There are no shortcuts to reach Fripp Island. As you might guess by the "island" part, this coastal getaway in the South Carolina lowcountry is the last thing on U.S. 21 between the mainland and the Atlantic Ocean.
But for visitors - and especially visiting golfers - that's not necessarily a bad thing.
As we crossed the bridge onto Fripp on a hot August morning, a glance out the passenger window produced a view of two dolphins frolicking in the waterway. And throughout our round that day on Ocean Creek - one of two on-island courses, along with Ocean Point Links - our attention to golf shots was distracted by spectacular views of salt marshes, lagoons and live oaks, not to mention an endless array of wildlife: egrets, herons, ospreys and, most surprising of all, deer seemingly so tame they might walk onto a green and advise you on a putt.
If you're looking to get away from it all - well, all except golf and a slower, more relaxed pace - Fripp Island has a lot going for it.
Start with the golf, which of course is why you're reading this. Ocean Creek is the newer of the courses, a 6,613-yard, par-71 layout built by PGA Tour veteran Davis Love III in 1995 that is more demanding than its yardage would suggest. Fairways are generous, but water and marshy hazards are in play on 11 holes, demanding accuracy and a precise touch.
Char Cormier, director of golf for both courses, says his better players prefer Ocean Creek, which earns 4.5 stars from Golf Digest and made the magazine's "Best New Courses You Can Play" when it opened, over the beachfront Ocean Point, a 1964 design by George Cobb. "(Ocean Creek) has bigger greens and more forced carries," the native of Bay City, Mich., says. "Whereas the 15-handicappers and higher like that they can bump their (approach) shots into the greens" at Ocean Point.
Three holes on Ocean Creek stand out:
- The signature par-3 sixth hole, requiring a carry over the marsh, which also guards the right side; the long par-4 seventh;
- The No. 1 handicap hole, which doglegs right with sand and marsh guarding the right side before an approach over the marsh;
- And the par-5 18th, an inland dogleg right with a high ridgeline cutting diagonally across the fairway, forcing a near-blind second shot or lay-up.
A quick visit afterward to see Ocean Point left us eager to return. A links-like design, this 4-star course offers ocean views (and winds) on 10 holes, with front and back nines finishing against an Atlantic backdrop. Both courses are open to island guests, who stay in homes or condo-like rentals. Call (800) 334-3022 or (843) 838-1576 for rental and golf information.
After golf ... well, Fripp Island doesn't have a vibrant nightlife (several seafood or barbecue restaurants are a couple of miles back toward Beaufort). It's a family destination where most of the traffic is kids in golf carts - and the deer, of course. But Cormier, who moved here seven years ago after jobs in Atlanta, likes it that way.
"This is the first time in 25 years where I don't take the job home with me," he said. "It's a different lifestyle. There aren't many places where you drive to work with these views of the ocean and the wildlife."
Recreationally, there are tennis courts, deep-sea and inlet fishing, the beach and swimming pools. "It's like Disney World here," Cormier said - that is, if Disney World had only one way in.