By Roger Cox, Editor
Put it down to guilt by geographic association. A mere 18 miles separates the Litchfield Beach & Golf Resort from the honkytonks and highrises of Myrtle Beach, and so the assumption among those who've never been there is that this 4,500-acre resort must be just another developmental eyesore on the glory that is the Grand Strand. In fact, Litchfield lies in a different county, one whose zoning ordinances are so much more stringent that as you drive south from the airport on Hwy. 17 you recognize the precise location of the jurisdictional boundary by the end of the strip malls and the beginning of forested green space.
The resort itself straddles the highway. Most of the lodging occupies the lagoon-dotted lowlands between the road and Litchfield Beach, while the resort's three golf courses and its parklike tennis club meander through the live oak and pine forests and former rice plantations off to the west. A series of one-to-three-bedroom condominium towers—none taller than the county mandated five stories—rise behind the 15-foot dunes lining a glorious ribbon of beach innocent of crowds. Inland, lagoons and open space separate scattered clusters of villas and townhouses (the two-bedroom villas in Lakeside are particularly outstanding) and a few tasteful three-bedroom homes. Walk by any of these lagoons at night and you'll hear a cacophony of waterfowl. And since the resort has now completed all the construction allowed under its masterplan, that won't change.
As a tennis player it is easy to overlook this part of the Atlantic Coast for the quite simple reason that greater Myrtle Beach has become a synonym for golf, with more than 90 courses in the area. To some degree Litchfield is an exception. It has an excellent head pro in Joe Oyco, who has also taken over the operation of the resort's tennis school, and it has a well-attended series of weekly round robins.
Pro Shop: 843-237-3000, ext. 6674
The Litchfield Racquet Club lies a little more than a mile from most of the lodging, but that is a minor inconvenience considering everything it has to offer. The two-story pro shop at its core comes straight from the Lowcountry, all clapboard, broad porches, and rocking chairs. The 17 Har-Tru courts, accessible along brick-lined pathways, wrap around two sides in a parklike setting of magnolias, live oaks, and shrubbery. Outside stairs at either end of the pro shop provide access to a rooftop viewing area that overlooks the bleachered center court. All the remaining courts have been laid out in pairs, with Confederate jasmine climbing the fences. Between each pair is a brick patio with benches and water jugs beneath green-and-white-striped awnings. Next door is a new 40,000-square-foot wellness and fitness center built and managed by Georgetown Memorial Hospital but accessible to resort guests.
Courts & Fees. In addition to the 17 Har-Tru courts at the racquet club (three of which have lights), there are 7 hard courts,all with lights, among the condominiums in the main section of the resort. Those courts are free for guests to use. Court fees at the main racquet club are: $15/day, but free to anyone taking the school.
Beach. Litchfield Beach is a long boulevard of hard-packed Atlantic-washed sand bordered by 15-foot-high dunes. Strategically placed boardwalks provide access over the dunes to the sand and water.
Golf Courses. There are more than 90 golf courses in the Greater Myrtle Beach area, three of them at the resort. Staying here on a golf package provides an easy means to arranging tee times (and reduced greens fees) at any of the area courses, including the 9 or 10 near Litchfield that are among the best on the Grand Strand. From information about golf and golf packages, call 800-354-0846. At Litchfield you have:
Litchfield Country Club: One of the oldest courses on the Grand Strand, designed by noted architect Willard Byrd. Par 72. Length: 5,264-6,752 yards.
The River Club: Water comes into play on 14 holes of this tough, stunning course, designed by Tom Jackson. Par 72. Length: 6,677-5,084 yards.
Willbrook Plantation: Picturesque course laid out across two former Carolina rice plantations and tufted with live oaks. It is also home to the Bryan van der Riet Golf Academy. Par 72. Length: 6,674-4,694 yards.
Spa & Fitness Center. The core of the resort village has a small health club with an indoor swimming pool, perhaps a dozen pieces of cardiovascular or weight-training equipment, racquetball courts, sauna, steam and lockers. Far larger and more ambitious is the 40,000-square-foot wellness and fitness center adjacent to the resort's award-winning racquet club. Built and operated by Georgetown Memorial Hospital, it offers health screening and rehabilitation while providing Litchfield guests with a state-of-the-art workout facility, including an indoor lap pool, indoor/outdoor running track, and spa services.
And ... Each condominium complex has its own swimming pool, though the one at Bridgewater, one of the beachfront condo towers, stands out because it is large and freeform and includes a flowing river pool and a Jacuzzi. Beach umbrellas, chairs, and cabanas are available there and at Sandpiper Run next door.
The recreation department runs a variety of summer programs for children, including Red Cross swimming lesson, basketball, volleyball, and more.
Accommodations at Litchfield consist of a 96-room all-suite hotel near the entrance to scores of condominiums and homes ranging in size from one to four bedrooms. By far the largest cluster is a phalanx of roughly 10 3-to-6-story buildings constructed almost shoulder-to-shoulder behind the dunes lining Litchfield Beach, though those built inland, on lagoons and tidal creeks—a set of handsome one-story duplexes called Lakeside is a good example—are much less expensive. Rates vary according to location, size, view, and the season of the year.
There are five restaurants at Litchfield. Webster's Low County Grill & Tavern, at the entrance to the resort, may start in the Lowcountry with dishes like McClellanville blue crab cakes with sweet potato and mango salsa but soon wanders unpredictably to other parts of the South and New Orleans before detouring to Europe—escargots, Veal St. Julien. Prices are generally reasonable, and there are burgers, sandwiches, salads and pastas as well. The other dining options all three golf clubhouses. If none of that will do, ask the tennis staff for suggestions in nearby Murrell's Inlet or Pawley's Island.
It is hard to find another beach resort with all of Litchfield's recreational amenities and its attractive prices. Worth looking at are the other plantation resorts along this coast:
In the mountains, you may want to compare Litchfield to:
Lodging options range from rooms and hotel suites and 1-to-4-bedroom condos and homes. Minimum stays apply during certain times of the year. Bed & Breakfast rates available in selected lodging.
Visit the website for current rates
Seasons. Litchfield is open all year but is busiest in summer, with families and beachgoers. Winter can be fine for tennis—but not for the beach—and the tennis school may have very few students.
Travel Instructions. By Air: Litchfield is 18 miles from the Myrtle Beach Airport, a trip that takes only 20 minutes since the highway actually skirts around Myrtle Beach and thus keeps you out of its traffic. Rental cars and shuttles are available at the airport.
General Tourist Information. Visit the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce website or contact them at 1200 N. Oak St., P.O. Box 2115, Myrtle Beach, SC 29578; 843-626-7444 or 800-356-3016.
©2016 Roger Cox