On the Road in the Carolinas, from Charlotte to Daufuskie Island
DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, S.C. - The Queen City meets the Prince of Tides, but not before some good golf goes down in between. The road from Charlotte, N.C., to Daufuskie Island is paved with good intentions and good golf courses if only you take the time to stop and smell the winter rye grass.
Obligatory disclaimer: this article is not intended for those golfers from the Old North State making their way to the Sandlapper State in a "point A to point B" fashion. This space is dedicated to those who enjoy the journey as much as the arrival. The trip from the burgeoning bank capital of Charlotte to the sleepy Low Country resort island of Daufuskie is a four-hour, one-way trip if you want it to be.
But with a little bit of patience, understanding and a natural curiosity, this Carolinas trek could be the best drive you make all week - pun intended. Preordained, planned-to-the-hour itineraries are for Virgos. So we merely set out to suggest a general course of action. It is up to you to finalize the details. After all, it's a crime that a trip from one reality to another could only take half a day.
Charlotte to Columbia
Resist the temptation to drive 20 minutes south of Charlotte and tee it up at one of the area's unsung tracks. If you can't fight the urge, then the Hale Irwin designed course at the Waterford Golf Club in Rock Hill is as good as any place to crack under the pressure. The par-5 second hole - which meanders along the Catawba River - is easily one of the best three-shotters in the Piedmont. The back nine is something out of the Sandhills region, replete with elevation changes other "Metrolina" layouts can only pine for.
If you can make is past the Waterford exit off Interstate 77, then the temptations are few and far between until you hit the outskirts of Columbia. Donald Ross aficionados may feel the need to sample the Fort Mill Country Club (front nine by Ross circa 1948) and bargain shoppers could feel the pull of the Chester and Lancaster Golf Clubs. Otherwise, the coast is clear to "Capital City."
Venerable golf course architect George Cobb once said that if he could design a golf course anywhere in the world, it would be in the Midlands region of South Carolina. Pebble Beach the Columbia and its environs are not. But when it comes to moving earth, few places could be more agreeable.
P.B. Dye - son of legendary course designer Pete Dye - took this notion to heart at the Northwoods Golf Club. Deep bunkers, blind shots, fairway mounding and massive greens with fault line breaks are the name of the game at this Midland facility. The 122 slope rating from the back of the bus belies the fact that Northwoods is tougher than a Gamecock fan after a loss to Clemson.
Columbia to I-26
The Santee-Cooper golf vortex exists to the southeast of I-26 as you head toward the I-95 connection to Hilton Head. How far you delve into bastion of blue-plate daily fee golf depends on your willingness to stray from your primary route. Orangeburg and St. Matthews provide serviceable courses within a 15-minute drive of I-77, while Santee and Summerton - home to the majority of the area' tracks - are a solid half hour away.
The Santee-Cooper Resort is easily accessible from I-95 and is home to the Lake Marion Golf Course. The Santee National Golf Club is just a three-putt away and is the area's answer to the clarion call for a modern, residential based golf development.
I-26 to Hilton Head
The Low Country presents itself in subtle manner while traversing this monotonous stretch of I-95. The only sign that the Midlands are in the rear view mirror ("cracked rear view" for you Hootie and the Blowfish fans), and that the Low Country is just outside the windshield is the change in elevation. As in, little to none. It will take a decidedly sharp left-hand turn to get you to Beaufort, where you can get a real glimpse at the landscape that drove Edgar Allen Poe crazy and Pat Conroy to pen the Prince of Tides.
PGA Tour professional and Old South country club boy Davis Love III has been making a name for himself in the golf course design business of late, and it all started at the Ocean Creek Golf Club. The course is located on the southern tip of scenic (and storied) Fripp Island, and the site is actually a regular in Hollywood sets. The fifth hole was the site of Forrest Gump's Vietnam scenes and more than a few cuts from Disney's Jungle Book.
Following a memorable round at Ocean Creek, all that remains between you and a ferry ride to Daufuskie Island is Bluffton and its cadre of daily-fee golf courses. It is easy to become mesmerized by the swank private club addresses on this short stretch of four-lane highway, but its much easier to get a tee time at courses like Rose Hill, Eagle's Pointe, Old South Golf Links and Hilton Head National. In the winter months, you can easily procure 18 holes with cart and 19th hole beverage for under $60 at one of these reasonable, well-conditioned facilities.
December 12, 2002