At the beginning of 1994, Ernie Els was an unknown South African still in search of a win on American soil, Annika Sorenstam was without a professional victory, and Mike Strantz was an anonymous figure on the golf course architecture scene.
A lot changed in those 12 months, and the first domino to fall was the opening of Caledonia Golf & Fish Club on January 1, 1994, launching Strantz on the rocket ship to architectural stardom.
Caledonia, which combines Strantz’s architectural genius with a stunning piece of Lowcountry property, quickly became one of the most sought-after tee times in the game’s most popular destination.
Now, as Caledonia celebrates its 30th birthday this year, here are five fun facts about the course and its history that you almost surely didn’t know:
- Maybe Caledonia’s place among Myrtle Beach golf royalty was preordained. The Nesbit family were the property’s original, 19th century owners and they acquired the land from the King of Scotland, so it was only natural that it eventually became home to a golf course.
- Prior to being developed as a golf course, the land was used as a hunting and fishing club, and Caledonia’s owners wanted to maintain that history, hence the Golf & Fish Club name. The names of the tees – Pintail, Mallard, Wood Duck and Redhead – are also a nod to the land’s previous use as fertile grounds for duck hunting.
- Both Strantz and the course owners took great care to preserve the property’s natural beauty. The wetlands were fully preserved and on a property featuring hundreds of live oak trees, only two were removed during the construction process.
- While the course welcomed play on January 1, Caledonia’s stately clubhouse didn’t open until late March of 1994, allowing players to enjoy the stunning view of No. 18 during that first spring.
- Caledonia is the German word for Northern Ireland.
In the months leading up to Caledonia’s opening, Strantz was asked about the challenge of designing a course that is equal parts memorable and playable.
“That’s the ultimate challenge of any golf course architect,” he told The Sun News. “The goal really is to have somebody stand up on the tee and be dazzled at how beautiful it is, but not make it so hard that it’s miserable to be out there.”
After 30 years of delighting players, it’s safe to say Strantz aced his first solo architectural test.