Golf packagers keep it simple in Charleston

Wescott Plantation Golf ClubCHARLESTON, S.C. -- With the big boys on either side of Charleston, it's easy to overlook South Carolina's historical center as a golf destination. But Charleston Golf, Inc., a non-profit company that is owned by the local chapter of the National Golf Course Association and the city's convention and visitors bureau, is trying to change that perception.

The Charleston golf course owners knew they had something special and they needed to get the word out. Charleston Golf, Inc. was their answer - a collective marketing initiative run by the convention and visitors bureau. As a non-profit company, the prices are set lower than most packaging companies. Peak season rates start as low as $89 a night, and that includes green fee, carts, hotel and taxes.

Coosaw Creek Country Club"We don't hide any extra costs," said Perrin Lawson, deputy director of the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "That's not always so. Sometimes other packagers will say, ‘Oh, by the way, the cart fee wasn't included.' Not us."

And Charleston Golf, Inc. isn't going anywhere. They've operated since 1996, but unlike most golf packagers, they won't be leaving the business if times are rough. Charleston Golf, Inc. has 20 golf course owners behind the effort and it will continue to operate.

Lawson said those who choose Charleston as a golf destination are those looking for a change from popular spots, like Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head or St. Augustine. Those who visit often rave about the top courses like The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, Wild Dunes, Rivertowne, Dunes West, Stono Ferry, Charleston National and Coosaw Creek. And the restaurants in the downtown section of Charleston have earned the city a nickname: Mini New Orleans.

"Couples like it here, especially if the husband plays and the wife doesn't," Lawson said. "There's so much to do here other than golf that everyone can do their own thing and meet up for dinner later. There's less carousing going on here, but if they want a nice meal, this is the place to be."

The company's Web site, CharlestonGolfGuide.com, offers a rarity with golf packagers: real time price quotes. It also has details on golf courses and accommodations.

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