Location. Location. Location. Who hasn’t heard this real estate mantra. Yet, in a changing world, even this concept is evolving. In the retail market, with digital tools doing the heavy lifting, we are seeing a decline in brick and mortar locations. It’s now crucial to optimize your visibility on the internet.
Still a location, but quite different than in the past. The residential market has not been affected in quite the same way, but with rising prices and tighter inventory it has seen a shift. Many people locate a little outside of their ideal location and turn to fixer uppers. Yet there is one area where time has stood still and where location is still paramount.
We are speaking of golf courses and, more particularly, golf courses in South Carolina. We’re going to take you on a little trip and introduce you to our picks for the most scenic golf courses in the beautiful state of South Carolina.
Saying that South Carolina has scenic and beautiful golf courses is like stating that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west….it goes without saying! South Carolina has a rich golf tradition.
Golf in the Lowcountry (and actually all of America) can be traced to 1786 and the formation of the South Carolina Golf Club and the Harleston Green course in Charleston. Charleston’s Scottish merchants likely introduced the city to golf. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club at St. Andrews, Scotland, was founded in 1754. In 1759, a Charleston merchant, Andrew Johnson, returned from a trip from Scotland with golf clubs and balls that were later mentioned in his estate.
The “course” was a rough rectangle between streets we now know as Calhoun and Beaufain from Rutledge to Barre. Slaves apparently served as the earliest “finders” (caddies). They often cleared America’s first official golf course of children and animals yelling “fore” to forewarn. In 1795, there was a mention of a Harleston Green “club” house in the Charleston City Gazette. Mysteriously the South Carolina Golf Club vanished from historical records after 1799.
Decline in golf in the 1800’s might be traced to Thomas Jefferson’s controversial Embargo Act of 1807, forcing a decline in Charleston’s commercial dealings with Great Britain and other countries. Homes also began to invade the area of Harleston Green after 1800.
In 1892, the Palmetto Golf Club was formed in Aiken and a 4 hole course was constructed, later expanded to 18. The Palmetto is still flourishing today and holds the distinction of being the second oldest continuously operating golf club in the United States.
Now that I’ve warmed up on the practice range, and as I head over to the putting green, let’s talk about what we mean when we say ‘scenic golf course.’ What is it that makes us feel so good on some golf courses? Is it the setting? The beauty? The challenge? All three? As you will see, ‘scenic’ can be complex and nuanced.
Golf is like no other sport. The dimensions and characteristics of a golf course changes from day to day, week to week and throughout the span of a lifetime. Differences between golf courses are infinite.
With this in mind, ranking the most scenic courses might seem an insurmountable task….but to me, that’s the fun!
Make Sure To Check Out Our Guide To South Carolina Wineries You Need To Visit!
Allow me to try to explain how I arrived at my selections. I am guided by two main principles – a course should be playable and an interesting challenge for golfers of every standard, and the course should sit as lightly as possible in the natural environment. Courses are built with different intentions, so in this article I am concentrating on private courses. I will also try to give you some guidance as to playing these courses. In my opinion, they provide the ultimate golf experience coupled with nature’s bounty to create the best scenic aesthetic.
The courses I have selected have affected me in a personal way. Much like a good meal or an enjoyable concert, these strategic, scenic and textural courses linger with me long after a round….leaving me fulfilled and satisfied, not overwhelmed but satisfyingly content.
The most scenic and satisfying courses are where the course designer creates alongside nature, to give the players a feeling of being surrounded by natural beauty, not man-made or artificial beauty. The most memorable courses harmonize with their surroundings and use to the fullest the potential and restrictive conditions that the natural landscape offers.
Note: If you are familiar with past selections on different subjects, any selection of courses is not an exact science and any ranking is an inherently subjective exercise. Once again, the selections are in no particular order or preference but do represent the most scenic private courses in South Carolina.
Yardage, as to holes, is from the farthest tee. All clubs have 4 to 5 setups so that people of all abilities can enjoy the experience. A course of 7000 yards can be played at 5000, 5500, 6500 depending on tee placements.
