Best Classic and Modern Golf Courses in South Carolina

The South Carolina Golf Rating Panel, of which I am a member, has weighed in with its annual updated ratings of the best golf courses in the state, and while there are few surprises, the way they are listed shines a light on the state’s “vintage” layouts.

Broken down into both Modern and Classic lists this year – “classic” defined as courses built before 1980 – the voting breakdown is a reminder that South Carolina’s terrain and its year-round golf climate have attracted great golf architects and inspired great design. Both lists were recently published in the Palmetto Golfer, published by the South Carolina Golf Association. (Note: I have starred* those courses that include adjacent or surrounding residential communities.)

Chanticleer fairwayGreenville Country Club's Chanticleer course, ranked 5th on the SC Golf Panel's "Classic" golf course list, is as well groomed and challenging as any in the state. It is a Robert Trent Jones Sr. gem.

Seven different designers contributed to the Panel’s top 10 classic golf courses. Seth Raynor was responsible for #2 Yeaman’s Hall and #6 Country Club of Charleston. Robert Trent Jones Sr. gets credit for the Dunes Golf and Beach Club* (#4) in Myrtle Beach and Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer Course* (#5).

Most golfers don’t think of Pete Dye as a “classic” golf architect, especially given his visible contributions to modern golf architecture, such as railroad-ties buttressing bunkers and water bodies, and fairway moguls (as well as an updated nod to pot bunkering). But, alas, Dye’s intoxicating layout at Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Links* was voted the best classic course in the state (opened in 1967). In any other state, Alistair McKenzie’s relentlessly challenging Palmetto Club (#3) would be a serious contender for the top spot, but in the Palmetto State it yields to Harbour Town and Yeaman’s Hall.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe Camden Country Club course is located well inland but can look and feel a bit like a links course. It is the only course in the state solely designed by Donald Ross.

The Panel’s 7th choice on the Classic list is Aiken Golf Club which Palmetto Golfer ascribes to John Inglis, a former New York City are golf professional, and Donald Ross. If so, it is one of only two layouts in the entire state that Ross designed, the other being the Panel’s #8 choice, Camden Country Club, about as British-parkland a course as it gets in the U.S. The 9th rated course is Greenville Country Club’s other layout, the Riverside Course*, with credit to Tom Bendelow, a self-taught Scottish-born architect who was largely responsible for the spread in golf’s popularity across the U.S. in the early decades of the 20th Century. Riverside, however, was fully renovated in the early 2000s by Brian Silva.

Myrtle Beach gets its second contribution to the Top 10 list with the Surf Golf and Beach Club* (#10) by George Cobb, whose vast number of credits includes the Par 3 Course at Augusta National and Quail Hollow in Charlotte, site of this year’s President’s Cup.

Greenville RiversideGreenville Country Club's Riverside Course, rated #9 on the SC Panel classic course list, was originally designed by the largely unknown Tom Bendelow and renovated 15 years ago by Brian Silva.

You will find an online copy of the South Carolina Golf Association’s Palmetto Golfer at that includes the state’s 20 top Classic Courses and  top 50 Modern Courses. For a few articles I have written about some of the 70 outstanding courses on the Golf Rating Panel’s list, see below.

Secession and Chechessee Golf Clubs:

Dunes Golf & Beach Club and Surf Golf & Beach Club:

Greenville Country Club (Chanticleer & Riverside Courses):

Camden Club:

May River Golf Club:


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