Like beauty, bargains in golf are often in the eye of the beholder.
Give an avid player the chance to play Kiawah Island's Ocean Course or Hilton Head's Harbour Town Golf Links, and anything less than $400 for a round might seem like a great deal (and, if available, would be). But for most visitors looking to hit it for 18 holes at a don't-break-the-wallet rate, the reality is something else.
That doesn't mean, though, that great golf at bargain-basement rates isn't possible. In fact, just the opposite: especially if you're willing to get off the beach-and-resort circuit, there are courses galore to play for less than $50.
In fact, for purposes of this story, let's say weekend rounds under $50 - and weekday rates of $30-$40 - are the benchmark. Here's a lineup of options to satisfy your golf itch and your budget.
Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club, located on historic Highway 61 a dozen miles from downtown, bills itself as Charleston's best golf value. A solid Russell Breeden-designed layout has weekday rounds for $32.
A bit farther up Highway 61, just south of Summerville, Legend Oaks, with plenty of forests and lakes, has rates between $39 and $53.
The City of North Charleston operates The Club at Wescott Plantation, a terrific 27-hole facility with a full-service clubhouse and three nines that can challenge every level of player. Rates range from $48-$56, a bit higher than other courses, but seniors play weekdays for $32.
In Summerville, The Club at Pine Forest - known locally as "Little Augusta" for similarities to the home of the Masters - has a brilliantly straightforward and challenging design and prices that vary depending on time of year, but online weekday deals start at $29.
The Grand Strand is the home of the vacation golf package, with courses bundling golf, accommodations and food-beverage deals too numerous to list here. The Legends, with five courses, has offers typical of such multi-round bargain packages; check .
Myrtle Beach National is home to the Arnold Palmer-designed Kings North course, but its two sister courses, SouthCreek and the West Course (also designed by the Palmer Golf Company), are less pricey than the North Course, with prices ranging from $39 to $47 (SouthCreek) and $55 (West).
Island West is a Fuzzy Zoeller-designed course that's fun to play and easy on the pocketbook, with rates starting at $28.
Dogwood Hills in nearby Walterboro has a distinguished bloodline - part of the course was designed by legendary architect Donald Ross in 1935 - and bargain-basement prices of $21 on weekend. No website; call 843.538.8316.
While the coast has the golf reputation, Columbia and surrounding areas offer plenty of solid daily-fee golf for low prices. Cobblestone Park Golf Club, home to University of South Carolina men's and women's golf team facilities, has 27 holes by P.B. Dye and Lee Janzen and a $37 seniors weekday rate.
Oak Hills, designed by former PGA Tour player (and Steve Spurrier roommate at the University of Florida), is a user-friendly layout with hills, forests and water and rates from $30-$40, with senior weekday rates of $26. Across town, the P.B. Dye-designed the Spur at Northwoods offers $20 senior prices Monday-Thursday, and regular prices range from 29-$39 (weekdays-weekends).
A few exits northwest of the city in Chapin, Timberlake Country Club, built on the shores of Lake Murray by Willard Byrd, charges $40-$45 (weekdays-weekends) and $35-$40 for seniors. Richland County-owned LinRick Golf Course is rugged and hilly and has the lowest prices in town at $18-$25, $13 for seniors on weekdays.
Head east on US 378 less than an hour to find The Links at Lakewood, a true undiscovered jewel by Porter Gibson, which has been restored and has some of the best prices around starting at $20. No website; call 803.481.5700.
Located a half-hour from Augusta, the Aiken area has both terrific golf and small-town pricing, plus a dynamic downtown with local brewery Aiken Brewing. Aiken Golf Club, built in 1912, is a blast from the past with walking rates of $22-$25 and weekday rates (with cart) from $30-$39.
Midland Valley Golf Club in Graniteville, designed by 1960s-era architect Ellis Maples, offers rates of $28 Monday-Thursday, $33 Friday and $38 weekends. Cedar Creek Golf Course charges $36 Monday-Thursday, $40 weekends, and walkers pay $22-$25 (weekdays-weekends).
One of the best chances to play a professional-level course is at North Augusta's Mount Vintage, which hosted an LPGA event during the 1990s. With 27 beautiful holes, rolling terrain and lakes, its fees -- $42 Tuesday-Friday, $48 Saturday-Sunday; closed Monday - are a bargain in every sense of the word.
Links O' Tryon, designed by Greenville native Tom Jackson and located near Campobello, offers wide fairways and mountain views, plus prices from $32 weekdays to $42 weekends; senior rates run $28-$37.
Florence is known for outstanding junior golf and good prices. Crossings Golf Club, another Tom Jackson design, ranges its rates from $32-$47 (weekdays-weekends) and $25-$39 for seniors. Traces Golf Club is even less expensive at $30-$32; seniors pay $25 all week.
The Santee-Cooper area town of Manning has another off-the-beaten-path gem in Wyboo Golf Club, a Tom Jackson Signature design with excellent conditioning and rates of $25-$39 weekdays-weekends.
Two of the best deals going are the South Carolina Department of Parks Recreation & Tourism's state park golf courses, both designed by Tom Jackson: Hickory Knob, near the town of McCormick in western SC, charges $32 every day, while Cheraw has fees ranging from $35 weekdays to $40 weekends. Both also have on-site accommodations and other park activities.