A Bucket List Event
If the Myrtle Beach World Amateur isn’t on your golf bucket list, I urge you to update that list.
Do you like tournaments? Do you enjoy seeing new golf courses? Would like o party with 3000 of your new closest friends?
The World Am is the world’s largest tournament (3000+ players and 60 courses). It’s beautifully run and split into numerous flights (by age, gender, and handicap level) so you’re always playing against folks of your own ability level. Each flight of about 50 golfers plays over four days on a different course each day. The winners of each flight meet for the Friday playoff to determine the World Am World Champion.
It’s a blast. And it also features the “World’s Largest 19th Hole,” which provides all the food and drink you can consume for Monday through Thursday nights of the event. (It’s included in your entry fee.) Yes, I did say food and drink. Free. Catered by the area’s better-known restaurants, with a different menu each night.
This year was the first time for me, but some people have come more than a dozen times. It’s always the last week of August, and yes, it tends to be hot and humid in South Carolina in late August. But the morning shotgun gives you plenty of time to get to the beach or pool afterward, and then back to the 19th hole.
Each flight gets their course assignments about a week before the event. The flights are finalized by the last available GHIN handicap listing, which tends to be August 15. (The World Am has a very aggressive handicap-watching team to prevent sandbagging. In fact, if someone shoots too far below their handicap range, the committee may retroactively reduce scores or even disqualify players.)
So what is the experience like?
It’s a four-day stroke-play tournament. It’s competitive as you make it. But it’s also good-spirited, sometimes hilarious (if you have a fun-loving foursome), and always great fun.
Registration begins in March, and there are regular email communications right up through the summer. On Saturday or Sunday before the Monday start, you report to the PGA Superstore to sign in and get your event goodie bag, which this year included a golf shirt, hat, bagtag, ball marker and divot tool, rain shirt, and a backpack. Plus a $20 gift certificate to the store and a raffle ticket to the opening night welcome party, held at Broadway at the Beach. Most people also play a practice round or two at one of their assigned courses or elsewhere. I tried out Tidewater, which is a spectacular layout (especially the par 3s) on the Intercoastal Waterway.
My assigned courses were Myrtle Beach National (South Creek), Willowbrook Plantation, Long Bay Club, and Lion’s Paw. Each had a distinctive character but they all had Bermuda rough—which is the meanest, nastiest, most evil creation in golf. The mantra on any Myrtle Beach course is “avoid the rough.” While this is true on any course, in New England you can sometimes recover. With Bermuda rough, you’re not going to hit any club more than 80-100 yards—just take your medicine and get back to the fairway. On the other hand, Bermuda greens are great to putt, as long as you pay attention to the grain.
Most of Myrtle is just above sea level, so water, sand, and trees are the courses’ main defense. Willowbrook had gorgeous oaks with flowing Spanish moss. Long Bay, our toughest course, had huge waste bunkers and multiple mounds that helped or hindered your ball, depending upon the accuracy of your shot. Lion’s Paw, our northernmost venue, actually had hills and several elevated tees and greens.
Each day is a shotgun, and the foursomes are remixed daily so you meet a wide variety of players. On the fourth day, they pair leaders together and assign holes by your standing, leaders going off number 1. I found my playing partners to be polite, knowledgeable about the rules, and generally willing to play “ready golf.” When there was confusion about any issue, the foursome was able to work it out. After each round, we turned in scorecards to the pro shop, which then entered and sent them to event headquarters. (Those who wanted to could actually enter scores in real time on the World Am app.)
One of the cool things about the 19th hole, which is hosted nightly at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, are the huge screen TVs that list the day’s leaders in each flight, and there are about 60 flights. It was truly a thrill to see my name in 5th place the first day. And that was to be my last moment of glory. I ended up 27 of 51 in our flight (Super Seniors, age 70-79, handicaps 23+). There are flights at all handicap levels for men and women and they have added gross flights in the recent years.
We’ve run out of space to describe all the details and people you’ll experience at the MBWA. Please—check it out for yourself. To learn more, visit