There are 368 golf courses in South Carolina and thousands of golf holes on those courses, but one stands out above the rest. In fact, the view from the fairway to the green is among the most iconic in all of golf, an image known around the world - and readily identified with its course, its community and the state.
That hole, of course, is the par-4, 444-yard 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the RBC Heritage and an image seen countless times on CBS-TV's coverage of South Carolina's lone annual PGA Tour event. The green grass, Calibogue Sound and its marshes to the left and, naturally, the Harbour Town red-and-white-striped lighthouse in the distance - if you know golf, you know that vista only two well.
Little wonder, then, that in voting by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel (of which the author is a member and Midlands co-director) of the state's most memorable golf holes, Harbour Town's No. 18 was the pick for No. 1.
It was hardly the only hole that drew votes, however. In fact, 138 holes from around the state received at least one vote in polling by the panel's 125 members, who represent four golf regions (Lowcountry, Upstate, Midlands and Grand Strand) and come from the golf industry, players and coaches, media members and the business community, all sharing a love for golf and its culture.
Best of all, seven of the 10 holes selected are from public-access courses - no surprise given South Carolina's renowned golf-tourism industry. Earlier in March, the golf panel released its 2012 list of South Carolina's top 50 golf courses; in odd-numbered years, the panel votes on its "Top 50 Courses You Can Play," listing the state's best public-access tracks.
The second most memorable hole owes its popularity to the state's signature golf event to date: the 1991 Ryder Cup held at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course. The Ocean Course's par-3 17th, with its 221-yard, forced carry over water to a wide-but-shallow green, tortured players from both the U.S. and European squads, none more so than Mark Calcavecchia, who drowned multiple shots in his singles match vs. Colin Montgomerie - and later retreated to the nearby Atlantic Ocean in tears, before being summoned back after the U.S. won.
The rest of the Top 10 holes:
No. 3 - The par-5, 590-yard 13th hole at The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach, nicknamed "Waterloo" for its effect on many golfers. Constructed in a "V" around a lake, it demands precision on all three shots to a mounded green.
No. 4 - The par-3, 159-yard 13th hole at The Cliffs at Glassy near Greenville, a private course built by S.C. architect Tom Jackson and part of the Cliffs Communities of golf developments in the Upstate.
No. 5 - The par-4, 385-yard 18th hole at Caledonia Golf & Fish Club in Pawleys Island; built by the late Mike Strantz, the dogleg-left finisher demands accuracy to its water-guarded green set below the course's clubhouse.
No. 6 - The par-3, 185-yard 11th hole at the private Country Club of Charleston; built in the 1920s by Seth Raynor, the mounded, narrow green is flanked by deep bunkers and is so difficult, golf legend Ben Hogan once suggested it be dynamited.
No. 7 (tie) - The par-3, 185-yard 17th hole at Harbour Town, with water left and sand in front and back right, plus changing winds off nearby Calibogue Sound; and the par-3, 250-yard 17th at the private Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards, with its peninsula green and long, downhill tee shot.
No. 9 (tie) - The par-4, 439-yard 18th hole at Kiawah's Ocean Course, with its tee shot over a line of bunkers down the right side and its approach shot to a well-bunkered green with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop; and the par-5, 501-yard 18th at Isle of Palms' Wild Dunes Links Course, hugging the Atlantic shoreline on the left and finishing at the mounded, undulating and well-guarded green - a hole that was nearly lost to tidal erosion before being reconstructed in 2008-09.
For more on South Carolina's most memorable holes, go to www.scgolfpanel.org.