When most people think about South Carolina as a golf destination I am guessing Myrtle Beach comes to mind. Then thoughts may matriculate to Hilton Head Island or Kiawah Island as places that have hosted PGA Tour Events, Major Championships and a Ryder Cup. But that can carry a high price tag and result in a lot of driving if you are not also footing the bill for an expensive room, food and drinks. I recently spent some time in Charleston and I think I have hit the jackpot of affordable, yet fantastic golf while maintaining residence near a city with great nightlife and even better restaurants.
Our first round was at a recent site of the LPGA Ginn Tribute hosted by Annika Sorenstam and a terrific layout that has be adorned with awards both locally and nationally, called Rivertowne Country Club. It is not hard to see how this course provided a challenge to the best players in the world and attracted a host name as prominent as Annika Sorenstam.
Right from the beginning you get a feel of the terrain with a pond and wetland area down the right side on a slight dogleg right, the opening tee shot was a test. The second hole maintained the challenge with wetlands all down the right of this long par-3 and basically just steps off the front portion of the putting surface. It became harder throughout to focus on the golf as wetlands meandered in and out of the golf course design and beautiful real estate bordered a few holes but far enough removed that breaking glass was not at the front of your mind.
We were there very early in the season and while conditions were still coming together from the harsh winter, it is easy to see why a return trip in the Spring / Summer time is well worth it.
My favorite hole on the front nine was the par-5 ninth hole. Wetlands that only distract you down the right side and reachable in two with a good tee shot but the green is well protected by bunkers and a hidden pond short and right of the green that I noticed after hitting my 2nd shot.
The Back Nine was harder to choose a favorite hole as there were nothing but good ones combined with the continuing wetland views with wildlife abounding everywhere (no gators though, still a bit cool). So instead I will choose the finishing 3 holes that combine a reachable par 5 crossing the swamp, a mid-length par-3 with wetlands short and right and a beautiful but long par-4 finishing hole that is gorgeous playing into the setting sun.
I am really looking forward to my return trip to Rivertowne during the peak season to see how differently the course looks when the tide is in and the wetlands are full.
To learn more visit www.rivertownecountryclub.com
Our second round the next morning was at a Charleston Area institution called Wild Dunes. Wild Dunes is not just another golf resort, it is a community. With varying accommodations ranging from Four Diamond Hotels to Vacation Home Rentals, Wild Dunes has everything a family or couple could ask for and is just steps from the beach in many spots. But we were here to golf and visiting the Links Course was highly recommended for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the finishing stretch along the Atlantic. Both courses are Tom Fazio designs which can often say enough, but combine the interesting layout with the only course we played that overseeds with Rye Grass for a pristinely green playing surface, we were ready for a treat.
Playing to some of the smallest greens I have ever played combined with some tricky slopes and extremely smooth surfaces, I could tell that the lack of length from the tee was not going to render the course helpless. In fact having several options when you missed the green, which was often for me that day, was a treat and a challenge throughout the round, putting it became my choice after a few bad decisions early.
My favorite hole on the front nine was the par-5 fifth hole. It is only 472 yards from the up tees that we played but if you do not hit the left side of the fairway, going at it in two is nearly impossible with trees all down the right side. The green is perched on a hill at least 20 feet above the fairway and most of it is hidden by steep bunkers on the front left and right, but miss long and up and down is nearly impossible as the surface slants from back to front.
On the par-3 eighth and again on the par-4 ninth, my goal of seeing an alligator came true which made for a great photo opp and one my playing partners encouraged me to do even closer, but I managed to avoid the peer pressure and remain with all of my limbs and digits in working order. The back nine provide more beautiful views of the marshlands surrounding the property but I knew the piece de resistance was coming too quickly. After the short, but tough par-3 sixteenth hole, we spent a few extra moments on the tee box of the par-4 seventeenth.
The first of the closing stretch along the Atlantic, once we focused on our tee shot to come we realized a medium length hole with the looming dunes down the entire left side and it managed to gobble two of our three attempts (I was the only one to hit the fairway…finally). Once finishing out on 17 we headed to the signature hole, the par-5 eighteenth. A significant dogleg right, just picking the right line off the tee was a challenge with a huge waste bunker down the right and middle that was deep enough to hide the fairway on the other side. In hindsight, an iron off the tee to stay left of the bunker was probably the right call. Dunes and the ocean protect the entire left side but if you are successful off the tee, with the driver, the green is gettable. By far the largest green on the property provided no let up and the back left pin caused me a lot of trouble trying to get up and down for bogey.
Wild Dunes is an iconic place to visit when you head to Charleston, both for golf or your vacation in general and with a dedication to maintaining immaculate playing conditions you will always be pleased with your experience at the Links Course.
To learn more visit www.wilddunes.com