Probably no region in the United States embodies the American idea of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’ as much as Charleston.
By the time the Star Spangled Banner celebrated the American flag’s resiliency in 1814, the townsfolk of Charleston were well versed in the proud survival of a gallantry streaming banner.
The area not only defended itself against British bombardment but also witnessed the first shots of the Civil War.
Charleston is very proud of its history and having hosted the ‘War on the Shore’ in 1991, next year plays host to the 94th PGA Championship, and the first time one of golf’s four Majors has been held in South Carolina.
And as www.golfbytourmiss.com discovered the first ever golf shots in America also took place in Charleston.
For those planning a golfing visit to the States there’s no better destination than Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston’s ranked among the top-10 visitor vacation destinations in America where golf is a revered pastime along the South Carolina coast.
Nowhere in the United States will you find a region boasting more challenging or picturesque golf courses that Charleston.
On this small Atlantic Ocean washed area of America you will find more than two dozen golf courses including five on the famed Kiawah Island where next August the 94th PGA Championship will be staged.
Since its founding in 1670, the Charleston area has been famous for many historic ‘firsts’.
These include the first museum in America and the scene of the first shots in the Civil War.
Charleston was also the site of the golf course in America on 29th September in 1786 when a group of citizens met in the John Williams coffee house to establish the South Carolina Golf Club and Harleston Green.
That’s two years before Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Port Jackson.
And to put the South Carolina Golf Club into perspective, it was the same year the Crail Golfing Society, and located just to the east of St. Andrews was formed, and Crail is golf’s seventh oldest club.
It is also believed the term ‘green fee’ evolved from the membership fees paid by Charleston members to maintain the area green where they played.
Nearly 100 years later the Pine Forest Inn opened in nearby town of Summerville, and feature 130 acres of golf links.
In the mid-1920s, three courses were built in the Charleston area featuring Bermuda grass greens.
Then in the late 1970s Tom Fazio visited the Charleston region and discovered a very special piece of land that offered all of the elements needed to create great golf courses.
Since it’s opening on Labor Day in 1980, the Wild Dunes Course has been described as the perfect combination of Scotland and the Caribbean.
This seaside jewel heralded the beginning of Charleston’s modern golf boom.
Still, the great majority of golfers were unaware of Charleston’s outstanding golf until late 1991, when the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort hosted one of the most fiercely contested Ryder Cup matches in history.
The 1991 Ryder Cup has since been referred to as ‘The War on the Shore’ with Germany’s Bernhard Langer missing a short birdie putt to halve his Singles match against Hale Irwin that ensured victory to the host nation.
American Captain, Dave Stockton was then carried victorious to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean as Bernhard Gallacher’s led Europeans let slip the chance to win the Ryder Cup for a fourth straight occasion.
Since then the Charleston area has hosted numerous international tournaments including the 1997 and 2003 World Cup of Golf, the 2001 and 2004 UBS Warburg Cup, the LPGA Tour and 2007 Senior PGA Championship.
It was Kiawah Island that put Charleston on the golfing map, so it’s Kiawah Island where we should begin a rundown of the golf courses in the region.
Kiawah Island is located to the south-east of Charleston where you’ll find five courses – Cougar Point, Oak Point, the Ocean Course, Osprey Point and Turtle Point.
However one fifth of these five golf courses or 90 holes of golf are, in fact, not on Kiawah Island but outside the gates.
But here’s a small selection of some of the two dozen or so courses that should whet your golfing appetite.
Cougar Point, Kiawah Island.
It was Cougar Point or Marsh Point as it was originally known, that helped launch the Charleston region as an ideal golfing destination.
The course was redesigned by Gary Player in 1996 and plays 6,875 yards off the back tees.
It features a great blend of short and long par-4s, great risk and reward par-5s and extremely scenic and challenging par-3s.
And thanks to holes like the par four fifth and the par three, sixth that off sweeping views over the tidal marshes along the Kiawah River, Cougar Point is a visual treat.
