18. I also doubled bogeyed the par 3 seventh and had no birdies.

Aside from a course with wide fairways, I prefer forced carries. I’m not a bump and run kind of guy. Too many variables to consider. Most of the holes at True Blue require some sort of carry over water, waste areas or combination of both.

My father liked that there were no bad holes at True Blue. Each one makes you think, he said.

Chuck also found True Blue to be a fair test, while Paulie rated it her favorite among the four courses they played during their stay. Wicked Stick, Pawleys Plantation and Caledonia (True Blue’s sister course) were the others.

Amenities

Range balls are included with your greens fees, which trend toward the upper echelon of Grand Strand Golf. Summer morning tee times fetch green and cart fees of $99, though a $49 twilight rate takes effect after 4 p.m.

Golfers can scoop as many balls from the bag drop as they wish. Just be sure to return the basket. The range itself is top notch with several greens guarded by bunkers resembling what you see on the course.

There’s also a tree line in the middle of the range, which realistically replicates the on-course experience. It’s a refreshing break from most ranges where you mindlessly blast drives into an open field.

Carts do not come equipped with GPS devices and the divot bottles to our carts were empty. Good news is there are sand refill stations on the course.

Key holes

A solid iron game is key to playing well at True Blue.

Regardless of what tee you play, forced carries are inevitable. The greens themselves are receptive, but proper club selection is crucial.

The par 3s in particular are the most challenging. I double bogeyed two of them and bogeyed another.

The most difficult is the 208-yard par 3 16th that plays 181 yards from the white tees. It’s all over water with a waste bunker guarding the front portion.

The green itself is relatively large and flat, but anything short or right is dead. So bail out left.

The 190-yard par 3 third that plays 141 yards from the whites is very difficult from the tips. On this hole I felt fortunate to hit a 6-iron to 15 feet as the tee shot is completely over water with no margin for error.

True Blue is unique in that there are six par 3s and five par 5s. It’s a par 35-37—72 setup.

Two par 5s—the 624-yard first and 602-yard 15th—extend beyond 600 yards and are true three-shotters. No. 10 plays 599 yards, but this dogleg right is reachable with two strong shots if you tempt the corner.

The 548-yard par 5 fourth takes a U-turn around a huge lake and is reachable if you’re willing to gamble. The 548-yard ninth that plays 517 yards from the whites is very reachable for players hitting up the right hand side.

There’s also some risk reward value on the par 4s.

On the 382-yard eighth hole that plays 341 from the whites, players can almost drive the green by cutting the corner of this dogleg right.

The 407-yard par 4 12th that plays 371 yards from the whites is considerably shorter for big hitters who can carry the waste bunker on the right.

The final three holes at True Blue are true tests.

After the aforementioned 16th, the 449-yard par 4 17th often plays into the wind. Water comes into play on the approach.

The final hole is one of the finest finishing holes around. Water guards the entire left side of the fairway and the front and left portions of the green.

Miss too far right and your in the driving range.

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