A Chip and Putt Away

Written by Carl Danbury

“Rough” is the rarely mown grass lining the lush fairways and green  Clubhouse 9th Hole Bunker
complexes on golf courses throughout the world. It’s also an apt description of the financial aspect of the golf business during the past five years or so. Weekdays once attracted the fat cats of corporate America, day traders, salespeople trying to make an impression on tough-to-close clients and retirees who couldn’t wait to put a peg in the ground. The crews staffing golf courses have dwindled, maintenance crews that once could have invaded and taken over Luxembourg have been cut back in size, and those of us who played up to 100 rounds per year are now lucky to play once a month.     

Like every gloomy cloud, however, there is a silver lining for golfers who still appreciate the opportunity to play courses that once may have been inaccessible. For those who demand value, the register is laden with fine courses at previously unimaginable rates, and many are just a chip and a putt away.

A Patriotic Pastime?
Charleston, S.C., is surrounded by fine golf courses with impeccable reviews and views. Renowned Kiawah Island has five courses to choose from, while neighbor Seabrook Island has two. North of town, Wild Dunes Resort has two fine courses in Isle of Palms, and Mt. Pleasant’s RiverTowne Country Club, Dunes West Golf Club and Charleston National Country Club all provide daily fee options and nearby or onsite accommodations. There are plenty of other options in the area, but few provide the overall experience like Patriots Point Links and The Cottages on Charleston Harbor.

Patriots Point Links overlooks the harbor on the Mt. Pleasant side at the mouth of the Cooper River. If you can’t make history on the course, not far from the first tee at Patriots Point, you can find plenty. Patriots Point is home to the USS Yorktown and its Congressional Medal of Honor Museum, the USS Clamagore (the only preserved Guppy III submarine), USS Laffey (which supported the D-Day landings in Normandy and was then transferred to the Pacific theater off Okinawa), a Vietnam Naval Support Base Camp and the Cold War Submarine Memorial. Battery Gary, where cadets from The Citadel fired upon Fort Sumter and prevented The Star of the West from resupplying Union troops was located nearby.

In addition, the College of Charleston’s baseball (15 home games in the months of April and May, including UGA, May 8, and Georgia Southern, May 16 – 18), softball, soccer and tennis facilities all are located at Patriots Point.

The golf course, designed by Willard Byrd in 1979, might be considered tame in some circles due to its length (5,500 to 6,955 yards) and generous fairways, but once the wind starts howling, you’ll appreciate the generosity. Views of downtown Charleston, only 10 minutes away by car, and Fort Sumter (a ferry ride) are scintillating on a clear day. Managed by Alpharetta’s Affiniti Golf Partners, the links course can provide a challenge for golfers of all levels. Playing at 6,393 yards from the white tees, golfers will face only three par-4 holes that are longer than 400 yards, and all par-3 holes require mid- to short-iron approaches. Again, that is dependent upon the winds. The signature 17th hole, which features an island green with Fort Sumter providing the backdrop, measures just 130 to 150 yards. Some days you might hit a sand wedge, while on others it might require a 5-iron. And that is the beauty of Patriots Point and other links courses, because you never know what type of conditions you’ll face. Otherwise, Patriots Point has few elevation changes, which is perfect for those with rickety knees, or those who have been battered by other Lowcountry behemoths on prior days.

Cottage Choice
Just a minute away from Patriots Point Links is one of Charleston’s hidden gems for accommodations. Nestled close to the harbor’s lapping waters are 10 wonderfully appointed cottages, The Cottages on Charleston Harbor, that have the ability to mesmerize guests in a variety of ways. While just minutes from downtown, the cottages provide a marvelous view of the harbor and of the historic city, which seems just a fingertip’s length away.

Nine of the 1,300-square foot cottages feature two well-appointed bedrooms plus a kitchen with full-size refrigerator, stove, dishes, glassware, utensils, a coffee maker and bottles of wine for purchase. Heart pine flooring, comfortable chairs and couches, a gas fireplace, flat-screen HDTVs with DVD players, washer-dryer, a Bose stereo radio and French doors leading to a 380-square foot screened porch with a hammock, rocking chairs and tables and chairs facing the harbor make these common areas anything but. The 10th cottage is for nature lovers and includes one bedroom, two-baths and a lagoon view with the possibility of seeing egrets nesting or frolicking nearby.