Oak Point, Kiawah Island.
This Clyde Johnston design has been operating as a daily fee course since it opened in 1990.
Johnston, a then young designer, had honed his skills under Willard Byrd who designed over 100 courses, including the Atlanta Country Club.
Johnston adopted a ‘hands on’ approach to building what he called a ‘Scottish-American’ design, and a course to combine the elements of Scottish links course – dramatic contours, mounding and bunkering – with the use of water and wetlands typical of American courses.
Oak Point plays to 6,701 yards from the back while the par four 18th is a standout as it plays directly over Haulover Creek and provides sweeping view of the Kiawah River.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island.
The Ocean Course is ‘The Jewel in Kiawah’s crown’.
Not only did the Ocean Course become a Ryder Cup star but it feature in the famed golfing movie, ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’.
The Ocean Course is currently ranked 25th in U.S. Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest U.S. Golf Courses List and 4th on Best Public Course List.
Next year, it will become the only course to have hosted both the Senior PGA Championship and the PGA Championship.
But there’s probably no other golf outside of the U.K and Ireland that is affected as much by the wind, and from one round to the next, a player can experience up to an 8-club difference.
The Ocean Course was designed by Peter Dye and opened in early 1991 to that much acclaim it hosted the Ryder Cup later that same year.
Located on the eastern-most end of Kiawah Island, the Ocean Course boasts more seaside holes than any other course in the Northern Hemisphere with 10 holes laid out right along the Atlantic and another eight running parallel to those.
Although it was originally designed to sit behind the dunes, Dye’s wife, Alice, suggested raising the entire course to allow players unobstructed views of Kiawah’s beautiful Atlantic coastline from every hole.
This improved view, however, made the course substantially more demanding as it also exposed it to the area’s brisk and unpredictable sea breezes.
Not only did the ‘War on the Shore’ put the Ocean Course on the golfing map but the course made its big screen debut in November 2000 when the movie “The Legend of Bagger Vance” opened.
Wild Dunes, Links Course.
The Links Course begins and ends with a par five, with the first playing 502-yards off the black and the 18th, that runs along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline just a yard shorter.
It’s the first course to be designed by Tom Fazio, and still one of his best.
The Links Course at Wild Dunes boasts rolling fairways, rustling palms and a superb location near Charleston’s Isle of Palms.
Massive dunes along the shoreline give the course that links feel.
Patriots Point Links
Like the Old Head at Kinsale in Ireland or Nefyn in Wales, Patriots Point is one of those golf courses where the views and the activity out at sea can easily take your mind of the task at hand.
Situated on the edge of Charleston Harbour and offering spectacular views of the city, Fort Sumter, and ships arriving from all over the world, Patriots Point has been for years a favourite place to play for local Charleston golfers and resort guests.
There is four sets of tees ranging from 5100 to 7000 yards so players of all skill levels will enjoy this 1979 Willard Byrd designed links course.
The par three, 17th is regularly award the ‘Best Par 3 in the Lowcountry’. It’s an island green nestling in Charleston Harbour with sweeping vistas again of Fort Sumter, Shem Creek and the historic Charleston skyline.
This links style par 72 championship course was also rated “South Carolina Course of the Year for 2001” by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
CHARLESTON’S DREAM 18
Turtle Point Golf Club – 14th hole, Par 3 – 173 yards
The first of Turtle Point’s three ocean holes, with a difficult green to hit. Winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean bring all three greenside bunkers into play.
Cougar Point Golf Club – 5th hole, Par 4 – 410 yards
The hole plays directly along the Kiawah River with the main challenge being to hit the bulkhead peninsula of a green that extends into the marshland.
Osprey Point Golf Club – 18th hole, Par 5 – 552 yards
Canvasback Pond guards the entire left side of this long par five. Players electing not to go for the green in two, need to lay up at least 100 yards short of the green to escape extensive mounding that guards the last one-third of the fairway.
