South Carolina is blessed with an embarrassment of golf course riches, a fact made evident when examining an organization’s playing opportunity rankings in the state.
From the muscular Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Resort to the Aiken Golf Club that measures less than 5,800 yards and everything in between, the Palmetto State offers an assortment of courses to whet the appetite of any golfer.
the South Carolina Golf Course Rating Panel Annual Survey once again highlights the obvious in this year’s ranking of the best classic courses, designed before 1980, and modern layouts, those designed since 1980.
The Ocean Course, home to high profile events ranging from the 1991 Ryder Cup to the PGA Championships in 2012 and 2021, takes its usual place at the top of the modern category. Harbor Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island, which hosts the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage each April, headlines the classics.
And these only scratch the surface.
“There are so many great golf courses in the state,” Aiken GC owner Jim McNair Jr. said. “There’s something for everyone. We have something like 37 acres of grass; I imagine a course like the Dunes (Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach) has 100 acres or more.
McNair’s course, located a short distance from the Aiken business district, ranks seventh in the classic category and is dripping with history. Over 100 years old, the club was among the first to have women’s tees and hosted the Women’s Invitational Tournament (1937-39) which featured stars such as Babe Zaharias and Patty Berg.
“We’re short by today’s standards, but we have members who say it’s too hard because of the tips,” McNair said. “The green complexes are amazing. The course focuses on strategy, accuracy and position off the tee.
These are among the qualities the assessment board looks for and finds all over the state.
The courses represented in this year’s ranking range from Aiken’s Palmetto Golf Club, which dates back to 1892; the Lowcountry gems of Seth Raynor; Camden Country Club with the influence of Donald Ross and the beauties of Robert Trent Jones among the classics. Modern layouts include the work of, among others, Pete Dye, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Mike Strantz.
“Grading courses is really a challenge,” said Michael Whitaker, the association’s executive director. “As always, there are so many exceptional golf courses in South Carolina that you’re really splitting your hair in two choosing one over the other.”
The top five in the Classic category include Harbor Town, Yeamans Hall in Hanahan, Palmetto GC, the Dunes Golf and Beach Club and the Chanticleer course in Greenville CC. Joining the Ocean Course at the top of the modern list are the Secession Club (Beaufort), Congaree GC (Ridgeland), May River GC (Palmetto Bluff) and Sage Valley GC (Graniteville).
“To be included on a roster with some of these exclusive private clubs is quite an honour,” McNair said. “That’s the beauty of the game. Courses like ours and the Ocean Course are very different and yet very challenging.
The SC Golf Course Ratings Committee is made up of 125 golf enthusiasts who represent a wide range of professions, handicaps and backgrounds. The group’s goal is to promote excellence in the design and operation of the state’s golf courses through competitive grading, education and public awareness. Criteria used in judging include routing, variety, strategy, fairness, memorability, aesthetics, and experience. A panelist must have played the course to vote for it.
2021 South Carolina Golf Panel Rankings
(Designed before 1980)
1. Harbor Town Golf Links
2. Club Yeaman’s Hall
3. Palmetto Golf Club
4. Dunes Golf and Beach Club
5. Greenville CC Chanticleer Course
6. Charleston DC
7. Aiken Golf Club
9. Greenville CC Riverside Course
10. Surf Golf and Beach Club
11. Orangeburg CC
12. Florence CC
13. CC or Spartanburg
14. Myrtle Beach National King North Course
15. Columbia CC
16. Palmetto Dunes Resort RT Jones Course
17. Course Palmetto Dunes Resort George Fazio
18. Charleston Municipal Golf Course
19. Furman Golf Club
20. Pine Lakes CC
(Designed since 1980)
1. Kiawah Island Resort Ocean Course
2. CG Secession
3. Congaree GC
4. May River GC
5. Sage Valley GC
6. Cherokee Plantation
7. Cassic Course Kiawah Island Club
8. Club Long Cove
9 Chechessee Creek Club
10. Kiawah Island Club River Course
11. Bull’s Bay Club
12. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club
13. Colleton River Plantation Dyeing Class
14. Old Tabby Links
15. Keowee Vineyard Cliffs
16. Colleton River Plantation Nicklaus Trail
17. Cliffs at Mountain Park.
18. Musgrove Mill GC
19. The GC at Briar’s Creek
20. Haig Point Club
21. Barefoot Resort Dye Lessons
22. Wachesaw Plantation Club
23. Belfair GC West Course
24. Reserve at Lake Keowee
25. Cliffs at Glassy
26. Tidewater GC and Plantation
27. Berkeley Hall North Course
28. Belfair GC East Course
29. True Blue Plantation
30. Great Dunes Resort Club
31. Dataw Island Cotton Dyke Course
32. Wild Dunes Resort Links Course
33. The Thornblade Club
34. Prestwick CC
35. Kiawah Island Resort Osprey Lessons
36. Cliffs at Keowee Falls
37. Club DeBordieu
38. Callawassie Island Club
T39. Kiawah Island Resort Course Cougar Point
41. Reserve Club at Pawleys Island
41. Sea Pines Resort Atlantic Dunes Course
43. Daniel Island Club Beresford Creek Course
44. Kiawah Island Resort Turtle Point Course
45. Grand Dunes Members Club
46. Cliffs at Keowee Springs
47. Seabrook Island Club Ocean Wind Course
48. Berkeley Hall South Course
49. Cliff Valley Route
50. Course of Daniel Island Club Ralston Creek.