To travel along the 119.8 miles of SC Scenic Highway 11, winding through the foothills of the Upstate between Gaffney and Exit 1 on Interstate 85, is to almost step back in time. Along the modern two-lane route are small towns, roadside fruit and vegetable stands, a handful of SC state parks and, of course, gorgeous mountain views.
If a traveler did nothing but stop at Wildwood Gallery in Cleveland, Victoria Valley Vineyards and, of course, admire the crown jewel - Table Rock, with its own state park - the trip would be well worth it. But also tucked away along SC 11 are 11 public-access courses (as well as another half-dozen high-end private clubs), featuring rolling fairways, mountain streams and the sights of Table Rock, Glassy Mountain, Hogback Mountain, Tryon Peak and more.
Marc Brady grew up in 10 miles away in Tryon, NC, so the club pro knows his way around. His go-to hint: Traveling south on SC 11, turn left at Hyder's Peach Stand to find this Tom Jackson-designed jewel.
Built in 1985-86, Links O' Tryon is a semi-private club, with half its rounds played by visitors, many from Greenville, Spartanburg and Asheville, NC. Each hole, playing on a Scottish theme, gets a colorful name. No. 15, a devilish par-4 dogleg left with water and a stone wall guarding the green, is "Wee Bit O' Hell."
"We've got a good reputation as a fun, playable course with no two holes alike," Brady says. "It's got mountain views, lake views and views like Pinehurst." The eighth and ninth holes offer views of Hogback Mountain, Glassy Mountain and Tryon Peak in the distance.
"There's nothing penal, so a 30-handicapper can have fun," Brady says. "But from the Rock tees, the better players are challenged." Assuming they aren't distracted by the view, that is.
The deviation off Highway 11 to Cherokee Valley Course and Club in Travelers Rest is a short one. Just 3.2 miles, to be precise, heading south on Tigerville Rd.
The Upstate’s premier stay-and-play, family-focused club, Cherokee Valley boasts a P.B. Dye designed, mountain-style golf course and collection of on-site cottages that make for an enjoyable and efficient stay-and-play experience.
With wrap-around front porches and all the comforts of home, the cottages are conveniently located just a few steps from the golf shop and first tee. Full cottage rentals start at $400 and single rooms at $130, per night (tax not included). Golf can be added for $30 or $50 all-day subject to availability.
At Cherokee Valley, Dye effectively provides golfers three courses within a single layout. The first six holes are relatively flat and laid out in proximity to the soon-to-open new golf shop and restaurant, Core 450. Seven through 10 take players right up to the base of the Glassy Mountain, while 13-18 feature more than 300-feet of elevation change.
Ideally situated in Greenville’s “Blue Ridge” region, Cherokee Valley is the perfect basecamp for exploring the beauty and adventure of this amazing four-season corner of the Palmetto State. For those who fall in love with the cub and community, affordable memberships are available across a variety of categories.
Don't stare at nearby Glassy Mountain too hard or you might miss this course, even though its entrance is directly on SC 11. The large sign is partially obscured by shrubs. And then there's the name thing...
Built in 1982 as Gauldy Falls Golf Course, owner John "Doc" Walton bought it in 2001 and renamed it The Rock (one golf map also refers to it as Table Rock GC). Around 2014, a couple bought the course and renamed it Bear Valley Golf Club - a sign on the entrance road and the course's website retain that name - but Walton bought back the course and returned it to The Rock at Jocassee. Got all that?
The course is popular with juniors and high handicappers, and it has views of the surrounding mountains and a number of streams running through the property. Staffers brag on the club's restaurant, which features The Rock Burger and the Jumbo Rock Dog, plus daily specials.
Falcon's Lair, like Links O' Tryon, can be hard to find if you're traveling south on SC 11. Coming north, though, "Just look for the new Walhalla High School on the left, and our sign's on the right," says James McCoy, co-owner with his father, Jim, since 1994.
The course was built in 1992 on the site of a former cattle farm by Bruno DuPont, a native of Belgium who played professional golf and settled in Michigan. When a friend convinced him to move south, DuPont hired a Michigan architect, Harry Bowers, to build Falcon's Lair.
James McCoy, who earned a Professional Golf Management degree from Mississippi State, and his father, a retired mechanical engineer, bought out two other partners. Falcon's Lair is semi-private with 100 members, "and we survive on outside play," the younger McCoy says.
Drawing players from both Carolinas and as far as Atlanta, plus visitors to nearby state parks, is a word-of-mouth reputation for great conditioning. "We're not a typical ‘mountain course,' more flowing hills, natural creeks and ponds, lots of flat lies," McCoy says. Five sets of tees, from 7,000 to 5,000 yards, make it playable for all skill levels.