Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Open to the public: Country Club of South Carolina now welcomes visiting golfers

Posted 8/20/2012 2:25:00 PM

In 15 years as head professional and now director of golf at the Country Club of South Carolina, Russell Glover often had to perform a juggling act when asked by interested golfers about playing the Florence course, regarded as one of the best in the Pee Dee and Interstate 95 corridor.

On the one hand, CCSC was a private club. On the other, guests of a couple of local hotels had access to the Ellis Maples design through a “stay and play” program. Thus, Glover was hesitant when asked by golf publications if his club was private, public or semi-private.

No more. As of Nov. 1, 2011, CCSC is semi-private, officially open to outside play while still home to about 280 members. In 2011, the S.C. Golf Course Ratings Panel, a statewide group of raters, included CCSC in its “Top 25 Courses You Can Play” in the state. That, potentially, is good news for traveling golfers headed south to Florida or east toward the Grand Strand.

“We’re seeing more outside traffic now,” said Glover, who estimates the club’s new status has resulted in a 25 percent increase in rounds, most of that from locals to date. “And we have not advertised” that the course is now open to non-members.

“We were limited that way in the past. My opinion: Keep it public.”

The reasons for CCSC’s new status are also why the word “potentially” comes into play. The club was sold to Carolina National Bank after former owners suffered financial difficulties, and neglect from that time led to some conditioning problems. Glover says CNB has spent money spraying for nematodes and doing general cleanup and will continue to do so. “They’re putting (more) money into upkeep,” he said.

Current conditions, however, can’t detract from the superb design of a course that from 1991-2000 played host to the South Carolina Classic, an annual event on the PGA Tour’s developmental Ben Hogan/Nike/Buy.com (now-Web.com) Tour. CCSC also has been site of seven major Carolinas events, most recently the 2007 South Carolina Amateur.

The course is, indeed, a challenge to all levels of players, measuring 7,062 yards from the championship tees and with considerable elevation changes and subtle but difficult greens, as well as a mix of open and tree-lined fairways and both brutishly long and temptingly short par-4s.

The fourth hole, 378 yards from all the way back, requires an uphill tee shot over a fairway bunker (or to the right of it), doglegging left to an elevated, well-bunkered green. At the eighth hole (427 yards from the back), all a player sees from the tee is sand – a series of bunkers lining the fairway – with bunkers guarding the green.

By contrast, the 13th hole (384 at its longest but usually playing much shorter) requires a fairway wood or hybrid shot to the corner of a sharp dogleg left and an approach to a canted green guarded by water and rocks. The 14th (404) plays to a flat fairway, but the second shot is straight uphill, demanding at least an extra club and imagination.

CCSC’s signature hole is the 18th: a monster (460 yards, 406 from the member tees) that doglegs wide left around a lake and finishes at an elevated green guarded by multiple bunkers. Without a big drive, the closing hole can play more like a par-5, and long iron approaches into the green can go bounding off the back.

If you want to measure your game against a course that handled future PGA Tour players, Country Club of South Carolina is a fitting test. At its current greens fees of $45 – reduced from initial pricing at $68-$75 – it’s an affordable one, too.

As recently as 2006, the previous owners brought in Hall of Famer Tom Watson to consider adding nine holes. That property and those days are gone, Glover said. But what’s left is a demanding 18 holes that constitute the best course the public can play in the Pee Dee.

For more information and/or tee times, call (843) 669-1838, email info@countryclubsc.com or go to www.countryclubsc.com.