You don’t need to be a PGA Tour professional to have memorable experiences on South Carolina’s award-winning public courses
If you’re a golfer, you likely enjoy watching PGA Tour professionals compete on outstanding golf courses. It’s particularly enjoyable when they’re competing in my home state of South Carolina. Stewart Cink put on a great performance to capture his third RBC Heritage Championship on Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island. From first-hand experience, I can tell you the course is tight with small greens, but a must play for most amateur golfers.
Phil Mickelson wowed us at this year’s PGA Championship on The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort. Ranked the #4 Public Golf Course in the United States, prevailing winds off the Atlantic Ocean dictate play. At my age it’s not a course I’m ready to challenge, but if you get a chance, tee it up.
At the Palmetto Championship at Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South African Garrick Higgo captured his first PGA Tour victory. The Tom Fazio-designed course is certainly spectacular, but the club’s charitable arm Congaree Foundation is the story. Through the Congaree Global Golf Initiative, a college preparatory program for underserved high school players wanting to play college golf is delivering the promise.
On the campus of Clemson University, The Walker Course is certainly atop of my list for favorite South Carolina golf courses. Recently, Golfers Choice voted the Walker Course #1 in the “Best of 25 College Golf Courses” for 2021. The course is fit for every level of golfer evident by a recent multi-generational family outing. The beauty of the course is nothing short of spectacular with Hartwell Lake providing plenty of photo opportunities. clemson.edu/madren/golf/.
Another favorite is The Preserve at Verdae in mid-town Greenville, a course committed to the environment. The course uses native grasses and plants to reduce the need for water and fertilizers. The environment has attracted local wildlife and you can expect to see wild turkeys. The course offers different looks on every hole and it’s necessary to choose your clubs wisely. I’ve only played this one a few times, but I always walk away having enjoyed the challenge. thepreserveatverdae.com.
SANTEE COOPER COUNTRY AND PEE DEE REGION
If your stay is in this area of the state, you’ll find an abundance of fun and affordable options. High on my list is The Country Club of South Carolina in Florence. Back in the day, the course was a regular stop on the Nike Tour and I can share from first-hand experience it is a challenge for anyone’s game. Off I-95, or I-26 in the Santee Region with Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie are a number of courses. Having played Santee National, I can share it has its own character with a different take on “Amen Corner” and a finishing hole you’ll remember. Check out all the area courses at santeecoopergolf.com.
MYRTLE BEACH AREA
Call me a homeboy, but there’s a lot of golf to be played on the area’s almost 100 courses. I’d probably be better at picking my top 10 than just a few favorites, but here we go. On the south end, there are a dozen great courses, but a favorite of mine is the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club. I’ve played the course numerous times and find it stunning with its live oaks and moss drippings all within the setting of a coastal marsh.
The National Golf Course Owners Association in 2009 named Grand Dunes Resort Golf Club, “National Golf Course of the Year” and it still deserves that accolade. Moving a little further north, there’s plenty of great courses, but you cannot go wrong on Tidewater Golf Club. The legendary course sits on a peninsula flanked by the Intracoastal Waterway, ocean inlet and marshes forming a challenging layout in a beautiful natural setting. Browse these and other courses at golfholiday.com.
When your South Carolina visit brings you to Charleston, the best place to view courses, rates and ratings is the Charleston Golf Guide. We’ve shared a little about The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, but there’s another championship course, Turtle Point at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. A renovation led by Jack Nicklaus was competed in 2016 and exemplifies Nicklaus’ philosophy of having a player think through his options, before selecting a club. Check the courses and book a tee time for the Charleston courses at charlestongolfguide.com/courses/
Just as the Game of Golf in America started in Charleston with Harleston Greens in 1786, The City of Charleston Golf Course is where many area golfers get their start. Affectionately referred to as “The Muni,” The City Course opened in 1929 on James Island with land donated with the stipulation it would only be used for golf. It has known a great deal of Charleston golf history. You can book a tee time online at charleston-sc.gov/644/Golf.
GREATER BEAUFORT-PORT ROYAL
Located on Saint Helena, Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort is perfect for a golfing family vacation or a group of friends that just want to get away and play some golf. Ocean Point Golf Links opened in 1964. George Cobb’s design features small greens where iron play can be the key to a good round. Since the player on 10 of the 18 holes will see the Atlantic Ocean, wind will be a factor. In true links fashion, players will be able to run their ball onto the green. Ocean Creek Gold Club, a Davis Love III design, is a Par 71 private course with Member cards, or Amenity cards required. Do make the inquiry as the course is well worth playing. Wide fairways and larger greens are very playable, but stray shots can be damaging to your score. frippislandresort.com/golf/
Just 6 miles from Beaufort is the gated community of Dataw Island and its two award winning golf courses, Tom Fazio’s Cotton Dike and Arthur Hills’ Morgan River. Cotton Dike design utilizes a series of dikes from an 18th century cotton fields. Nearly half of the holes are bordered by Jenkins Creek. Morgan River requires a strategic game and along with the courses natural beauty provides a delightful experience for both the novice and professional. Dataw Island has hosted Carolinas PGA “South Carolina Open,” the SCGA ‘Senior Amateur,” “Junior Championship” and the “Amateur Championship” and the ‘TaylorMade/Adidas Intercollegiate.” Learn more at dataw.com
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
Golf has been played on Hilton Head Island since the early 1960s. Today, there’s plenty of golf to be played. We’ve already recognized Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort, but it’s here you’ll also find Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love and Heron Pointe by Pete Dye. The former won the prestigious NGCOA’s “National Course of the Year” and the latter has been recognized as “South Carolina’s Golf Course of the Year.”
At the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, you cannot go wrong with the George Fazio Course, or Robert Trent Jones Course. If I have to make a choice, I’ll choose Arthur Hills. The architect has utilized much of the existing typography to develop a course that favors shot making over distance. Since I no longer have the latter, it fits my game. There are plenty of additional public courses to get a tee time. Check out the courses at hiltonheadisland.org/golf/golf-courses. When visiting South Carolina for sports competition, plan to stay a few days and enjoy some golf.
By Dave Bodle