The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek
History – Situated on St. John’s Island and opened in 2002 as a private club. Course architect was Rees Jones, designer on a dozen US Open and PGA Championship Courses….need I say anything more about pedigree?
Details – 900 acres of farmland, woodland and wetlands. Adjacent residential property barely visible. Audubon certified conservancy. Flourishing wildlife including white ibis, wood storks and bald eagles. Many Lowcountry landforms – wandering rivers, creeks, mashes, and saltwater estuaries. Multiple holes play alongside marshes that are obstacles, but also a roadway to fabulous views of Briar’s Creek and the Kiawah River.
Par 72 7130 yds
6th, 415 yds, par 4 – Marshes to the left, 3 bunkers and snake infested fescue protecting an undulating green
7th, 563 yds, par 5 – A prodigious distance with a forced 180 yd carry over marshland onto a sloping green
17th, 234 yds, par 3 – Maybe most daunting hole on course. Long all carry over marsh to small green falling at back.
MY FAVORITE – 13th, 423 yds, par 4 – A precise test of distance and control with a green angling across the tee.
19th tee – Membership limited to 300. Golf Digest’s Best New Private Course 2002. Caliber driving range, short game area, practice green. Play when you are ready – no tee times.
The Golf Club at Briar’s Creek
4000 Briar’s Creek Lane
John’s Island, South Carolina
The Cliffs at Glassy
History – A 3500 acre mountain community and one of the Cliffs seven communities. Course designed by the classic golf architect Tom Jackson and opened in 1993
Details – South Carolina’s only mountain course. At 3,000 feet, a lush ribbon meandering through dense hardwoods. 15 holes offer 75 mile views dotted with incredibly designed homes. Golf Digest has ranked it the fourth most scenic course in America only behind Cypress Point, Pebble Beach and Augusta National. An ascending and descending course of spectacular beauty.
Par 72 6805 yds
13th, 159 yds, par 3 – Most pick this as the signature hole ending at the highest point in the course with amazing views.
18th 606 yds, par 5 – Massive long hole which speaks to the immensity of this mountain experience.
MY FAVORITE – 1st, 371 yds, par 4 – Runs along a lake fed by a waterfall. Daylilies fringe the tee box.
19th Hole – 24,000 sq. ft. clubhouse, driving range, pitching area, putting green. Fitness/wellness center. Membership includes access to the Cliff’s other 6 courses. Island green for lessons.
The Cliffs at Glassy
200 Fine Pink Way
Landrum, South Carolina
Long Cove Golf Club
History – Residential golf course designed by hall of famer Pete Dye and his wife Alice in 1981. The course is consistently ranked for its beauty and challenges.
Details – Challenging (but not disheartening) Pete Dye design. Most immaculately maintained course on Hilton Head encompassing marshes, creeks and moss draped oaks. Total natural feel, as the course wraps itself around the land. Water is prominent on 12 holes, and many are tree-lined. Some desert like. Bordering on the Intracoastal Waterway. Residential community set back unobtrusively. Grounds are home to an abundance of wildlife. Alligators are part of the gallery.
Par 71 7094 yds
5th, 317 yds, par 4 – Confounding – see green from tee but approach totally blind due to mound.
14th, 417 yds, par 4 – Sweeping dogleg. When marsh grass is high cannot see fairaway or green. Stunning vistas.
13th, 163 yds, par 3 – Runs along the marsh. All-carry to peninsula green with view back toward mainland.
MY FAVORITE – 3rd, 539 yds, par 5 – Hazards length of hole right to left. Golf Digest included this hole in an article describing the 18th toughest holes in the U.S.
19th Hole – Tennis, Marina, Pool, Dog Park, Practice facilities, Residences. Golfweek’s 23rd best residential golf course in the U.S. (2019)
Long Cove Club
399 Long Cove Dr
Hilton Head Island S.C
Chechessee Creek Club
History – Designed by the innovative team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as an “Old School” course. Opened in 2000.
