Part I: South Carolina features some of the world's greatest golf destinations

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

The Melrose CourseCHARLOTTE, N.C. - North Carolinians like to point out all the things South Carolina doesn't have: Bustling cities, world-class universities, pot-hole-free highways and good barbeque. The Sandlappers take this arrogance from their neighbors to the north in stride. After all, it's easy to put things in perspective when some of the world's greatest golf destinations are at your fingertips.

For those who've had better things to do than track the goings-on in the state's golfing hotbeds, we've taken the liberty of pulling together a Palmetto State primer to assist with any spring and summer golf plans. We'll point you in the direction of a golf destination that fits your tastes and budget, but you're on your own with the pot holes and barbeque.

Myrtle Beach

The Deal: One hundred and twenty golf courses; three are off-the-charts, 10 are must-plays, 30 are worth the ride and the rest are a good excuse for a long weekend with the boys. Some long-time visitors will tell you that the Grand Strand has gotten too pricey in recent years. Hogwash. The most expensive course in Myrtle Beach is the cheapest course in Scottsdale, Palm Spring or Las Vegas. A handful of layouts are situated along the Intracoastal Waterway, but the majority of tracks are inland and flat.

What's New: No new course construction. The last four courses to open in Myrtle Beach - Grande Dunes, Shaftsbury Glen, Crown Park and Farmstead - shut the door behind them. Remodeling is all the rage. While there's nothing new to sample in 2003, a mess of courses went under the knife in 2002 and came out looking better than ever. Among them: Indian Wells (total makeover), Tidewater (new Bermuda greens), River Hills (greens, routing, landscape), Myrtlewood, and Bay Tree's Gold Course (greens).

Pawleys PlantationWhat's Timeless: Plantation golf. Courses like the Heritage Club, Pawleys Plantation, Willbrook, and Blackmoor are a step back in time and shrouded in scenery. Tidewater golf. Glen Dornoch, Oyster Bay, Rivers Edge, Carolina National and (of course) the Tidewater Golf Club could be mistaken for Virginia or Maryland layouts with their locations along the tidal waters of the Intracoastal Waterway. Old school golf. Pine Lakes International, the Surf Club and the Dunes Club are portals back to a time when 6,800 yards was long and cart paths were necessary evils.

Why Go: The money. Still one of the best golfing values in the U.S. Proximity. The Grand Strand is half a day's drive from some of the East Coast's major population centers. The nightlife. Think Las Vegas east, without the casinos.

Hilton Head

The Deal: Secluded, Lowcountry golf destination dripping with upscale resort and upper crust private courses. Neighboring burg of Bluffton has emerged as a sanctuary for reasonably priced daily fee golf. Hilton Head is golf without distractions - even the shopping centers look like clubhouses. On average, pricier than Myrtle Beach but there's plenty of value during summer months.

What's New: Old course made new. The buzz around the island is about the recent remodeling of the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes. The island's second oldest track was revitalized by Jones disciple Roger Rulewich and preliminary reports have the venerable layout back among the island's must-plays. Bluffton added a couple solid pay for play courses from Davis Love III (Eagle's Pointe) and Arnold Palmer (Crescent Pointe) over the past couple years. The Daufuskie Island Resort is under new ownership and is looking to reassert itself as one of the best resort properties in the state.

Harbour Town Golf LinksWhat's Timeless: A round of golf at Harbour Town Golf Links. It will run you a cool $250, but it is worth the price of admission to test your game against one of golf's seminal courses. Conditions vary by time of year, but Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus' brave design is a reminder that envelopes are made to be pushed. A visit to Daufuskie Island. The ferry ride over sets the tone - secluded, surreal, and superb. The golf at the Melrose and Bloody Point courses is more than worth it.

Why Go: Local flavor. Hilton Head is the quintessential Lowcountry golf destination and it is virtually impossible to think about the office when hunched over a bowl of She Crab Soup or a four-foot birdie putt on Harbour Town's famous 18th hole.

Charleston

The Deal: One of America's greatest cities is also sprinkled with a heaping helping of world class golf resorts and a handful of delightful daily fee courses. Recently ranked as one of the best metro areas for golf in the U.S. by Golf Digest. Still, you could spend a week in Charleston, never set foot on a golf course and still be fat and happy.

RiverTown PlantationWhat's New: The King. The Palmer Group's RiverTown Plantation in Mt. Pleasant is a thought-provoking fusion of windswept and marsh-laden holes. Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. The dynamic duo's Wescott Plantation in North Charleston is a breezy, 27-hole facility that lulls golfers to sleep with gentle doglegs, hardwood backdrops and subtle green complexes. Kiawah Island Resort not standing pat. The famed Ocean Course recently reopened after a major renovation and one of the most extravagant hotels on the East Coast is slated to open on the property in 2004.

What's Timeless: Downtown and the Battery. Modern conveniences like cars, pay phones and traffic signals seem out of place. Resort Golf. No trip to Charleston is complete without a trip to Kiawah Island, Wild Dunes, or Seabrook Island.

Why Go: You'd be crazy not to. Eighteen holes at a bucolic plantation-style course in the morning and cocktails and fine dining in historic downtown that evening - what's better than that? Value. Charleston offers some incredible values at semiprivate and daily fee courses like Wescott Plantation, Dunes West and Patriot's Point and Kiawah Island, Wild Dunes and Seabrook are still good values for what you get.

The PGA Tour in the Sandlapper State

The Champions Tour, LPGA and Canadian Tours have all up and left. But one of the PGA Tour's most popular stops is still firmly cemented in South Carolina golf culture . for now. Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head will host the 34th edition of the Heritage of Golf, played at Harbour Town Golf Links April 17-20. This post Masters party is one of the most popular stops on Tour because of the course, the relaxing atmosphere and the weather.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.


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