A recent visit to LinRick (built on 257 acres north of Columbia at 356 Camp Ground Road, off Winnsboro Road) confirmed that assessment. The course, operated as a self-supported operation, is at the mercy of the economy as much as the weather. But an updated irrigation system and a wet spring have made the Bermuda fairways as lush as those at expensive public and private courses in the area.
If you're looking for greens with speeds that rival marble countertops, though, LinRick isn't your cup of tea (tee?). "They're 40-year-old greens, so we can't get them as fast as some places," Rutherford says. "But I don't know if we need that kind of green speed with our customer base."
Translation: For lightning-fast greens, look elsewhere. If your putting nerves aren't PGA Tour-quality, you might find LinRick just to your liking.
Apparently, many in the Midlands do. Rutherford says that through May, rounds played at LinRick are up 300 per month, and have been up 4.5 percent for the third straight year. The increases, he says, are mostly weekdays, also as a result of the economy.
"We're not getting as many players in the 30-40 (age) range," he says. "We see a lot of seniors and kids who play during the week. I think the folks who played weekends got knocked out by the economy - though I do think the economy is coming back."
Regardless, public golf in Columbia appears on the upswing. Some of that is because some courses that used to be private have opened to at least limited public play. That, in turn, could hurt county-owned LinRick - but, Rutherford says, the course has held its own.
"We have groups from outside South Carolina that come here every year," he says. "Some are on their way to Myrtle Beach, but that's OK. One group of 20 or so guys from Ohio, they stop and play at least two times. We've got several like that."
The attraction is a reasonably priced course with plenty of elevation and terrain features, eight ponds and a number of holes that challenge any player. Notable are the daunting, double-dogleg par-5 16th, a true three-shot hole that plays uphill off the tee, over a valley to an elevated landing area, and finally over water to a severely sloped back-to-front green. Follow that with the all-uphill, par-3 17th with its blind tee shot and going par-par in that stretch is a job well done.
Rutherford knows LinRick will never be world-class golf; that's not its mission. "Some of our bunkers need work, but my philosophy is, it's a hazard, so I don't care if it's not perfect," he says. "We try to be consistent, never spectacular but never bad."
And never a bad deal price-wise at $31 (weekdays including cart) and $38 (weekends with cart); senior and student rates for weekdays are $26 with cart. Walking is permitted, and pull carts are available. Rutherford maintains a well-stocked pro shop and a snack bar.
The atmosphere at LinRick is always relaxed and laid-back - and, when the conditions are as good as now, just plain fun. For tee times and information, call (803) 754-6331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.