South Carolina is chock-full of historic sites, but few combine an off-the-beaten-path Revolutionary War battle - and a golf course with a loyal fan base.
Welcome to Beech Creek Golf Club, located off U.S. 261 between Sumter and Camden, on the site of the Battle of Beech Creek. You can learn about that conflict by reading the historic plaque at the entrance to the course - though, truth be told, most regulars these days are more interested in getting to the first tee.
Among them is J.R. Berry, news anchor for Columbia's CBS affiliate WLTX TV-19 and an avid Beech Creek member the past four-to-five years. "When I started, I was a 20-something handicap," the tall, silver-haired Sumter resident says. Playing his favorite golf course regularly has improved his game, he says.
Berry and Beech Creek owner Ken Rosefield share a common background: Rosefield sold another area course, Pocalla Springs, for real estate before buying Beech Creek from its original owners. Berry played Pocalla Springs until it closed, then relocated.
But general manager Chris Kirlis has them both beat. "I've been here since before Ken bought it," Kirlis, a former landscaper, says. Other regulars include Sumter native Matt Price, an All-American baseball pitcher for the University of South Carolina's two-time defending NCAA champions.
Built in 1989 by architect Ron Goodson in Sumter's High Hills area, Beech Creek features tight, tree-lined fairways on some holes and wide-open vistas marked by sweeping elevation changes on others. The result is a variety that challenges players to demonstrate accuracy, length and - thanks to quick, undulating greens - precision in order to score well.
"It's a fun, forgiving course - not flat or run-of-the-mill, and greens that are tricky," Kirlis says. Rosefield has invested time and money in the course, most recently with a new fleet of Yamaha golf carts, and it shows.
While Beech Creek has a number of memorable front-nine holes - notably the par-3 second, playing over water with a steep slope guarding the right side, and the par-4 eighth, which sweeps downhill and left to a mounded, well-bunkered green - its most challenging stretch is its four-hole finish.
The par-5 15th demands two solid shots, then doglegs left over water to a green guarded by bunkers and mounds. The par-3 16th slopes severely from back to front to create frightening uphill or downhill first putts. The 17th, at 436 yards the course's longest par-4, requires a long tee shot to the top of a ridgeline, then drops quickly to a slick green guarded by the ridgeline right and a creek left. Finally, there's the par-5 18th, with water all along the doglegged left side and ending with an approach over water to an elevated, severely undulating green.
Beech Creek is two miles from Sumter's Shaw Air Force Base, and 30 minutes from Columbia via U.S. 378. "We stay busy, and we get traffic from Columbia because the city keeps moving east," Kirlis says. Beech Creek, no doubt, is helping Columbia's golfers move that way.
Click here for information and tee times, call (803) 499-4653 (GOLF).