The South Carolina Upstate, with its elevation changes and rustic terrain, is gorgeous anytime, but especially so when fall brings amazing displays of foliage colors. What better backdrop for a challenging round of golf?
Throw in college football, from NCAA Division I to the "little guys," and an ideal weekend might include a Saturday game bracketed by Friday and Sunday on the Upstate's variety of links. In fact, you can start with two college-affiliated courses ranked by Golfweek magazine among the nation's finest.
In Clemson, home of the Atlantic Coast Conference's Tigers, The Walker Course is minutes from the 81,500-seat Memorial Stadium. Rated No. 11 in 2016 by Golfweek, the course has rarely been outside the top 25 since opening in 1995. A great option is staying at the adjacent Madren Center's James F. Martin Inn, a luxury accommodation.
Designed by D.J. DeVictor, the par-72 Walker Course can stretch to 6,911-yards-not long by college-golf standards but plenty for weekend players. The course sweeps uphill and downhill, highlighted by the rugged par-4 ninth hole, with its elevated/blind shot green, and the signature par-3 "Tiger Paw" 17th, its green bracketed by four bunkers to form the "paw" image.
Step down one level in NCAA competition and find Furman University in Greenville, home to the 1988 Division I-AA national football champions. The title tradition continues at Furman University Golf Club, where such future LPGA stars as Beth Daniel, Betsy King and Dottie Pepper got their starts. Golfweek ranked the course No. 17 for 2016.
Furman, renovated in 2007 by Pinehurst-based architect Kris Spence, is old school but a demanding test, with plenty of water and woods in play. The par-5 finishing hole, backed by the clubhouse, keeps players focused throughout their rounds.
Near Travelers Rest in northern Greenville County (and close to North Greenville University) is Cherokee Valley Golf Club, a spectacular mountain layout designed by P.B. Dye, son of renowned architect Pete Dye.
The club is also home to the Cherokee Valley Golf Academy and its extensive practice facilities.
Just down U.S. 76 from Clemson, Boscobel Golf & Country Club in Pendleton is small-town golf at its best. So challenging are its undulating, bent-grass greens, the nationally ranked Clemson men's golf team practices there in preparation for tournaments. Boscobel is part of a five-course array-the Anderson Golf Group-and includes Cobb's Glen Country Club in Anderson, designed by architect George Cobb; Falcon's Lair Golf Course in Walhalla; and Anderson's The Club at Brookstone, the product of Greenville architect Tom Jackson.
Other Upstate courses with distinguished pedigrees include Spartanburg's Heddles Hideaway (also a Cobb design); the acclaimed Links O'Tryon in Campobello (Tom Jackson), The Preserve at Verdae (Willard Byrd) and most notable of all, River Falls Plantation in Duncan (a Spartanburg suburb) by Hall of Famer Gary Player.
In fact, you can find excellent golf courses in many Upstate small towns, including Willow Creek Golf Club (Tom Jackson) in Greer; Southern Oaks Golf Course in Easley; and The Rock Golf Club and Resort in Pickens, among others. There's no college football in those communities, but you'll find plenty of top-notch high school games on fall Fridays.
That leaves plenty of weekend daylight for golf-whether during football season or year-round.