Details – Traditional design elements of the kind that South Carolina coast courses have rarely seen since the 1920’s. Magnificent specimen oaks serve as guideposts for routing the course so that it bends and curves around the trees. All the charms of Lowcountry restraint. Golf the way it used to be. Seamless integration of course, clubhouse, practice area, lodgings and parking. Landscaping of camellias, azaleas, magnolias and hollies freeform. No manicured lawn.
Par 70 6606 yds
3rd. 350 yds, par 4 – Perfect example of what this course is about – a test for the good golfer but still providing room for enjoyment for the less accomplished.
7th 178 yds, par 3 – Most beautiful hole on the course. Panoramic marsh and creekviews.
12th, 330 yds, par 4 – Shortest par 4, but demands a 165 yd carry over water.
MY FAVORITE – 13th, 165 yds, par 3 – Epitomizes this course. Within the reach of every skill set yet the target green is so elusive to find that any miss probably means 3 to 4 more shots.
Relatively short at 6,606 yds but the key is 5 par 3’s. That is the equaliser.
19th Hole – It’s not often that a parking lot stands out but the one at Chechessee goes far in explaining why this is a unique place. No big asphalt lot here – instead, irregular shaped clusters of 3 to 4 gravel spaces all under trees. Rambling clubhouse in the middle of the course provides an intimate setting. Driving range, short game area, putting greens.
Chechessee Creek Club
18 Chechessee Dr.
Greenville Country Club, Chanticler
History – The Greenville Country Club is located in one of South Carolina’s most prestigious neighborhoods and dates from 1905. Originally known as the Sans Source Country Club, it has evolved into a club boasting two 18 hole courses, the Riverside and Chanticler. The Riverside is the older course, but the premier course is the Robert Trent Jones designed Chanticler.
Details – Rolling fairways, towering hardwoods and pines, gently flowing creeks, pure white sand, challenging greens. Never at odds with the environment. Timeless appeal. Not one indifferent hole. Babbling creek intersects a number of holes. Might be the best course ever designed by the larger than life RTJ.
Par 72 6864 yds
7th – 510 yds, par 5 – A treat for any golf level. Big hitter, can go for 2 to the green. For the rest, lay it up and pitch.
8th – 400 yds, par 4 – Comparable to the 13th at Augusta with a stream across the tee at 200 yds. Green complexity, maybe best ever by RTJ.
12th – 395 yds, par 4 – Maybe the hardest sub-400 yds in golf. Dogleg around creek, then uphill to narrow tiered green.
MY FAVORITE – 17th 500, par 5 -Stream cuts across 50 yards from green. Green setback and open – Jones baiting you to go for it – the great Sam Snead loved this hole….and that’s enough for me!
19th hole – Pro shop, restaurant driving range, practice bunkers, teaching facilities.
Greenville Country Club, Chanticler Course
502 Garden Trail
So there you have it, our selections for the five most scenic golf courses in the state. All bring variety, memorability and aesthetics. Now, you might ask if you can ever play at these courses. In most cases, the answer is yes, but it will take some work.
The easiest way, of course, is to be invited by a member. Don’t know a member but this article has piqued your interest in a club? Just call them up. Many clubs offer a review round for potential members. Many clubs also have charity golf events and non-members are welcome to participate. The Chanticler, for example, has many.
Just check a club’s website or call. Many clubs also have tournaments under the auspices of the South Carolina PGA. Events like 4 ball championships, father/son and senior tournaments are usually open to all with some qualifications. Check with a club or the South Carolina PGA. Some clubs offer lessons by their golf pro to non-members. If you are interested in a club, call the pro shop.
Also, clubs with residential properties to sell will usually offer a complimentary round of golf to a prospective buyer. Though not a given, sometimes an experienced, well-versed travel agent can get access to an exclusive club.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Hopefully this article draws you to the beauty, wonder and pleasure of these five amazing scenic golf courses.
I often ponder why some courses make me feel so good. Why does a course stir me so emotionally? Think about it: have you ever walked into a home and felt the warmth of the surroundings? You just feel at home immediately. What causes that?
To me, there is something in our humanity that, at its most basic level, perceives beauty and harmony. And that brings joy. So, if you’re a person who revels in the majesty of a dramatic backdrop while taking a swing, these courses are for you.