CHARLESTON, S.C. – At the Nationwide Tour Championship, golf’s next generation gets one last shot at earning a PGA Tour card for next year. But while the pressure is palpable at tournament host site Daniel Island Club, the Charleston area is actually one of the most relaxing and enjoyable weekend golf getaways in the country.
From its historic downtown, to its blossoming restaurant scene, to area golf options like the Ocean Course at Kiawah Resort, Wild Dunes and Patriots Point, the old Charleston is truly a great golf vacation.
The city's motto is 'Knowledge itself is power.' So, armed with the following knowledge, here's your perfect itinerary for three days of golf in Charleston.
STAY: Charleston includes golf mecca Kiawah Island, host of the 1991 Ryder Cup and 2012 PGA Championship. The resort is a 30-40-minute drive from the city, depending on traffic.
The resort’s hotel, The Sanctuary, is one of the most genteel settings imaginable. It can only be described as splendid, a five-diamond winner in 2007.
This isn't one of those mammoth oceanfront hotels you may find in, say, Myrtle Beach. It's a mansion really, with wide, elegant staircases, beautiful oak floors and, almost always, views of the Atlantic Ocean.
The hotel has 255 rooms, with the smallest of the 'King' rooms coming in at 520 square feet, all comfortably furnished with four-poster beds, and all the amenities you would expect from a resort consistently ranked as one of the best in the country. There's a luxury spa, of course, as well as a variety of outdoor activities for the family.
There are also beachfront rental homes with private docks and luxury villas.
The service at Kiawah is as good as or better than any golf resort we’ve ever experienced.
PLAY: The world-renowned, Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course at Kiawah is a must-play in the area. The Ocean Course is one of five courses on the island, all designed by architects like Dye, Tom Fazio, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. Beware, the Ocean Course will wow you with its scenery, then eat your lunch for you.
Since you're staying here only a day, play the Ocean, and make sure you walk it with a caddie. This is the time to splurge.
EAT: Since Kiawah has enough of your money, we're going to take you into the heart of downtown Charleston.
Circa 1886 (149 Wentworth St., tel. (843) 853-7828) built in 1886, is located behind the Wentworth mansion. The restaurant has an excellent wine list to go with dishes like quail and duck with hazelnut-blackberry vinaigrette, and that's just for starters. A great view of Charleston from the cupola.
STAY: The King Charles Inn (237 Meeting St. tel. (843) 723-7451) isn't a big fancy golf resort, nor is it particularly suited to the area's golf courses, in geographic terms. What the inn does have going for it, as far as golfers are concerned, is its location and its interest in golfers themselves.
The inn is smack dab in the historic district of Charleston, on Meeting Street, and caters to golfers. The lure is that they can stay in the interesting historic district, see the sights, and still reach most of Charleston's golf courses in a reasonably short drive time.
The building itself is part of Charleston's history. Built around 1830, it was the meeting place for area artists and poets, including Edgar Allen Poe, who used it as a weekend retreat when he was a soldier at Fort Moultrie.
The inn remodeled its upstairs lobby recently, and the owners plan another $5.5 million in renovations to the parking garage, rooms and exterior.
PLAY: Wild Dunes Resort is on Isle of Palms, fairly close to downtown. There are two top-notch Tom Fazio-designed courses, the Harbor and the Links, both nationally recognized tracks.
The Links plays along some giant sand dunes, befitting its name, and finishes along the Atlantic Ocean. The Harbor plays more inland; both are only about 20 minutes from the city.
EAT: Back downtown to Jestine's Kitchen (251 Meeting St., tel. (843) 722-7224) for a different experience. This is good, old-time soul food, lowcountry style. Named for a former laundress and housekeeper, you'll find Southern food here you thought was extinct: Hoppin' John, Frogmore stew, hog-head stew, deer burgers and more in an unpretentious downtown setting.
EAT: We're fiddling with the order here because it's Sunday. Before you play, you'll be heading to Magnolia's (185 East Bay St., tel. (843) 577-7771) for its spectacular Sunday brunch. Yes, you can get fried green tomatoes and grits here. You can also get buttermilk fried chicken. Imagine ordering wine to go with that – you can.
PLAY: Patriots Point Golf Links meets some of the technical criteria of a true links course, which gives it the right, here in America, to advertise itself as a links course. If it had sand dunes, heather and a mildly inebriated Scot hanging around the clubhouse, it would be as links a course as any in Scotland.
There's so much water everywhere, the sun is bound to find something to sparkle off, and it does, virtually through the entire round. All this beauty culminates in the closing three holes, which wrap around a point of land jutting out into the harbor, with historic downtown Charleston just across the harbor.
STAY: The perfect place for your last night. The location of Shem Creek Inn (1401 Shrimpboat Ln., tel. (843) 881-1000) is the primary reason it’s one of the more popular places to stay in the Charleston area.
The inn overlooks the creek of the same name, but its street address – on Shrimpboat Lane – tells the real story.
Guests can watch the shrimp boats heading out to Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean every morning, while lounging around with a cup of still-steaming coffee on the pool deck.
Shem Creek Inn has 50 rooms, so guests get the sort of personalized service they may not find at larger hotels. Every room has a private balcony with great views of the creek and surrounding marshes.
Those rooms, as well as all the public areas of the inn, received a recent $600,000 renovation that included new carpets, wall vinyl and furnishings.
The inn is located on the Mt. Pleasant waterfront, just across the Cooper River Bridge, about five miles from downtown Charleston. The home of the Charleston shrimp boat fleet, the area is surrounded by restaurants, shopping and attractions like beaches, golf courses and antique malls.
Whether you’re a PGA Tour star, or a casual golfer looking for a great weekend, Charleston has something for you.