Most golfers won’t get to play Augusta National or the Old Course at St. Andrews, but International World Tour Golf Links in Carolina Forest offers the closest thing to the world’s most famous golf courses this side of the pond.
The 18-hole, 6,525-yard Melvin Graham design opened in 1999, and is modeled after iconic holes at some of the world’s most famous golf courses.
The Open Nine serves as the front nine, and consists of holes inspired by courses that have hosted U.S. or British Opens. The Championship Nine consists of holes hosted by any of the four majors.
World Tour originally opened as a 27-hole course, but the International Nine closed in 2013 for possible redevelopment.
Founders Group International, a golf management company run by Chinese investors, bought World Tour in late 2014. Founders Group has hinted that the International Nine may reopen, but no firm plans have been set or announced.
The course is located at 2000 World Tour Boulevard off River Oaks Drive and is adjacent to River Oaks Golf Plantation.
As a disclosure to this review, I did not pay to play the course. As luck would have it, I won a gift certificate for a free foursome after winning a closest to the pin contest in a captain’s choice outing on June 14, and opted to redeem the prize in the form of four consecutive rounds as a single. This review represents a compilation of three of those rounds.
Our group in the June 14 outing included Bobbei Ruswinckel, an advertising representative for the Carolina Forest Chronicle, her husband Geoff and a young man named Tyler, who works at Island Green.
We played on a Sunday during the brutal heat wave that hit early last week.
As such, the grass appeared a little brown, but fairways were otherwise in great shape. Fairways were very firm and fast, resulting in some big drives. Greens were more lush and receptive to incoming shots.
Since then, the fairways have softened and become more green with some recent rains.
The roughs were not very deep, and the bunker sand was country club white.
Tyler was impressed by the cart paths, which were wide and smooth. He also appreciated that the par 5s were reachable in two.
Geoff was surprised the holes weren’t longer and that the course wasn’t more difficult. He also was intrigued by the first and ninth greens on the Open Nine, both of which are modeled after holes at St. Andrews.
Due to their massive size, sprinkler heads are embedded in the center of both putting surfaces. We surmised that balls coming to rest on the sprinklers are entitled to free relief as immovable obstructions under Rule 21-2, which also permits a free drop if the obstruction blocks the line of your putt.
Some recent reviews on Tripadvisor talk about World Tour losing all of its greens, but there was no evidence of that when we played.
In fact, all of the greens were smooth, consistent and rolled at an above average speed. Downhill putts were extremely quick.
There were indications that some holes had been resodded in spots, but this did not impact the consistency of the greens. On June 21, the greens were sandy from having been aerated, though they had mostly recovered by my third round June 28.
World Tour features a large, plantation-style clubhouse. The snack bar area is large and staff was friendly, responsive and accommodating.
Due to the heat, the beverage cart attendant was frequently running on the course, which was a relief.
Cart attendants offer shuttles to and from the parking lot and bag drop, though I didn’t utilize this service.
World Tour features some of the better practice areas at Grand Strand golf courses. The course offers a driving range, large practice green and a separate chipping green where you can also practice bunker shots.
Range balls are included in the green fees, which lean toward the higher end along the Strand. Walking is not allowed.
Summer rates are generally $59 for green fee and cart, with peak season rates set at $101, according to World Tour’s online tee time booking system. Local rates are available.
The driving range itself includes several bunkers that give golfers something to aim at. Most Myrtle Beach area golf course driving ranges merely plant flagsticks in an open field.
Carts come equipped with sand tubes for filling in divots, but no club or ball washers. Personal coolers are not allowed, which is consistent with most Strand golf courses. Carts do not come equipped with coolers.
In spite of drawing inspiration from the world’s toughest tracks, World Tour is not very long or difficult.
From the white tees we played on June 14, the course measured a little more than 6,200 yards. On four par 4 holes, I nearly drove the green due to firm and fast fairways, and relatively short yardages.
Three of the four par 3s play 150 yards or less from the men’s tee, and two are less than 130 yards. All of the par 5s are reachable in two, though No. 5 on the Open Course, inspired by No. 15 at English Turn, carries more risk than reward with its island green.
In some cases, the replica holes bear a strong resemblance to the originals.
No. 3 on the Open Nine is very true to No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, though World Tour’s version features a smaller green and shorter tee shot.
Others—such as No. 6 on the Championship Nine (inspired by Augusta’s No. 13) and No. 9 on the Open Nine (inspired by No. 18 at St. Andrews), are marginally similar.
No. 6 is not nearly as wooded and lacks the colorful azaleas in abundance at Augusta. No. 9 replicates the famous Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews, but Carolina Forest condos instead of seaside cottages that run up the right hand side detract from further authenticity.
In fairness, Nos. 1 and 9 at World Tour share the same fairway, just as Nos. 1 and 18 at St. Andrews. For safety reasons, both holes are usually cart path only.
World Tour’s toughest hole is the 415-yard ninth on the Championship Nine, which plays 382 yards from the white tees.
Modeled after No. 11 at Bay Hill, water and sand come into play off the tee. The green is guarded by water to the left, a sand trap to the right and slopes severely from back to front. The hole normally plays into the wind.