The home of golf in the United States is a hotly debated topic, but Charleston can actually lay claim to the nation’s first golf course and golf club–Harleston Green and the South Carolina Golf Club, both of which were established in 1786. And while Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head may be the main golfing destinations in the Palmetto State, Charleston also possesses its own rich golfing culture.
Golf in Charleston is fathomable and flat-out relaxing. Despite its popularity as a travel destination, the old town plays host to a limited number of golf courses, most of which sport designer names and are not afraid to charge accordingly. Some golfers may view this as a drawback; others may view it as charming and manageable. If you don’t want to deny yourself one of the true golfing pleasures in life, please choose the latter viewpoint.
Charleston area golf is strewn throughout a series of islands and peninsulas that collectively make up one of the most breathtaking golfing venues in the country. The most famed, revered and even feared of these golf facilities makes its home on Kiawah Island, just south of the city.
Kiawah is home to five golf courses, the most famous being the Ocean Course designed by Pete Dye. Many players and writers consider the Ocean Course to be one of the most difficult in the United States, what with its gusty, variable winds and legion of seaside holes.
The course hosted the Ryder Cup in 1991, just a year after it opened, and may be the closest thing on the East Coast to a true links-style course. Nicklaus’ Turtle Point Course opened in 1981. Fazio’s Osprey Course opened in 1988, and legend has it that arguably the greatest course designer of our time had to swallow a little pride when Dye’s Ocean Course burst onto the scene like a scalded 3-wood.
Isle of Palms is the island most conveniently located in relation to downtown Charleston, and it just happens to be home to the area’s second most popular golfing destination–Wild Dunes, where Tom Fazio has constructed the Harbor Course and the Links Course, both to critical acclaim from local and national media.
But not all the great golf in Charleston is out on the barrier islands. In fact, some of it is actually in Charleston and in nearby Mt. Pleasant. Dunes West, Stono Ferry and Coosaw Creek are local favorites. Wherever you decide to play, the courses will not disappoint, and the Carolina charm will certainly bring you back for more.
Best Places To Play
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
With five spectacular golf courses, including the renowned Ocean Course, Kiawah Island oozes classic golf. In fact, the game’s best architects, including Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio, Clyde Johnson and Gary Player, all have stamped their mark on a variety of golf holes, many of which are banked right on the edge of the majestic Atlantic Ocean. Accommodations include private oceanfront homes and villas, or luxury rooms and suites at the new Sanctuary Resort. Cougar Point is a Gary Player design and is considered a superb layout for players of all levels. Early holes play directly along broad expanses of tidal marsh, offering panoramic views of the Kiawah River and acres of needle rush and spartina grass.
The newly renovated Oak Point Golf Course, designed by Clyde Johnston, offers a variety of challenges from holes set in windswept tracts alongside salt marshes to fairways carved out of thick forests.
The famed Ocean Course offers panoramic ocean views with 10 holes playing directly along the beach. It will host the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and the 2012 PGA Championship. Tom Fazio’s beautiful Osprey Point rests on a superb natural canvas and is a masterpiece in playability and variety.
Jack Nicklaus’ entry at Kiawah, Turtle Point, blends fairways and green settings into the natural landscape, a feature perhaps most evident along a spectacular three-hole stretch that weaves through rolling sand dunes bordering the ocean.
|Seabrook Island Resort
Two great courses at this wonderful, full-service resort. Crooked Oaks is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. design and features the designer’s trademark rolling fairways and guarded greens, and weaves through centuries-old live oaks and majestic pines. Jones referred to Crooked Oaks as “one of my best.” Seabrook’s Ocean Winds Course takes you to the Atlantic Ocean and back. With its swirling breezes and plentiful sand dunes, it provides a challenging and ever-changing test of golf at all levels. Designed by Willard Byrd, Ocean Winds features tight fairways that are perfectly balanced by generous greens.
Isle of Palms
Home to Tom Fazio designs, the Wild Dunes Links and the Harbor Course. The Wild Dunes Links is ranked among the top 100 courses in the U.S., while the Harbor Course sends you island-hopping. Both are a lot of fun to play. Wild Dunes garnered the 2005 Charleston Area Golf Course of the Year award. Accommodations at Wild Dunes Resort include your choice of one of 350 oceanfront homes.
|Dunes West Golf Club
Located just outside the Charleston city limits in Mt. Pleasant, this Arthur Hills design will challenge golfers of all skill levels. Host to the 1999 U.S. Amateur Qualifier and recognized as a must-play in South Carolina. It’s an experience of superb conditioning, Southern hospitality and great golf.
|The Links at Stono Ferry
Voted 2003 Charleston Golf Course of the Year, The Links at Stono Ferry combines beautiful scenery with unique Revolutionary War historic elements to create an unforgettable golf experience. This Ron Garl design winds through massive oaks in the front nine while the back nine is set along the Stono River and features panoramic views of the river and marshlands. The course actually sits on the grounds (though water is everywhere) of the 1779 Battle of Stono Ferry.
|Patriots Point Links
Located along the banks of Charleston Harbor, this exciting course has the spirit and feel of many of the great links of Scotland. The ever-changing breezes that sweep across the harbor shape and change the personality of this course from one round to the next, adding to the challenge of an excellent William Byrd design.