Plan a Golf Buddy Trip to South Carolina’s Old 96 District

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:9/17/2014

Golfing buddies at Hickory Knob and Savannah lakes golf courses in South Carolina
Devereaux Duffers Vernon DeHart, Barry Beasley, Gary Cannon and Bob Gillespie are long-time golfing buddies who recently played Hickory Knob and Savannah Lakes.

“Golf buddy” trips are a golfing tradition and a business-stoking phenomenon; just ask course owners in Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head. But trips with your playing pals don’t have to be extravagant, or even to better-known destinations. All you really need are good courses and good companions — especially the latter.

I know. I’ve made past “buddy trips” with work colleagues and high school/college friends, though not on a regular basis. Now, in semi-retirement, I’ve found a trio of like-minded (and like-aged) individuals who enjoy short, usually weekend getaways to chase the dimpled ball. We call ourselves the Devereaux Duffers (for the Columbia street the other three live on), and the quality of companionship far exceeds that of our games — and we don’t care.

Gary Cannon, Barry Beasley, Vernon DeHart and I have made day trips to North Augusta’s River Course and Lancaster County’s Edgewater Golf Course, but our first overnight jaunt — to McCormick’s Hickory Knob State Resort Park Golf Course and neighboring Savannah Lakes’ Tara Course — opened us to new possibilities.

First, Hickory Knob. One of two South Carolina state parks with golf courses, it also has both lodge rooms and cabins (we opted for two of the latter) that are a quick trip away from the park’s Tom Jackson-designed golf course built alongside Lake Russell. For this trip, we booked 18 holes on a Saturday afternoon and afterward unwound in the pleasant accommodations before a pizza dinner in McCormick, about seven miles from the park.

I’ve played Hickory Knob before, and its surprisingly hilly terrain and ample fairways, plus water in play on both nines, make for a challenging and testing round. Particularly memorable: the par-5 second hole, which plays up a steep hill to the perched green; the par-4 fourth (uphill, then over waste area and water); and the three-hole finish, notably the par-4 18th with its all-carry approach.

Tara, played the next morning, was a spectacular revelation, with sweeping uphill and downhill holes — both the 9th and 18th holes, which share a double green, sit next to the lake — and often-breathtaking vistas. Most memorable was the par-5 16th, which plummets downhill before soaring uphill to another impossible-to-reach-in-two green. Think roller coaster and you have a pretty good idea.

Gary, our best player, shot something in the mid- to high 70s; the rest of us … well, suffice to say none of us felt we didn’t get our money’s worth (especially since Gary had a winner’s prize that paid all our fees). The two-hour drive back to Columbia was filled with tales of woe and congratulations for good shots.

Best of all, a “Links on the Lake” package includes rounds at Hickory Knob, Tara and its sister Monticello course, plus two nights’ accommodations.

We hope to make many more. Stay tuned.

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