Every spring since 2003, thousands of PGA Tour fans have flocked to Charlotte to attend an annual tournament now known as the Wells Fargo Championship. Many of the attendees arrive with, or acquire, a bug to play golf before or after rounds, and the area certainly offers plenty of choices.
Just south of the city on Interstate 77 is a wealth of fun, accessible and less congested South Carolina golf courses, ranging from an acclaimed South Carolina state park course to designs by some of the biggest names in the game. Others in South Carolina's Olde English District have less prestigious pedigrees but offer plenty of options in all price ranges.
Located in Fort Mill are Tega Cay, with 27 holes built on or near the shores of Lake Wylie; Carolina Lakes Golf Club, nominated for Golf Digest's best deals under $75; and Fort Mill Golf Course, one of four area courses built by Leroy Springs & Co. and open to public play. Fort Mill GC's front nine was built in 1948 by legendary architect Donald Ross and is one of only a few Ross designs in South Carolina.
Its sister courses include Springfield Golf Club, also in Fort Mill, plus Chester Golf Course and Lancaster Golf Course. All feature rolling topography and plenty of woods and water. Springfield, by architect Clyde Johnston, is the most challenging with 13 holes crossing or bordered by streams feeding into the Catawba River.
Minutes further south is the city of Rock Hill, a thriving community and home to Waterford Golf Club and Pinetuck Golf Club. Waterford, with design credits by three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin, is a shotmaker's course known for its large but undulating greens, while Pinetuck sits mostly isolated from housing and is known for its signature hole, the par-3 17th over water to a two-tiered green.
A true hidden gem is Edgewater Golf Course near Lancaster. Opened in 2008, and previously affiliated with Fuzzy Zoeller Golf, its sweeping landscapes and steep elevation rises and drops earned it the Charlotte Business Journal's vote as one of the area's toughest, with speedy bent grass greens.
Nearby in the town of York is Spring Lake Country Club. Both courses feature hilly, rolling terrain and thick forests, but while Carolina Crossing is tight and demanding off the tee, Spring Lake is more forgiving with generous fairways and landing areas.
For a true treat, one of the area's best deals is Cheraw State Park Golf Course. One of only 40 courses in the U.S. named as a "Super Value" by Golf Digest, this 6,928-yard, par-72 Tom Jackson design is playable but demanding. Water from nearby Lake Juniper comes into play on just three holes, but its signature par-4, 496-yard 13th is a beast: a dogleg-left, downhill-and-uphill hole with a forced carry over water to the green.
Cheraw is about two hours from Charlotte, so if you're going, plan to also try Moree's Cheraw Country Club. Just across U.S. 52 from Cheraw State Park, the course bills itself as a Donald Ross Signature course, originally designed in 1924. With some state park accommodations available, Cheraw makes for a Pinehurst-like experience at a fraction of that golf mecca's cost.