The Clubhouse lounge, which overlooks the outdoor swimming pool and heated spa, offers a Continental breakfast and refreshments throughout the day. A private harbor-front beach with Adirondack chairs and tables is just steps away. A business center and ample meeting space are available, too.

The Cottages have attracted scores of weddings and wedding parties, with the months of March through June and August through November comprising the peak seasons. A three-night minimum at a higher rate per night is required on the busy weekends, however, Sunday through Wednesdays are perfect for your golf foursome (one guy gets the couch!), a couple’s getaway or a family retreat. Rather than booking two rooms elsewhere, a two-bedroom cottage can accommodate four guests quite easily.

The Cottages has forged relationships with three approved caterers for private functions or in-cottage dining, and can also arrange massage services, personal concierge services, pre-arrival grocery shopping and water taxi to downtown. For golfers, rounds at Patriots Point are provided at resident rates, which will save you about $35 per person, and replay rounds for an additional 18 holes on the same day are offered at only $20.

Fore Courses
After your round at Patriots Point, dining options are so incredibly rich in nearby Shem Creek and downtown Charleston that a separate publication to list them would be required. In addition to those mentioned in our July 2012 issue (Husk, 82 Queen and Tristan), others deserve consideration.

Pearlz Oyster Bar has a weekday Happy Hour menu that both cheapskates and discerning seafood lovers will relish. Oysters, shrimp, fish and a lively vibe are Pearlz’ signature. Bob Carter, formerly of The Inn at Blackberry Farm and Peninsula Grill, opened Carter’s Kitchen at the Inn at I’On in Mt. Pleasant in February 2012, and followed that auspicious opening with a new in-town eatery a few months ago. The Rutledge Cab Co. features an intriguing blend of casual and upscale fare and breakfast is served anytime. Where else can you find corned beef hash, eggs any style and toast alongside hoop cheddar and beer fondue, and chicken-fried sweetbreads or a tempting tuna steak with rice and lemon parsley butter? Add a splendid bar, eclectic drink menu and a nicely structured wine list for a complete evening of food and fun.

Mike Lata of FIG recently unveiled The Ordinary, and Chef Kevin Johnson, who began his career in Charleston at Slightly North of Broad, opened The Grocery. The Rarebit on King Street is quintessentially Southern and Hank’s is another favorite and comes highly recommended. A dinner at Steve Palmer’s The MacIntosh is like hitting a 400-yard drive. Executive chef Jeremiah Bacon’s menu is prodigious with creativity and the execution sublime. His flavorful and adventurous dishes like grilled deckle steak with béarnaise and savory bone marrow bread pudding provide a hint of the culinary oddities that are simply not to be believed, in quality of presentation and taste.

The Road to Solitude
Briar’s Creek is a private club community located on John’s Island, southeast of Charleston on the way to Kiawah Island with an 18-hole championship layout designed by Rees Jones and completed in 2001. The golf course is part of an exclusive retreat with ancient trees, rare birds and wildlife. There are no tee times here for the 200-plus members, and membership plans are as varied as the course’s routing, including the Young Professional plan for those under 50 years old, a national plan, international plan, non-resident membership and a corporate program. A marvelous practice facility and gorgeous clubhouse makes this golf club a fanciful escape just 17 miles from downtown Charleston. It’s like going on a vacation every time you visit the club, according to one member.

Chris Edwards, formerly of Atlanta Athletic Club, and head golf professional at the Golf Club at Briar’s Creek, said the property has a classic Lowcountry feel and members appreciate the bucolic surroundings and ability to relax.

The club has been included on many prestigious lists, such as Golf Digest’s Best New Private Courses and America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses, and Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses in the U.S. Like many in the Lowcountry, the degree of difficulty depends upon the wind and the direction it’s blowing, as it is situated on the Kiawah River and Briar’s Creek. Jones included six different sets of tees for members to choose from at distances of 4,818 yards to 7,117 yards.

In addition to the solitude, one characteristic that shines through at Briar’s Creek is the unblemished condition of the grounds. Despite a relatively small grounds crew, the golf course seems like it just opened for play. During your next visit to the area, arrange your private tour of the property and golf course with Gus Bright at gus@briarscreek.com, 843-296–6454.

