Beyond the Grand Strand: A low-key lifestyle attracts golfers to the South Carolina Lowcountry

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 2, 2013, 5:00 am

BLUFFTON, S.C. -- The Lowcountry might as well be called the 'low key country,' too.

Simply defined, the Lowcountry stretches along the southern coast of South Carolina and its sea islands. There's a cultural ethos associated with this beautiful place that says life should be taken a little slower, so as to stop and enjoy the natural surroundings. The marshes, streams, ponds and inlets that connect to the Atlantic Ocean are teeming with wildlife, especially birds and alligators.

The golf courses and residential and commercial developments tend to be more thoughtful and less intrusive. It's a big reason why the region is so packed with transplants, tourists and golfers.

Bo Madeo recently moved to Hilton Head Island from New York to chase life on the mini-tours.

'I love it down here,' he said, in between hitting balls on the range at the Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes. 'It's a great place. Florida, it just feels like it's just golf course after course stuck in the middle of concrete. This has a more natural feel to it.'

The Lowcountry vs. the Grand Strand

That natural feel is probably the major difference between the Lowcountry and the Grand Strand to the north, a golf mecca that stretches north from Pawleys Island roughly 90 miles.

Myrtle Beach boasts more golf courses than the Lowcountry, but it's a tough argument as to which destination is better. For the record, Golf Digest recently ranked two Lowcountry destinations -- Charleston/Kiawah Island (No. 6) and Hilton Head Island/Savannah, Ga. (No. 9) -- among the top 10 'buddies-trips' in its January edition, while North Myrtle Beach (No. 25) and the southern edge of Myrtle Beach (tied for No. 26) sat further down the list.

The deciding factor for most is simple: If you want a relaxing vacation, come to the Lowcountry. If you want a hair-razing adventure filled with gentlemen's club, bars and families with small children invading the beach, then go to the honkey-tonk sections of Myrtle Beach.

Much of Bluffton's development is built hidden from Fording Island Road (also known as Highway 278), so much so, it takes a trip or two to figure out how to find the best restaurants and hang-out spots.

The top public golf courses in the Lowcountry -- Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island and May River Golf Club at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton (along with Kiawah Island Golf Resort near Charleston) -- can certainly hang with the best of Myrtle Beach.

The Grand Strand may boast a better secondary supporting cast, but Bluffton's lineup of Eagle's Pointe Golf Club, Crescent Pointe Golf Club, Hilton Head National Golf Club and Old South Golf Links is strong, too.

It's also worth mentioning all these courses are so convenient to one another, whereas chasing down Myrtle Beach-area courses, depending on how particular you are, can require some driving.

Explore the beauty of the Lowcountry through golf

Oldfield Golf Club, a private club in Okatie that allows some public play, and Sanctuary Golf Club on Cat Island near Beaufort are probably the two most scenic and serene of the Lowcountry offerings outside of the more expensive resort courses of Hilton Head Island and Kiawah Island. They perfectly illustrate why golfers love playing the Lowcountry.

Sanctuary's 16th green and 17th tee box sit as small islands of exposed land jutting out into water and marshland.

'If there is a better view from 16 to 17, I don't know where it is. Looking out at the water is unbelievable,' Sanctuary Head Professional Joe Matheny said. 'If you come (to the Lowcountry) for laid-back golf, this is the place.'

Oldfield was the first real estate development to earn Audubon International's Neighborhood for Nature Award. Its Greg Norman-designed course, designated as a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary in 2002, flirts with the Okatie River and wetlands, creating unforgettable risk-reward holes. The 12th hole might be the best short par-4 hole in South Carolina.

'I can't remember a round where I haven't seen an osprey or an eagle dive into the water and pull out a fish,' Oldfield Head Professional Jon Hundley said. 'There's a baby fox on the back nine that likes to come out. The nature is just unbelievable. Everything we do to the course is environmentally friendly.'

It's that nature-first mentality that endears people to the Lowcountry.

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

CME Group Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the CME Group Tour Championship

Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”

You Oughta Know: LPGA's Sunday scenarios

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:17 am

NAPLES, Fla. – The CME Group Tour Championship is loaded with pressure-packed subplots Sunday at Tiburon Golf Club.

Here’s what You Oughta Know about the prizes at stake:

Race to the CME Globe

Lexi Thompson and Sung Hyun Park are 1-2 in CME Globe points. They are best positioned Sunday to take home the $1 million jackpot in the season-long competition.

