Tigers Eye Golf Links.
Set in Sunset Beach North Carolina, just up from Myrtle Beachis a group of course that are spectacular. Collectively known as the “Big Cats’ the group comprises of Lions Paw, Panthers Run, Leopards Chase, soon to come Jaguars Lair, but my favorite is Tigers Eye.
Tim Cate designed this $10 million golf course that sits just over the North Carolina border at Ocean Ridge Plantation in North Carolina’s Brunswick islands.
The layout is one of the best in the North Strand, and the course is regularly recognized as one of the ten best at the beach. Cate’s cleverly, yet traditionally designed golf links were patched together through an amazing piece of coastal property that contains over 60 feet of elevation change.
At 7014 yards from the back tees and a slope of 144, Tiger’s Eye will challenge low handicappers, but five sets of tees enable the average golfer to manage the course without any major disasters.
Water is in play on 13 holes, and Tim Cate has mostly placed the hazards to the right of the fairways and greens.
A few holes, like the par four fourth, and the par five 15th, bring water into play for golfers with draws, but if you are like most average golfers, and hit a fade, the Tiger will be on your heels the entire round.
The opening hole is probably the easiest a par four that plays only 313 yards from the white “Bengal” tees. The safe tee shot should favour the right side, but a nicely drawn Hybrid will put you in the best position with a wide-open look at the green.
The par three second hole, however, is the toughest par 3 on the course and index 9 handicap hole overall. Forty-five feet of uphill elevation change, two deep greenside bunkers and a small pond to the left ensure that golfers don’t get too complacent from the start.
The entire course plays through a nature preserve, and the challenge, simply put by OCP Director of Golf Tom Plankers, is to stay out of it.
“The difficulty at Tiger’s Eye is truly in the greens,” says Plankers. “There are no flat spots, but they are not ridiculously undulating or tricked up. You have to pay close attention to the pin placement sheet, or it will cost you stokes.”
Playing the course for the first time will also cost you strokes, according to Plankers.
Unlike the usual resort course, Tiger’s Eye was not designed for players to go out and shoot the best round of their life. To shoot your handicap, says Plankers, you need to experience the course two or three times.
“I would say that the second time you play it, you’ll have a five stroke advantage,” he says. “You’ll know the break of the greens, and that will be the key.”
Cate takes most of the guesswork out of the fairways by providing huge landing areas that are almost always visible from the tee box. Other time, however, he employs some visual deceptions that force players to contemplate their next shots like chess moves.
“This is the only course that I have played where you literally have to think about each and every shot,” Plankers says. “Even if you’ve played it a few times, you may know the lay of the land, but you still need to make a mental assessment of what you are doing.”
On the par four 4th hole, Cate splits the fairway with a waster bunker, and also tempts long hitters to go for the green in one. Short hitters have to decide whether to shoot for the left fairway over the water, leaving nothing more than a chip shot to the green, or play it safe down the right side.
On the par five 15th, a flared up fairway bunker appears to be much further away than it really is, making the green look almost unreachable in two shots. In reality the hole plays just 467 yards from the white tees, and 531-yards from the tips, and getting home in two is possible for players who draw the ball.
The par three 11th hole plays just 165 yards from the back tees to an island green fronted by a deep bunker. Normally the third easiest hole on the course, the No. 11 can play two clubs longer with the coastal breeze in your face. Nothing is worse than smashing a solid iron shot on this hole, watching it rise above the tree line, then it drops like a rock into the water below.
I have played this course maybe 4 times, as well as the others, there is something about Tigers Eye that stands out though, it is one of those courses that you remember long after you are home.
Designer: Tim Cate
Year Opened: 2000
Turf: Greens – bent grass, Fairways – Bermuda
Slope/Ratings: Saber Tooth 73.5/144, Amur 71.4/139, Bengal 68.1/124, Caspian (Men) -66/108, Caspian (Women) 70.1/128, Tigress 66.6/108
Saber Tooth 7014, Amur 6628, Bengal 6120, Caspian (Men) – 5136, Caspian (Women) 5136, Tigress 4502.
Address: 360 Ocean Ridge Parkway SW, Sunset Beach, NC 28469
Head Professional: Tom Plankers