It seems miniature golf came to SC and the Democrats left

6 mins read


It is Saturday, and I’m on the 11th floor of the Avista Resort in North Myrtle Beach. North Myrtle Beach was once called Ocean Drive Beach and was a destination for tobacco farmers and small town bankers who had made enough money to rent a cottage for two weeks in June.

These were World War II veterans from Rockingham, Kinston and Rocky Mount, N.C., who had made enough money to the sit on the beach with their wives and watch their children swim in the surf.

But, in time, these newly prosperous folks would tire of the beach; of playing bingo at the beach-side pavilion; of making sure their daughters got back from the Pad (a dancing joint) with their virtue intact. These folks wanted more than a day in the sun followed by the Captain’s Platter in Calabash.

In the late 1960s, local entrepreneurs — sensing a shift away from nighttime Bingo and bumper cars — decided there was money in miniature golf. At first these courses were little more than indoor/outdoor carpet bordered by two by fours. Then these young men discovered Fiberglas.

In May of 1975, I was living in Beaufort County but writing for a magazine called Osceola. In an effort to better understand what was called Putt-Putt, I pitched a story to the editor of this irreverent, statewide publication.

“No. 7 (at Jungle Golf) is an interesting hole that includes a waterfall, a giraffe and three baby elephants, but does not, in my opinion, present the challenge offered by No. 10. No. 10 presents several routes to the cup. What appears to be the most direct (through a cluster of rocks) is probably the most difficult. The less direct routes are more predictable (sensible), but one loses the opportunity for a hole-in-one. Does one play the percentages or attack, hell-for-leather, the thing in a frontal assault?”

In those days, Osceola was in the business of attacking the General Assembly with probing, largely critical coverage of the ‘legislation’ undertaken in Columbia.

Earlier (in 1974) a young reformer had tried to take over the Democratic Party but the South Carolina Supreme Court decided that Charles “Pug” Ravenel was a non-resident.

“Wacky Golf (several locations along the Grand Strand) can be easily identified by the large fiberglass volcano that appears to be a standard feature of the chain. These courses are somewhat beyond the writer’s ability at description. However I will comment on two holes that deserve comment.

One hole involves a small church through which one must play. Don’t be distracted by the quotation above the door – “I am happy to enter the house of the Lord” – or the 6-foot rabbit nearby. Concentration is the point here. A second hole involves a ramp that leads to the belly of a kangaroo. If you are fortunate your shot will enter the plastic pouch, and then emerge from the animal’s tail. Not anatomically correct, but an automatic hole-in-one.”

The Supreme Court appeal that questioned Ravenel’s residency was brought by a retired restaurant owner and a radio personality — and Democrats claimed the suit was funded by Republicans. However, there was always the suspicion that appeal originated with Democratic, old boy establishment, who were threatened by Ravenel’s determination to reform and reshape their party.

“Pirate Golf (Ocean Drive Beach) and Gator Golf (Myrtle Beach) are not in the same league as Jungle or Wacky Golf, but each provide an hour of pleasant, if unremarkable play.

Likewise Circus Golf, on Ocean Drive,, is a distinct notch below the aforementioned Jungle and Wacky golf.

However, there is one course near Pirateland that features a sort of free-form concrete sculpture. These elongated concrete forms are only props (not actually incorporated into the course) but do provide a bizarre, Alice in Wonderland-like environment for the enthusiast.

Pug Ravenel’s removal took young voters — their energy and enthusiasm — out of the race and gave a Republican, James Edwards, a shot at the office. In that election our own Brantley Harvey beat Carroll Campbell for Lt. Governor, but the excitement that was essential for a Democratic gubernatorial victory vanished.

Many believe this was the beginning of the end for Democrats in South Carolina. And in a few years Democrats would be swept from every statewide office.

While I was happily writing about kangaroos, rabbits and baby elephants, the Democratic Party was ceding reform and renewal to the Republicans.

One wonders if the Democrats will ever return.

Scott Graber is a lawyer, novelist, veteran columnist and longtime resident of Port Royal. Email Scott at cscottgraber@gmail.com.

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