UPSTATE, S.C. – In the rankings of the country’s best states for golf, South Carolina regularly checks in high on the list. When one thinks about teeing it up in the Palmetto State, however, usually only the coastal area comes to mind — particularly well-known golf getaways such as Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.
“People don’t realize that the upstate and non-coastal areas of South Carolina have great golf, too,” says Strauss Moore Shiple.
Shiple was instrumental in helping form the new “Mountains to Midlands” golf marketing alliance that represents a partnership of four regions extending from the center of the state to the extreme northwest tip — the Olde English District, where Shiple has been the longtime Project Manager, along with The Upcountry, Lake Murray Country and the Old 96 District.
Mountains to Midlands (M2M) cover a scenic and historic area of that south, where numerous interstate highways make travel easy and the golf courses accessible. Considering its close proximity and impressive supply of outstanding layouts — as well as the area’s temperate climate allowing the game to be enjoyed year round — little wonder Mountains to Midlands is fast becoming renowned as a wonderfully satisfying and surprisingly affordable golf destination.
Most of the golf in the Olde English District or “The OED,” as it is more popularly referred — a land where the famed golfing Sandhills to the north meet the Lowcountry to the south and east — is situated along the stretch of Interstate 77 from Rock Hill to Columbia, S.C. The OED also extends east to a golf gem at the Tom Jackson-designed Cheraw State Park Course built around 309-acre Lake Juniper. Located along the banks of the Pee Dee River, Cheraw previously served as a major shipping port to Charleston and Georgetown and a strategic commercial and military staging area, littered with famous battles and conflicts of allegiance centuries ago.
But the undisputed “capital” of The OED is Rock Hill/York County, located a swift and easy 30 minutes south of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where golfers discover a number of outstanding layouts such as the timeless design at Springfield Golf Club in Fort Mill, the Fuzzy Zoeller lake and golf community at Edgewater Golf Club and Carolina Lakes — a pristine setting of natural streams and ponds with the Catawba River meandering through it.
Just a bit further south toward Columbia is Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood — home to the University of South Carolina Gamecock golf teams and a Top 30 Palmetto State stalwart. That takes us to Lake Murray Country portion of the Mountains to Midlands alliance. Located in the heart of the Palmetto State, Lake Murray Country is centred in the state’s capital city, Columbia, and on Lake Murray. Surrounded by three gorgeous rivers, Lake Murray (“the jewel of the south”) features 650 miles of picturesque shoreline — one reason it was named by Boating Magazine one of the “Top 10 Places to Live and Boat.”
With 33 championship golf courses in the area, not to mention outstanding dining and entertainment, Lake Murray Country is known for other sporting exploits as well. Among the Lake Murray area’s must-play layouts are The Windermere Club, a private (public access is available through Golf Packages of SC), Pete & P.B. Dye-designed facility that will provide a unique and truly memorable experience, along with Oak Hills Golf Club, a Steve Melnyk and Davis Love III masterpiece that has been recognized in Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play.”
Moving west you can transport your sticks to Old 96 District, which may just be South Carolina’s best-kept golf secret. This region takes you from north of Augusta along the Georgia border approaching I-85, where just north is the booming Greenville-Spartanburg corridor — which also includes a number of golfing gems.
Among the most renowned layouts in Old 96 are The Patriot Golf Course at Grand Harbour Golf & Yacht Community, another Davis Love III stunner on Lake Greenwood voted “Best New Course” in South Carolina in 2004; Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club, a 27-hole, semi-private facility that Golf Magazine has likened to nearby Augusta National; and The Links at Stoney Point, a picturesque links design situated on Lake Greenwood that includes first-class amenities. Hickory Knob is a Tom Jackson design located in McCormick, S.C., bordering the Georgia State line.
Last but certainly not least, abounding with natural resources and recreational opportunities, The Upcountry portion of the M2M alliance also includes a number of outstanding golfing experiences.
The Walker Course at Clemson University is the home course of the vaunted Clemson Tiger golf team and offers up a spectacular collection of finishing holes along the shores of Lake Hartwell, while The Preserve at Verdae is a William Byrd design carved out of the Carolina Forest located in mid-town Greenville. Of course, The Upcountry also includes the spectacular Blue Ridge Mountains, which frame Woodfin Ridge Golf Club in Inman. Jacob’s Creek winds its way through the golf course that was designed adjacent to scenic Lake Bowen.
Mountains to Midlands not only allow golfers to either mix and match their golf within the regions or stay within the regions of their choice, this burgeoning alliance transports golfers to a place where small towns, medium prices and big-name golf course architects harmoniously blend together.
Mountains To Midlands GOLF ALLIANCE
/ Words By Brad King