Thompson and Park are tied for fifth in the tournament, one shot off the lead. If either of them wins, she will take home the jackpot.

The way it’s unfolding Thompson is a good bet to take home the jackpot by merely finishing ahead of Park, unless they both stumble badly on Sunday.

Ariya Jutanugarn is tied for the lead. She must win to take home the jackpot, but she would also need Thompson to finish ninth or worse and Park to finish eighth or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points to make a bold Sunday charge.

Stacy Lewis is one shot off the lead with a longshot chance at the jackpot. She must win the tournament while Thompson finishes 26th or worse, Park finishes 12th or worse and nobody else among the top 12 in points makes a bold Sunday charge.

So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng and Brooke Henderson are among others who still have a shot at the $1 million prize, but they have fallen back in the pack and need bold Sunday charges to take home the jackpot.

Rolex Player of the Year

The Rolex Player of the Year Award remains a four-player race.

Ryu (162), Feng (159), Park (157) and Thompson (147) all have a chance to win the award.

Park and Thompson are best positioned to make Sunday moves to overtake Ryu.

Park needs to finish sixth or better to win the award outright; Thompson needs to win the tournament to win the award.

It’s simple math.

The top 10 in the tournament will be awarded points.

1st - 30 points

2nd – 12 points

3rd – 9 points

4th – 7 points

5th – 6 points

6th – 5 points

7rd – 4 points

8th – 3 points

9th – 2 points

10th – 1 point

Vare Trophy

Thompson took a 69.147 scoring average to Naples. Park needs to finish nine shots ahead of Thompson to have a shot at the trophy.

Money-winning title

Park leads the tour in money winnings with $2,262,472. Ryu is the only player who can pass her Sunday, and Ryu must win the tournament to do so. Ryu is tied for 32nd, five shots off the lead. If Ryu wins the tournament, she also needs Park to finish worse than solo second.

Rolex world No. 1 ranking

World No. 1 Feng, No. 2 Park and No. 3 Ryu are separated by just three hundredths of a point.

Because they are so close, the scenarios for overtaking Feng are head spinning.

At No. 4, Thompson is a full average ranking point behind Feng, but she could become the sixth different player this season to move to No. 1. Thompson, however, has to win Sunday to have a chance to do so, and then it will depend on what Feng, Park and Ryu do. Again, the scenarios are complex.

Cook leads RSM Classic by three at Sea Island

By Associated PressNovember 19, 2017, 12:28 am

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - PGA Tour rookie Austin Cook shot a 4-under 66 on Saturday to increase his lead to three strokes in the RSM Classic.

Cook, a shot ahead after a second-round 62, had five birdies and a bogey - his first of the week - to reach 18-under 194 with a round left at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course.

''Putting is key right now,'' Cook said. ''Been able to make a lot of clutch putts for the pars to save no bogeys. Hitting the ball pretty much where we're looking and giving ourselves good opportunities on every hole.''

Former University of Georgia player Chris Kirk was second after a 64.

''I'm really comfortable here,'' Kirk said. ''I love Sea Island. I lived here for 6 1/2 years, so I played the golf course a lot, SEC Championships and come down here for the RSM Classic. My family and I, we come down here a few other times a year as well.''

Brian Gay was another stroke back at 14 under after a 69.

''I love the course,'' Gay said. ''We keep getting different wind directions so it's keeping us on our toes. Supposed to be another completely different wind direction tomorrow, so we're getting a new course every day.''

RSM Classic: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the RSM Classic

J.J. Spaun had a 62 to get to 13 under.

''I just kind of played stress-free golf out there and kept the golf ball in front of me,'' Spaun said. ''I had a lot of looks and scrambled pretty well, even though it was only a handful of times, but pretty overall pleased with how I played today.''

Cook has made the weekend cuts in all four of his starts this season. The 26-year-old former Arkansas player earned his PGA Tour card through the Tour.

''I think with an extra year on the Web this past year, I really grew mentally and with my game, just kind of more confidence,'' Cook said. ''I was able to put myself in contention on the more this year than I have in the past. I think I've just, you know, learned from experiences on the Web to help me grow out here.''

He planned to keep it simple Saturday night.

''I've got my parents here and my in-laws are both here as well as my wife,'' Cook said. ''Go home and just have a good home-cooked meal and just kind of enjoy the time and embrace the moment.''

Kirk won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015 at Colonial.

''It's nice to be back in contention again,'' Kirk said. ''It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow and I'll keep my foot on the pedal and stay aggressive, try to make some birdies.''