Adam Ruck, The Daily Telegraph, May 7, 2014
However you like your golf, South Carolina can deliver. Golfers on a bucket-list quest to play the world’s trophy courses will want to tick off Harbour Town and Kiawah en route from Pinehurst to Augusta. Couples and families with one member who needs an escape route to golf will be quite at home in Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head.
Winter is mild in the Deep South, but the holiday season runs from mid-March to mid-November, with a slowdown in high summer when the heat, humidity and afternoon downpour deter all but the most dedicated. There is golf to be played upstate as well as down but few holiday golfers go far from the coast.
Don’t expect big sea views. With a handful of exceptions, courses are set well back from the beach in woodland surroundings. Take alligator warnings seriously. “Golfer loses arm in water hazard” is not a headline you see every week, but it happens.
Green fees are elastic and usually include a “cart” (electric buggy). Yardage is quoted from the back tees. Deduct 500-800 yards for the usual men’s tees, and 1,500 yards for ladies.
With 100-plus courses along many miles of high-rise coast, the challenge here is choosing where to play. A good place to start is a golf supermarket such as Martin’s for equipment bargains and last-minute discount tee times, also bookable online via sites such as myrtlebeach.com. If you are set on playing a particular course at a busy time of year, reserve ahead.
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Designed by Trent Jones Sr, this is one of the oldest and best courses in town. The Dunes is a private club but visitors can usually obtain tee times. In the traditional way, holes have names such as Ambush, Needle’s Eye and Waterloo, the notorious 590-yard 13th, which hugs a lake from tee to green in an acute dogleg (clockwise) – a slicer’s nightmare. After its latest refurbishment, the course has new greens and the extra yards required for the 2014 PGA Professionals National Championship (June 22-25). (7,450 yards, par 72, green fee $200/£120, thedunesclub.net )
The Dye Course at Barefoot
The Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach has high-spec courses by four of the biggest names in the game: Greg Norman, Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Davis Love. The Dye Course is used for Myrtle Beach’s Monday After The Masters Pro-Am in April. All the design elements are in place, including “turtleback” greens, scary expanses of desert waste and a strong finish beneath the clubhouse porch. With water port-side and a chaos of hummocks and bunkers to starboard, it’s a do or Dye moment. (7,343 yards, par 72, green fee $175/ £104, barefootgolf.com )
Twenty miles from Charleston, Kiawah is a small, exclusive island resort with a well-preserved natural wilderness, which hosted the acrimonious “War on the Shore” Ryder Cup in 1991. The course gave something back in 2012 when Rory McIlroy won the PGA by miles and the top 10 finishers included seven Europeans.
The Ocean Course
One of a kind, this course is priced to match. With 10 holes near the beach, it’s a beautiful walk and a thrilling challenge. Bearing in mind the cost of a round, you may as well pay $70 more for a caddie and heed their advice on club and tee-box selection. (7,350 yards, par 72, green fee $350/£208, kiawahresort.com )
Reopening in October, this is the pick of the other courses on the island for a combination of scenery, wildlife and not having to carry big distances from the tee. But with water on all sides, you must play your shot straight. (6,950 yards, par 72, green fee $150/£90, kiawahresort.com )
World-class golf is one of many sporting activities offered on this popular holiday island off the southernmost tip of South Carolina. Harbour Town is the island’s classiest village, home to high-end shops and restaurants, and Sea Pines is the town’s luxury resort.
Harbour Town Golf Links
The trophy course in the Sea Pines stable, this is where PGA tour professionals compete for a lurid tartan jacket the week after The Masters. By championship standards it may not be long, but with tight fairways and small greens, forgiveness is not one of its attributes. Fans include Nick Faldo, who picks out the short 7th: “A sliver of a green, an overhanging tree and an arty Pete Dye bunker. It’s a hole full of Southern charm, but more dangerous than the alligators.” (7,100 yards, par 71, green fee $200/£119, seapines.com )
Palmetto Hall Plantation
What makes a good golf course is difficult to pin down, but all who play it agree that this one by Arthur Hills has something special. It seems a perfect fit with the nature around it: Carolina pines, live oaks and sunlight through Spanish moss. (6,918 yards, par 72, green fee $100/£60, palmettohallgolf.com )
Myrtle Beach often claims this converted ancestral rice plantation near Pawley’s Island for its own, but the ambience could scarcely be further removed from the busy beach resort. A superb avenue of ancestral oaks sets a tone of gracious seclusion, and the golf and polished clubhouse live up to it. Caledonia’s sister course, True Blue, on a former indigo plantation, is almost as good. (6,526 yards, par 70, green fee $180/£107, fishclub.com )
Melrose at Daufuskie Island
Reached by boat, car-free Daufuskie Island has top-notch courses designed by Tom Weiskopf and Davis Love (Bloody Point) and Jack Nicklaus (Melrose). The entire property is being rebuilt but the Melrose course is open, with a beautiful run of holes along the beach. (7,080 yards, par 72, green fee $60/£36, melroseonthebeach.com )
Adam Ruck takes a tour around historic Charleston - one of Telegraph Travel's 20 places for 2014 - and profiles South Carolina's beautiful beaches