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Cost Not an Issue? Enjoy These Ultra-Luxurious South Carolina Golf Experiences

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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For years, South Carolina - especially the Myrtle Beach area - has been known for great deals on golf, from multi-round packages to special discounts on individual rounds, all designed for visiting players to save a few dollars while enjoying great golf. But not everyone is looking for a money-saving deal; some are looking for a fabulous golf stay, and hang the cost. For those lucky folks, never fear: a number of SC golf and resort operations can meet your every expectation ... and then some.

Here are a half-dozen golf experiences guaranteed to satisfy the pickiest high-end customers. Bring your platinum card, because these venues aren't cheap - but for those who seek the best, they're worth it.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah Island

Nothing says luxury like an Atlantic Ocean-front golf course that has hosted a Ryder Cup (1991) and a major championship (2012 PGA Championship), is renowned as perhaps the world's toughest 18 holes - and comes with a beachfront five-star hotel to boot.

Welcome to Kiawah Island Golf Resort, home to the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, where many of the world's greatest players have competed in some of the game's top events. Playing this dunes-and-marsh-laden course, with views of the ocean from almost every hole, is a treat that comes with a warning: Your game will be tested and perhaps found wanting.

Not every player will want that, and Kiawah is ready with four more courses, each with its own delights, including Turtle Point, Osprey Point, Cougar Point and Oak Point, with such name architects as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Gary Player.

And if the golf leaves you happily exhausted, you can then retreat to the fabulous Sanctuary, with its 255 spacious rooms and suites, including a 3,000-square-foot Presidential Suite. King rooms, among the largest on the East Coast, include handcrafted desks and armoires, sofas and chairs, and custom-made beds. All in all, it's a perfect end to each perfect golf day.

Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort

Hilton Head Island

Find out why the PGA Tour players who come annually to the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing voted Harbour Town their second-favorite regular Tour venue, with only Augusta National more loved. This 1969 design by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus has stood the tests of time, thanks to a 2016 restoration that included a totally rebuilt Harbour Town clubhouse, with its signature restaurant Links, An American Grill.

Want more golf? Sea Pines has Heron Point by Pete Dye and Atlantic Dunes, a Davis Love III design, both minutes away at the Plantation Club. Want more eating choices? Hilton Head has plenty, but for fine dining, check out Live Oak in the Plantation Club.

And for the perfect stay, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town - located alongside the course's first fairway - is a boutique hotel rated No. 1 luxury accommodation on the island. Elegant decor, pampering service and complimentary amenities - the Inn's 60 elegant guest rooms offer Egyptian cotton linens, fine appointments and more. You'll conclude those PGA Tour guys knew what they were talking about.

May River Golf Course at Palmetto Bluff


In 2005, the SC Golf Course Ratings Panel named the Jack Nicklaus-designed May River course as "Best New Course" in the state, and many panelists consider it perhaps South Carolina's best - no small compliment. The 7,171-yard layout meanders along its eponymous river, with eco-friendly turf fairways, ancient live oaks and gently undulating slopes. Nicklaus even used Ohio sand in his bunkers, with a grain that better adheres to sloped surfaces. Typical of Nicklaus courses, the practice facility is second to none.

While May River is considered a private club, guests staying at Montage Palmetto Bluff have access to the course. And that's in addition to the luxury hotel, overlooking the May River on a 20,000-acre community property, with a nature preserve, hiking trails, village, marina, seven restaurants including the River House Lounge, Jessamine, Cole's, Buffalo's and the Canoe Club (plus private or in-room dining) and more.

Accommodations include cottages, guest rooms, suites and village homes. Tell ‘em Jack sent you.

Wild Dunes Resort

Isle of Palms

One of Charleston's premier resort areas since the late 1970s, Wild Dunes is home to one of famed architect Tom Fazio's first solo designs, the Links Course, and its companion Harbor Course. Both wend their way through live oaks, large sand dunes and marshlands, and live up to Fazio's philosophy of "look hard, play gently." It's a challenging yet fun way to enjoy Lowcountry golf.

Wild Dunes also has a variety of resort accommodations, from rental homes, condos and beach properties to The Village at Wild Dunes and The Boardwalk Inn. The Isle of Palms' downtown area, with more restaurants and entertainment, is minutes outside the Wild Dunes gates, with Charleston some 30 minutes away.

Barefoot Resort

North Myrtle Beach

Four courses by four of the world's best architects await: the Dye, Fazio, Love and Norman courses, each a unique experience from its brethren and each reflecting the design philosophy of its creator. The Dye course, in particular, is regularly ranked among Myrtle Beach and South Carolina's finest tests, with plenty of sand, rolling fairways and marshes.

Barefoot Resort's accommodations run the gamut from Clearwater Bay (townhomes), Harbour Cove, Tanglewood and The Havens, to the luxurious high-rise North Tower, billed as "the ultimate accommodations in prestigious Barefoot Resort," with condos offering sky-high views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Barefoot Marina. Another option is the Yacht Club, also with views of water and wildlife.

The Dunes Golf & Beach Club

Myrtle Beach

One of Myrtle Beach's oldest and more revered golf courses, The Dunes since 2001 has undergone two major renovations projects to keep this Robert Trent Jones classic up to date. The first expanded the practice area and also modified the 18th hole, and added an extra alternate hole between the 13th and 14th holes, to be used when another hole is closed for maintenance.

The 2013 update, under the direction of Jones' son, Rees "The Open Doctor" Jones, converted the course's greens from A-1 Bentgrass to Ultradwarf Champions Bermuda, a more resilient surface that provides ideal putting conditions year-round. The driving range was enlarged and a chipping green and practice bunker added, and 250 yards were added to the championship tees, boosting the layout to 7,450 yards. The course hosted the 2015 PGA Professional National Championship as a result.

While play is open to guests of members or members of courses with reciprocal agreements, guests can access The Dunes by staying in a number of member hotels and limited golf package providers. Top hotels include Breakers Resort, Long Bay Resort, Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, Kingston Plantation and the Hilton Myrtle Beach. Contact the golf shop at 843.449.5914 for information.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 350-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.