Closer to Home
Château Élan Golf Club, Braselton
Château Élan’s Preferred Players Program is a great way for avid golfers to enjoy discounted golf year round on the Chateau Course, one of Atlanta’s premier golf courses. The course offers contoured fairways, thick Bermuda roughs, and strategically placed lakes and ponds. Designed by resident course architect, Denis Griffiths, the 7,030 yard, par-71 layout winds through three lakes and two creeks with water coming into play on 10 of the 18 holes. Newly renovated bunkers add to the definition and character of the course. The non-refundable annual fee for the program is $500, with the option to add unlimited practice facility usage for $100. Golfers then pay $20 for weekday rounds and $40 on weekends, and can sharpen their short game on the par-3 course for just $5. Preferred members may pre-book their rounds up to two weeks in advance, and merchandise and food are available at a 15 percent discount.

Chateau Elan will host its spectacular “Open Day” of play for all golfers on June 12, one day prior to the opening round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf. “Open Day” entitles all golfers to play unlimited golf on the Woodlands or Chateau courses for $25, which includes greens fee, cart fee and one range token. Beer and drink specials will be offered throughout the day for those 21 years of age and older. Visit chateauelan.com/energize/golf or call 678-425-0900 ext. 41 to reserve your tee time with a credit card.

Crystal Falls Lake & Golf Community, Dawsonville
Located in a remote area on 1,400 acres in Dawson County (west of Hwy. 400, south of Hwy. 53 and north of Hwy. 369), Crystal Falls offers one of the greatest values in the extended metro area for golfers. Designed by Dennis Griffiths and opened in 2006, the golf club boasts tall stands of pines, rolling hills and some of the best greens around. The layout has great variety and almost guarantees you’ll use every club in the bag.

Individual membership plans are just $125 per month with a 12-month commitment and requires a $15 food minimum per month (not including alcohol). Guest fees, when accompanying a full member, are just $49 weekdays and $65 weekends, which includes the $18 cart fee. For a course overview and more details, visit crystalfallsinfo.com or call 770-894-4972.

Currahee Golf Club, Toccoa
Currahee Club is a 1,200-acre real estate and golf course development located on Lake Hartwell in North Georgia near the town of Toccoa, bordering Georgia and South Carolina on the Savannah, Tugaloo and Seneca rivers. The club boasts a marvelous Jim Fazio-designed golf course, a spectacular 48,000-square-foot clubhouse and numerous club amenities, which will soon include a $2 million amenity center with a swim-tennis club and a lake park with boat docks. Visitors will be captivated by the majestic views, the quality of the course’s layout and conditions, and the membership opportunities available at Currahee Club. A non-resident program (for those living farther than 50 miles but not more than 300 miles from the club) is now part of the club’s offerings. The recallable, non-equity membership entitles you to full access to all Currahee Club amenities and privileges for your guests, with an $8,000 initiation fee and dues of only $225 per month. The club also offers accommodations for members and their guests in one of two golf cottages located near the splendid clubhouse, or a larger rental home for larger groups.

Golfers who love a challenge and peaceful surroundings will enjoy Currahee during every visit because of the variety that each hole offers and the seasonal views that are simply incredible. The par-3 17th hole is one of Fazio’s all-time favorites from his more than 40 years and 100-plus course designs. Discovery packages also are available and can be arranged by visiting curraheeclub.com. For membership details, call or e-mail Ron Hakala, 706-827-1000 ext. 1025, ron@curraheeclub.com.

Even More Great Golf
Barnsley Gardens Resort, Adairsville
The Barnsley Gardens Resort golf course is a Jim Fazio-designed championship course that is recognized as having some of the fastest greens in the Southeast. This course will dazzle golfers of any skill level and has one of the finest back nines in the entire state. Whether you wish to play a round with friends or to organize a corporate or charitable outing, Barnsley Gardens provides a unique and memorable experience. The course was recognized as the No. 2 Golf Resort in the South in the 16th Annual Conde Nast Traveler readers poll in 2012. For rates, tee times or more information, visit barnsleyresort.com or call 770-773-7480.

