Maybe it's because for the first decade of its existence, the Golf Club of South Carolina at Crickentree was a members-only course. Though the Blythewood-area club has been open to the public for more than a dozen years, that image remains - and sometimes, that keeps players away.
That Crickentree is among the most difficult courses in the Midlands, and almost certainly the toughest one open to the public is a given. Built by architect Ken Killian during Columbia's late-1980s golf boom amid pine forests and over rolling terrain, the layout demands length, accuracy and finesse playing into its fast and often severe hybrid-Bermuda greens.
On a recent visit, those greens (converted years ago from the original bent grass) showed a bit of bumpiness from a hard winter. Amundson said the club is now rolling the surfaces, taking out the odd "hops" but leaving them scary-slick. The mostly narrow, twisting fairways make getting there an adventure, too.
The toughest holes are the par-4 fifth, its fairway sloping left toward water and a green guarded by mounds, and the par-4 10th, a tight dogleg-right with a stream running along right side and across the fairway at several points ending at a small, well-bunkered green. The most intimidating hole might be the par-3 17th, with its tee-to-green water carry.
Better players enjoy Crickentree for its challenges, though from the white tees (a shade over 6,000 yards; the course can play a man-sized 7,002 from the back), the course is reasonable for mid-level players, though still difficult.