Traditionally, high-end public golf courses sell the idea of providing players with a private-club experience at a public-course price. They offer big-name architects, lush conditions and amenities, all for the cost of a greens fee and cart.
Across South Carolina, that idea is no longer just a sales pitch. For a number of the state's better courses, it's reality.
For reasons that range from financial to philosophical, a number of once-private clubs have opened their doors to both locals and tourists. And those courses say the result - more rounds played, more income generated - makes that a win-win for the clubs and the players.
Jay Smith, head professional at Myrtle Beach's Prestwick Country Club, a Pete Dye/P.B. Dye design that opened in 1989, says that in 1992, without enough members to remain viable, the course opened for limited outside play. The results, Smith says, were a mixed bag.
"We added a good number of public rounds, but you were walking a tightrope being semi-private," he says. "We blocked out tee times for members, but it was hard to make everyone happy."
That changed in December 2015 when Prestwick did away with memberships to go completely public. Now, Smith says, "we want to see as much outside play as possible." Rounds were up in 2016, not just for tourists but also for Myrtle Beach locals.
"(Tourists) are easy to deal with, because they're here to have fun, enjoy a golf trip," Smith says. "And now, we can run specials, set our prices to compete in the Myrtle Beach market."
Scott Olliges, head professional at Timberlake Country Club in Chapin, says a 2009 decision to go semi-private/public was "strictly financial. Even with 300-plus members, to support the golf course we had to have funds from the public."
Timberlake drew acclaim during a financial crisis, when members were mowing and maintaining holes adjacent to their homes. A New York Times story detailing that brought attention to the lakeside course.
"Today, we have preferred tee times (for members), but also bookings for public play," Olliges says. "The members understand it's a business, and seeing that public play makes them happy now."
The opening up of Prestwick, Timberlake (designed by Willard Byrd) and other previously private courses has given South Carolina even more excellent golf options. Prestwick is one of only three Dye courses on the Grand Strand, along with The Legends' Moorland (P.B.) and the private Wachesaw Plantation, and that attracts players familiar with Dye's signature design, The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island.
"We get a lot of compliments," Smith says. "(Players) say, ‘Man, that's a tough golf course - but I had a great time.' And we have six sets of tees, so anyone can play it."
Timberlake is the only golf course on Lake Murray, and "I think it's the best for the money in the area," Olliges says. With several holes on or featuring views of the lake, it's a visual delight.