Golf is always a part of the South Carolina experience, but in the fall it’s college football that dominates the sports scene. Still, most of the state’s football-playing colleges and universities have found ways to combine great golf with great Saturday games and pageantry. Each week this fall, we will profile the teams and the courses in our “Go(lf) Team!” features.
Fans of Charleston Southern’s Buccaneers
football team might not report any Tommy Gainey
sightings at their Big South Conference games – “Two Gloves” is a hard-core USC Gamecocks supporter – but they can tell remember-when stories about the PGA Tour’s latest winner playing at CSU’s favorite golf course, The Golf Club at Wescott Plantation
Back in 2007, when Bishopville’s
Gainey – whose recent final-round 60 and McGladrey Classic victory earned him a two-year PGA Tour exemption – was still struggling on various mini-tours, he competed in a Hooters Tour event at Wescott Plantation. So did Tommy Biershenk
, a 2012 PGA Tour rookie from Clemson, as well as former USC star Kyle Thompson and others.
Bottom line, Gainey “didn’t make the cut here,” says Wescott general manager Jason Boutin. “Now, (five) years later, he’s winning on the PGA Tour.”
As much as an indication of Gainey’s progress since, Boutin says it’s also a measure of the challenges of this 11-year-old layout, located near Charleston International Airport between CSU’s campus and Summerville
. Designed by Dr. Michael Hurdzan, the only 27-hole course in Charleston
was built on the site of a Lowcountry plantation and is framed by ancient live oaks and wetlands that force players to be accurate, or else.
The course’s three nine-hole layouts are Oak Forest, Burnt Kill and Black Robin, each with its own look and feel. While Oak Forest is the most user-friendly with wide fairway (but also subtle greens), Black Robin is the most demanding, placing a premium on accuracy and shot-shaping ability through the tree-lined fairways. Burnt Kill demands accuracy off the tee, but has the largest greens.
“Black Robin is the most difficult, and the one the better players want to play,” says Boutin, a CSU graduate, former restaurant manager and previously the food and beverage manager at the club. “Oak Forest is open, and you can run the ball onto the greens, not a lot of forced carries but with good bunkering.
“Burnt Hill has elevation changes, so a few holes require an extra club into the green. Black Robin has water and a lot of left-to-right and right-to-left shots, which is why some regulars stay away from it.”
With five sets of tees, the course can be set up to play up to 7,200 yards – one reason CSU’s golf teams enjoy practicing there. “As long as those kids hit it, they’ve still got to hit drivers (off the tee) on par-4s,” Boutin says. The three nines feature TifEagle greens and TifSport hybrid fairways.
Each of the nines has its favorite holes, with Oak Forest’s par-3 No. 8 (210 from the back tees) favored for its forced carry over water on the left and large oak guarding the right side. Burnt Kill has the par-4 seventh, playing downhill to water and then uphill 20-30 feet to an elevated green. Black Robin’s “stud” is the par-5 fifth, a stout 585 yards from the tips, with a tight driving area favoring a fade, then a layup over wetlands to 100 yards out from a deep but skinny green.
Owned by the City of North Charleston
, Wescott Plantation is open to the public, and stays busy, logging 40,000 rounds a year. And having 27 holes makes it popular for tournaments. “We can play 200 or so players and they all get done in around five hours,” Boutin says.
Charleston Southern football brings in out-of-town fans, many of whom enjoy a round on Fridays or Sundays. The club also hosts Bucs Club and Presidents Club fundraisers, and has a strong juniors program founded six years ago and run by instructor Perry Green, named the area’s Junior Golf Leader of the Year in 2011.
“The past three months have been the best on record since we opened,” Boutin says. “In August when the PGA (Championship) was in town, we did 4,000 rounds – those are April-May numbers. “September was good and so is October so far. With good weather and not much rain – plus the (Charleston) economy is doing well with Boeing the past two years – it’s been really good.”
For rates, tee times or information, call (843) 871-2135 or (866) 211-GOLF (4653), or go to www.wescottgolf.com