Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Bargain Golf: Batesburg-Leesville’s Indian Trail is ‘accidental’ gem

Posted 1/13/2013 10:51:00 AM

Rudy Raborn still laughs when he tells the story behind construction of the 14th hole at Indian Trail Golf Course – the club’s signature hole – which owes its distinctiveness to a happy accident of fate.

Raborn, a local certified public accountant and avid golfer, was working on the course’s books one day in 1994, when his construction boss walked into the makeshift clubhouse wearing a grim look.

“He said, ‘We got a problem; there’s a rock as big as this room’ on No. 14,” Rayborn says, chuckling. “I told him, ‘Take a ’dozer and push it into the woods,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, right.’ Instead, we decided to use that as a part of the course.”

The “rock” – actually a massive outcropping that defines the right side of the elevated landing area on the par-4, 370-yard hole – now is both aiming point and ever-present concern for players. “We really like that rock now; that’s what people talk about. They’ll say, ‘You mean the ‘rock hole’? It’s always on your mind on the tee.”

The hole also serves as a microcosm for Indian Trail, the product of one man’s passion for golf and a testament to amateur course design. Opened with nine holes on Dec. 1, 1993 (the back nine opened on Labor Day 1995), its only architect was “just me,” Rayborn says.

“I had never built any courses before, but I was a member at two other courses. I had a good friend help with the design, bought a bunch of old equipment; we took our time (and “a lot” of money, he says) and just did it.”

Located in Batesburg-Leesville off Interstate 20 at Exit 39/U.S. 178 West, Indian Trail is a short (6,272 yards from the back tees and par-72) but challenging layout with features – rolling terrain, water on 11 holes (nine man-made ponds) and some well-thought-out mounding and bunkering – that belie Rayborn’s lack of course-design experience.

The 65-year-old inherited the former soybean farm property from his father, who bought it in the 1950s and “never got to enjoy it,” Rayborn says. At first, the younger Rayborn and his buddies built a few holes “just to practice on. Finally I decided, if I can keep up 3-4 (holes), I can keep up 18.”

On the course’s website, Rayborn is modest (or realistic) about his baby: “We’ll be the first to admit Indian Trail is not a five-star resort, but neither are our prices.” Indeed, at $22 weekdays and $25 weekends with cart ($11-$13 walking; seniors ride Monday-Thursday for $15), the golf offers plenty of bang for not many bucks.

Take No. 14, a dogleg right that plays uphill tee-green: Players must drive to the elevated landing area left and above the rock face – anything to its right is dead – then play over water to an elevated, two-tiered green. Rayborn also is fond of the 522-yard par-5 17th – “I love it because you can rip it and it is ‘birdie-able,’ but you can also make double bogey” – and the second, third, fifth and ninth holes on the front nine, which he admits is not as scenic as the back side.

Indian Trail draws players from Augusta (50 minutes away), Aiken, North Augusta and Saluda, as well as from Lexington and Columbia (40 minutes). “We have a kind of niche market, guys we see all the time, but also some new faces,” Rayborn says. With two former area courses now closed, “we’re the beneficiary of their misfortune,” he says.

Rayborn rarely plays elsewhere now, and his course is never really finished. He has plans to “smooth out a few holes to help the carts,” level some tee boxes and add more senior and ladies tees for variety and challenge.

“We’re not ‘there’ yet, but we’re pretty proud,” Rayborn says.

Best of all, he says, the course has no debt, enabling him to keep prices low. “That’s our main advantage,” he says. “It’s nice to have those million-dollar courses when things are going good, but they’ve been hurt by the recession. We’re not getting rich, but we won’t close, either.”

Unfortunately for Rayborn, whose best score at Indian Trail is a 2-under 70, his own clubs will soon be gathering more dust than grass stains. “I’m a full-time CPA, and I’ve about hung up my clubs until after tax season,” he says. “After that, though, I’ll change hats again.”

Meanwhile, regulars and visitors who make the effort to find the off-the-beaten-path Indian Trail will enjoy a fun and intriguing course for not much money. For an amateur designer, it doesn’t get much better than that.

For information and/or tee times, call (803) 532-9010 or toll-free (866) EVEN-PAR, or go to www.golfindiantrail.com.