Many golf communities not close to an urban area offer plenty in the way of golf and other recreation but often little in the way of cultural stimulation. Sure, Netflix and other streaming services, as well as the dozens of cable TV stations available, are a fine substitute for a lack of movie theaters, but for the most part, you won’t find museums or universities to feed your head before, after or between rounds of golf.
The Pawleys Island area of South Carolina, one of the best in the east for excellent golf courses, is not exactly a cultural mecca; on the contrary, it is closer to a wasteland, with a small art museum located about a half hour away and Coastal Carolina University a good 45 minutes. But one giant garden, a wonder of the art world, occupies 9,000 acres of prime coastal marshland about a half hour south of the Myrtle Beach airport and is so vast and diverse in what it offers that it could be the determining factor for couples who want distance from population centers but not from art.
Brookgreen Gardens, which spans the town lines of Litchfield and Murrells Inlet, SC, and is just minutes from Pawleys Island, was supposed to be the huge private retreat for the noted sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington, and her husband, the enormously wealthy Archer Huntington. The Great Depression depressed the prices of plantation land in South Carolina, and the Huntingtons scooped up separate pieces of property that eventually grew to 14 square miles about a mile from the ocean.
When Archer Huntington and noted sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, his wife, purchased property in South Carolina in 1930, the original idea was to build a retreat from the world while Anna, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, recovered her strength. However, 18 months later, on July 13, 1931, the property was incorporated under the laws of South Carolina as a private, not-for-profit corporation entitled "Brookgreen Gardens, A Society for Southeastern Flora and Fauna."
From the beginning, the Gardens’ goals were not solely related to the display of sculptures in a garden setting. They were also to collect, exhibit and preserve plants of the Southeast, and to do the same for the indigenous animals of the area. There is even a zoo on the property and at virtually all times of the year, the gardens are festooned with seasonal and colorful flowers and plants.
My wife and I are members of Brookgreen Gardens, and whenever we stay at our vacation condo in Pawleys Island, we make sure to visit the Gardens a couple of times. They are beautiful and diverse in the types and sizes of sculptures (some of the most artistic fountains you will ever see) and flora; best of all, there are plenty of benches on which to relax and contemplate the creative spirit and the generosity of the Huntingtons, who also bequeathed to the state a beautiful stretch of beach just a couple of miles away. After a frustrating or exhilarating round of golf, the Gardens is the perfect place to wind down.
Below is a sampling of photos I have taken over the years at Brookgreen Gardens that will provide an idea of what awaits you if you are fortunate enough to visit.