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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Back on the prowl: A Big Cat reopens following renovations to greens and bunkers

The course had been one of just five in the Myrtle Beach market with bentgrass greens.

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Leopard’s Chase Golf Links will reopen Friday morning with new greens, improved drainage in bunkers and other improvements.

The 7,155-yard Tim Cate design in Sunset Beach, N.C., closed in early July for the renovations despite being one of the two newest public golf courses on the Grand Strand, having opened in 2007.

Only the Founders Club at Pawleys Island, which opened early in 2008 as the rebuilt Sea Gull Golf Club, has opened more recently.

Leopard’s Chase had been one of just five remaining area courses with bentgrass greens, but its L93 bent was changed to TifEagle ultradwarf Bermudagrass.

Bent is a cool-weather grass that tends to become stressed in the summer heat, so the once prevalent grass has been replaced nearly universally in the Myrtle Beach market with varieties of ultradwarf Bermuda, a warm-weather grass.

In addition to the greens, “we did some bunker restoration, primarily improving drainage, and used sod to address some higher profile weak areas in approaches and collars,” said Ocean Ridge Plantation director of marketing Bill Long in an email.

Leopard’s Chase is one of the four “Big Cats” courses at Ocean Ridge Plantation.

The renovations were overseen by Leopard’s Chase superintendent David Pridgen, who spent two decades as the superintendent at Meadowlands Golf Club and several years at Glen Dornoch Waterway Golf Links.

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Leopard’s Chase has been ranked among the top 12 public courses in North Carolina by Golfweek Magazine as recently as 2020 and was in the magazine’s top 10 in 2018, and has been ranked among the top 10 public courses in N.C. by Golf Magazine as recently as 2016.

It has multiple waterfalls to the side of the 18th green, huge coquina boulders throughout the property lining water hazards and hills, elevation changes, rolling terrain, undulating greens that can fall off in multiple directions, and dramatic bunkering.

Cate’s other courses of note in the area include Tiger’s Eye at Ocean Ridge and Cape Fear National.

The conditions of the courses at Ocean Ridge have been inconsistent over the past couple years, But Tiger’s Eye and Lion’s Paw Golf Links hosted rounds in the PlayGolfMyrtleBeach.com World Amateur Handicap Championship last week, and Long said the club received no complaints about course conditions. He said the conditions at Panther’s Run Golf Links are catching up to the others.

“All three should be in fine shape for the fall season,” Long said.

All four Ocean Ridge courses once had bentgrass greens but all have transitioned to Bermuda since 2010.

Lion’s Paw has MiniVerde Bermuda greens that were renovated in 2018, while TifEagle was installed on Tiger’s Eye in 2017 and Panther’s Run in 2018, Long said.

The market is left with just four courses with bentgrass greens: Crow Creek Golf Club, The Wizard Golf Links, Man O’War Golf Club, and the Sea Trail Golf Resort Maples Course.

The recently-renovated 13th green at Leopard’s Chase Golf Links (Ocean Ridge Plantation photo)

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