Berkeley Hills Country Club, Duluth
Since 1964, Berkeley Hills Country Club has provided a true southern country club lifestyle with impeccable dining, tennis and aquatic centers, and superb golf facilities. Offering 18 holes of golf designed by Ron Kirby and Gary Player, Berkeley Hills has gained a reputation for having some of the fastest, smoothest greens in the Atlanta area. Generations have grown up at our club, having fun with their families and friends, and enjoying our host of amenities and activities. It’s quite a lifestyle, really. For more information or to schedule your tour, contact Teresa Sims at 770-448-8353 or TSims@BerkeleyHillsCC.org, or visit berkeleyhillscc.org.

Chestatee Golf Club, Dawsonville
Set among the North Georgia Mountains, along the shoreline of the beautiful Lake Sidney Lanier. Golfers enjoy access to a beautiful 18-hole championship golf course with brilliant water holes and vigorous mountain-like terrain. Designed by award-winning golf architect, Denis Griffiths, Chestatee has been ranked one of the top 100 courses to play in the U.S. Featuring a beautiful clubhouse and dining facility, Chestatee offers fantastic dining with superb member events and activities. To book your tee time, call 706-216-7336 or visit chestateegolfclub.com.

Harbor Club, Greensboro
Harbor Club is surrounded by 1,600 acres of wooded hills and bordered by nine miles of Lake Oconee shoreline. The club features an 18-hole Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish golf course, which was opened in 1991, a 15,000-square-foot clubhouse with fitness center, golf shop, grill, fine-dining restaurant, swim and tennis center and access to 19,000 acres of freshwater lake. The community now offers stay and play packages and individual rounds of golf at selected times. Once Masters Week concludes, availability will be more accessible. Visit harborclub.com or call 800-505-4653.

The Manor Golf and Country Club, Alpharetta
Set among pines and rolling hills, The Manor Golf and Country Club is an exclusive, high-end gated community features a breathtaking 18-hole golf course designed by major champion Tom Watson with unmatched amenities. Members enjoy 16 professionally maintained tennis courts, an outdoor junior Olympic competition pool, an indoor heated pool and Jacuzzi, interactive children’s pool and fine dining facilities. For a limited time outside guests can enjoy the golf course and superbly manicured driving range and practice area when you book a tee time. Call 678-366-3886 or visit manorgcc.com.

The Standard Club, Johns Creek
Founded in 1867, The Standard Club moved from its Brookhaven location to its current address off Abbotts Bridge Rd. in 1987, and brought its historic and well-defined reputation with it. Ranked as the 17th best course in Georgia by Golf Digest this year, the club also offers a total of 16 indoor and outdoor tennis courts, excellent junior programs for both tennis and golf, indoor basketball and racquet ball court, fitness center, steam room, volleyball court, swimming pool and playground. The golf course is a very fair test with seven sets of tees and several dogleg holes that place a premium on control. Originally created by Arthur Hills, the layout was redesigned by Mike Riley in 2005. New membership programs are now offered at the club. For details, please contact Jodi Wolfe at 678-638-6425 or via e-mail, membership@standardclub.org.

Summer Grove Golf Club, Newnan
Originally developed and owned by the Jemsek family, owners of the famous Cog Hill Club in Chicago, Summer Grove is now theirs once again. Designed by Joe Jemsek and Jeff Burton, Summer Grove offers the best golf experiences on the south side of the Metro area with features carved from the surrounding lakes, wetlands, and forests. Summer Grove is truly a special place to spend the day. With a charming clubhouse, great membership opportunities and excellent practice facilities, Summer Grove is the place to play. Now open to the public. To book your tee time today call the pro shop at 770-251-1800 or visit summergrovegolf.com.

Waterfall Club, Clayton
Nestled in the North Georgia mountains overlooking Lake Burton, Waterfall offers 18 holes of unparalleled views, exquisite dining and refined amenities. Our exclusive private club was designed to be a refreshing retreat from the real world of responsibilities and deadlines. The heart of Waterfall is its spectacular golf course featuring Bent grass greens, fairways and tees – one of only two courses in the Georgia with that distinction. The centerpiece of the course is a waterfall on the second hole that will take your breath away. To learn more contact Amy Giles at 706.212.4000 or at AGiles@WaterfallCC.com, or visit waterfallcc.com.