When it comes to building user-friendly golf courses that still challenge players, few do it better than Tom Fazio. And almost nowhere in the US can vacationing golfers find as many Fazio courses as in South Carolina.
In fact, his in-state lineup of 24 golf courses - six of them open for public/resort play - is second only to Florida's 43. It was on Hilton Head Island's Palmetto Dunes Fazio Course - credited to his uncle, George Fazio - where young Tom got started in the business in the early 1970s.
The first time he struck out on his own was also in South Carolina on the Links Course in Wild Dunes. The course is recognized as one of two that were his first solo work. Fazio later returned to Isle of Palms to do the companion Harbor Course.
Other Fazio courses include Osprey Point (part of the Kiawah Island Resort), TPC Myrtle Beach (designed with PGA TOUR veteran Lanny Wadkins), and the Fazio course at Barefoot Resort in Myrtle Beach. Below are our selections for 10 of the best Fazio holes in South Carolina.
Palmetto Dunes Fazio Course, No. 16, par-4, 425 yards
Director of Golf Clark Sinclair considers this hole "like an advertisement for Palmetto Dunes because it's so beautiful." From the tee box, the drive is intimidating because three fairway bunkers seem to merge into a solid wall of sand. Play left of or over the first bunker, and you face water along the fairway's right side and three bunkers surrounding a three-tiered green. Built in 1973, this is the oldest Fazio design.
Kiawah Island Resort's Osprey Point, No. 9, par-4, 461 yards
A dogleg left with a forced carry over a lagoon off the tee, this hole lets you choose how much to cut off. A bunker and the lagoon also guard the green. Head pro Rick Ferguson advises players to aim at a small bunker in the center of the fairway off the tee; going left shortens the second shot, but bailing out right is possible. Avoid all the hazards left; even long shots can roll onto the open-front green.
TPC Myrtle Beach, No. 17, par-3, 195 yards
Players may be reminded of another TPC par-3 - the infamous island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass - but the Myrtle Beach rendition is actually a peninsula with water on three sides. The signature hole on the course, it plays a lot like Sawgrass, except it's about 50 yards longer. Ever-present ocean breezes add to the challenge.
Wild Dunes Resort's Links Course, No. 10, par-4, 351 yards
Not long, but an adventure, the multitiered fairway plays uphill and right to a green that was enlarged, lowered (so players can see their shots land) and made flatter during a renovation, Director of Golf Jeff Minton says. A new fairway bunker to the right and two more bunkers frame the hole. Miss the fairway left or right and prepare for a tough slog.
Barefoot Resort Fazio Course, No. 4, par-5, 526 yards
Unusual for Myrtle Beach, this straight, well-bunkered hole plays uphill almost 100 feet to a green situated atop a knoll. There are no greenside bunkers, but collection areas around the green will force players to choose from a variety of recovery shots. "This hole really sets the tone for the golf course," Director of Golf Mike Ross says.
Wild Dunes Resort's Harbor Course, No. 17, par-4, 430 yards
Built six years after Fazio completed the more-famous Links Course, this hole takes a back seat to none. Players drive across the Intracoastal Waterway on the long, dogleg-left hole, with marsh all along the left side going into a large green. As expected, wind is a factor. Miss left and it's the marsh; miss right and there's a bunker to catch wayward shots.
Osprey Point, No. 18, par-5, 552 yards
The tee shot comes out a chute in the woods to a roomy fairway, then it pinches in on the second shot with a pond running the length of the hole to the green. Layup shots are visually intimidating, head pro Ferguson says, but there's room to miss right, thanks to a 2014 renovation that replaced penalizing mounds (creating tough side-hill lies) with a more rolling terrain. The bunkers left and short of the green make it a dramatic finisher.
TPC Myrtle Beach, No. 18, par-5, 538 yards
PGA TOUR star Dustin Johnson, whose golf academy is located at TPC Myrtle Beach, says this is his favorite hole on the course. A creek runs along the right side and a large lake sits on the left, with a classic risk-reward decision for those brave enough to hug the creek side, enabling them to reach the green in two shots. Holding the green, though, is tough with water in play and shaved areas around the green.
Barefoot Resort, No. 18, par-4, 427 yards
"A terrific finishing hole," according to Director of Golf Ross, this longish par-4 plays into prevailing southerly breezes, with a huge pond bordering the entire left side and bunkers to the right off the tee. A deep bunker guards the green's left side. Players who've finished their rounds can watch others batting to close out their rounds from the clubhouse veranda.
Wild Dunes Links Course, No. 12, par-3, 192 yards
Nestled into the dunes that make up the first four holes on the back nine, this long, one-shot hole is "where the idea of ‘Wild Dunes' comes from," Director of Golf Minton says. Six sets of tees cater to all skill levels, but avoiding a right greenside bunker still means negotiating the undulating and difficult green. The view from any tee is invigorating.
For a complete list of Fazio courses in South Carolina and elsewhere, click here.