Aiken Golf Club

By:Bob Gillespie


First begun in 1912 and a local favorite ever since, Aiken Golf ​Club will be celebrating its centennial this year. So what better time for the historic site to play host to a visitor from Golfweek magazine?

In this case, the course – which also has been played and praised by writers from Golf World and Sports Illustrated over the past few years – entertained Bradley Klein, architectural writer for the magazine, who does course reviews during each year. A fan of traditional layouts, Klein visited Aiken Golf Club during the magazine’s coverage of the nearby Masters in April.

Obviously, he enjoyed the course for what it is: a step back into the game’s archives, without the modern game’s length and spectacle but a solid testament to golf’s traditions, as the following reveals:

“Somehow, history lives on here undisturbed, fending off the modern world and taking comfort in timeless ways,” Klein wrote. “At 5,800 yards from the back tees, par-70 Aiken Golf Club might seem an anachronism. But golf in its traditional form has a long shelf life; a century, in fact, which is precisely the age of this lovely, gracious, rambling little daily-fee layout.”

Built as an 11-hole layout in 1912, an amenity to the nearby Highland Park Hotel (long since destroyed by fire) that played host to visiting “snowbirds” from the Northeast escaping winter for warmer climes and ready golf, Aiken Golf Club was constructed by professional John R. Inglis, a disciple of Donald Ross and the club’s pro from 1915-39. The town of Aiken took possession when the resort failed in 1939, selling it to James McNair Sr. 20 years later. Today, Jim McNair Jr. owns and manages the course with a loving touch, and a budget of less than $300,000 a year. He restored the course to its original state, assisted by encouragement from renowned architect Bill Coore in 1997 and aided by like-minded golf traditionalists including his son, James III.

Klein and a group of Golfweek reviewers gave the course high marks for its routing, land plan and “walk in the park” ambience. Aiken Golf Club is ranked 13th in South Carolina among public-access courses by the magazine, outpolling many resort courses, and is the highest-rated non-coastal layout.

“In a region dominated by private-club giants such at Palmetto Club, Sage Valley, Augusta Country Club and Augusta National, Aiken stands out for its simple virtues,” Klein writes. To read his story and review, click her​e.

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