Bob Gillespie



Old favorite reborn: Chapin’s scenic Timberlake Country Club

Posted 1/3/2012 3:53:00 PM

When Timberlake Country Club first opened in the mid-1990s, it had a lot of elements that made it stand out in the South Carolina Midlands: beautiful rolling terrain with only two parallel fairways, the solid track record of architect Willard Byrd and its status as the only golf course built on the shores of Lake Murray. The one downside: its relatively isolated location, near the then-tiny town of Chapin, a 45-minute drive north on Interstate 26 from Columbia.

Since then, the 6,579-yard, par-71 course has had its financial ups and downs over the years. Once a private club, Timberlake has members but is open to public play. At times plagued by money woes, the member-owned club recently spent wisely to upgrade both the course and its facilities; formerly a par-72, the club’s par-5 ninth hole was converted to a par-4 in 2009 to accommodate the new, well-appointed clubhouse.

But one thing hasn’t changed: the location, which remains one of the most scenic golf courses in South Carolina, with picturesque views of Lake Murray – especially at the par-3, 196-yard (back tees) fourth hole, which demands a tee shot over water to a peninsula green, and at the signature par-5, 483-yard 18th, stretching along the lake and one of the area’s most striking finishing holes. For an online look, check out the Facebook page.

These days, there’s a new vibe, too. Head professional/general manager Dave Madden, a Chapin native, and his top assistant, David Kullenberg, are local products who came to the club in September. “(Madden) is 34 and I’m 24; we’re trying to entice a younger crowd, along with the new clubhouse and improved course,” says Kullenberg, a graduate of local Brookland-Cayce High and Coastal Carolina University.

Madden, who previously was head professional at Santee National, oversees club activities while “I get to work in the pro shop and talk golf with members and visitors,” Kullenberg says with a laugh. These days, he’s got plenty to talk about.

The sprawling, undulating greens are now grassed with Champions Bermuda, one of the top hybrids for slick, true putting surfaces. Water is in play on seven holes, notably the 18th, and while the course isn’t excessively long, Kullenberg calls it a “true shot-maker’s course” demanding accuracy.

“It’s a tough layout (slope rating of 139 from the back tees, 119 forward) and different from any other in the Columbia area,” he said. “We took out trees to enhance some of the views, so if you’re playing badly, at least you’ve got nice scenery to look at.”

Location remains an issue for locals, and “the course doesn’t get nearly as much play as it should,” Kullenberg said. That, though, opens up tee times for visitors, and rates – $45 weekdays and $55 weekends before 1 p.m.; $30 after 1 p.m. daily – are reasonable, given the product.

“The club’s goal is to be private, but we definitely encourage public play,” Kullenberg said. “It’s nice to have folks come out. I’ve lived in South Carolina for 18 years, and quality-wise, I think we’re in the top five in Columbia, especially the greens; people rave about the greens.”

Amenities also make Timberlake stand out: a full pro shop, a formal dining room and lounge/grill. A second grill downstairs and a workout facility for members are in the works. And there’s also this: If you own a boat, you can sail it to the club’s dock and get to the first tee that way. Not a bad “location” situation.

Tee-time reservations are encouraged. Call (803) 345-9909, extension 14, or click here.