Oak Point Golf Club – 9th hole, Par 3 – 152 yards
One of the most scenic holes on Oak Point. The ninth hole was created when the course was redesigned in 2004. The hole plays directly toward the Haulover Creek and Kiawah River. The hole also is guarded by bunkering on three sides.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island – 17th hole, Par 3, 221 yards
This hole caused all sorts of concern for the pros in the 1991 Ryder Cup and 2007 Senior PGA Championship. While it was never played at its 221-yard length, it had the highest stroke average in relation to par of any hole on the course.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island – 18th hole, Par 4, 439 yards
During the 2002 renovations undertaken by Pete Dye, the green was moved closer to the ocean, making it one of the most stunning final shots in golf.
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island – 2nd hole, Par 5, 542 yards
A very difficult par five and very early in a round with two marsh crossings ahead of a short iron into a very protected green.
Coosaw Creek Country Club – 11th hole, Par 3, 205 yards
The most difficult par 3 on the course starts a rigorous stretch of holes. Backing out to 225 yards, length will be the least of your worries. There are two marsh areas that must be carried to reach the green. Bunkers front and back add to the difficulty.
Coosaw Creek Country Club – 12th hole, Par 5, 539 yards
This could be one of the toughest par fives you’ll play. The hole demands three great shots to hit the green in regulation. There’s a pot bunker in the middle of the fairway that must be avoided off the tee or it’s a wedge out. The second shot has to be aimed to the left side of the fairway to avoid pines. Once on the green, it slopes dramatically to the left while a deep bunker awaits anything short.
Dunes West Golf Club – 7th hole, Par 5, 497 yards
You drive from a slightly elevated tee to a sweeping but narrow fairway that favours a right to left shot. There’s a small fairway bunker to the right and a large pond running up the left side. The green is well bunkered and if you get home in two there’s the good chance of walking off with an eagle but definitely a birdie hole.
Wild Dunes Harbour Course – 17th hole, Par 4, 464 yards
The tee shot requires a drive over the Intracoastal Highway to a fairway that doglegs slightly to the left, and the green is guarded by a bunker right and tidal marshland on the left.
Wild Dunes Links Course – 18th hole, Par 5, 500 yards
Playing alongside the Atlantic Ocean, the tee shot on this dog-leg right hole is to a tight fairway leading to a well protected green. Taking an aggressive line can play off with a chance to reach the green in two. But with sand on both sides, accuracy is most important for scoring par.
Legend Oaks Golf Club – 17th hole, Par 3, 175 yards
A very picturesque hole with a peninsula green with a water and sand carry that will challenge any golfer. The left side is a protected wetland area that is home to an occasional alligator awaiting any errant shot.
Links at Stono Ferry – 13th hole, Par 4, 345 yards
A beautiful par four that runs all the way along the Stono River. The hole is a slight dog leg right that requires a very accurate drive while you also have to carry a section of the river.
Patriots Point Links – 17th hole, Par 3, 150 yards
Practically an island green situated on Charleston Harbour makes this one of the most picturesque holes in the Charleston region. With wind and marshland coming into play don’t let the length of the hole fool you.
Rivertowne Country Club – 9th hole, Par 5, 500 yards
With marshland on the right, for most of the timed this is a true three shot hole. The drive must carry over a sliver marsh where you find a generous landing area. Position another shot over water to leave the best angle to this demanding green surrounded by bunkers.
Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club – 14th hole, Par 4, 319 yards.
From any tee, the 14th is a scenic hole with a good amount of water between the back tees and the fairway, and the water continues along the left side of the hole. If you’re down the right, avoid the white stakes. Making par is an enjoyable challenge.
Charlestown National Country Club – 15th hole, Par 4, 370 yards.
Featuring two large scenic marsh areas, this hole starts out by asking you to carry some 200 yards to a landing area, only to be faced with a second blind tee shot over more marsh for your approach. A large sloping green then awaits you.