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Links on the Lake: Triple Treat in McCormick

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Hickory Knob State Park Golf Course offers golfers a challenging layout on the waters of Lake Thurmond Reservoir.

There's an old saying that fits the small town of McCormick, located on South Carolina's "left coast" of Lake Thurmond: It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from there. Most travelers don't stumble upon McCormick; you have to be going there.

Now, there's a great reason for golfers to do that - three of them, in fact.

The year-old "Links on the Lake" golf package, which includes rounds of golf each at Hickory Knob State Resort Park's golf course and Savannah Lakes' Tara and Monticello courses, plus two nights' accommodations at Hickory Knob and breakfast both days, is a sweet deal at $199. And individually, the three golf courses are off-the-beaten-path gems, each of which would be worth the trip.

Start with Hickory Knob, a 1982 design by Greenville-based architect Tom Jackson (who also built South Carolina's other state park course at Cheraw). Head professional Mike Tarver, a 23-year veteran at Hickory Knob, has seen annual rounds slip from 30,000 a year to about 17,000 due to the addition of more courses in the area and, of course, the recession. But that means unhurried golf in a beautiful setting along Lake Thurmond.

The two nines are distinctive thanks to a large ridge that runs through the front - especially notable at the severely uphill par-5 second and par-4 fourth holes and the downhill par-3 sixth - while the back nine features more gently rolling terrain. Tarver's favorite hole is the par-4 14th, with its generous fairway and large green, and the course's three-hole finish incorporates the lake on each hole, especially the testing par-4 18th, which demands a precise tee shot followed by a carry over water to the green.

Savannah Lakes, once a private development, is now open for public play. Tara is visually spectacular, starting out with four steeply uphill holes before returning to the double-green ninth (and 18th) holes. A particular challenge is the par-5 16th, sweeping downhill and then climbing a seeming mountain to the bunkered, elevated green. Monticello is longer and tougher, with more lakefront holes, and hosts an annual NGA Tour tournament played immediately following the Masters in Augusta, about 40 miles away.

"We're sort of in the middle of nowhere, but people who play here can't believe it is public," Tarver said. "They tell us, ‘If this was in Atlanta, you'd pay $75-$80.'"

Combining with the Savannah Lakes courses has only made Hickory Knob an even better deal, especially for a golf getaway. For information on the "Links on the Lake" package visit

Bob Gillespie
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