Harbour Town Golf Links reigns in latest rankings of top South Carolina golf courses

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

Once again, it's been proven that most isn't always best. Hilton Head and Kiawah Island landed two golf courses in the top 10 in a recent ranking of the top 50 golf courses in South Carolina.

Perennial favorite Harbour Town Golf Links of Hilton Head squeaked by Sage Valley Golf Club for the top spot in the rankings by 100 panelists across the state. On a rankings scale of 50, Harbour Town won by .07 points. The rankings were sanctioned by two state magazines: South Carolina Magazine and South Carolina Golf Today.

Of Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand's 116 courses, only The Dunes Golf and Beach Club made it into the top 10 at No. 8. Hilton Head Island boasts 18 courses while, Kiawah Island is home to five.

Of the top 50 courses, 15 are located in the Hilton Head-Bluffton-Beaufort area. The Grand Strand has 11 courses on the list and 10 Charleston-area courses made it.

The top two courses could not be more different. Whereas Harbour Town, a Pete Dye design, has been home to the MCI Heritage Classic for more than 35 years, Sage Valley in Graniteville is only three years old. Harbour Town is a high-profile tourist destination that hosts around 40,000 rounds a year, while the Tom Fazio-designed Sage Valley is an exclusive private club, accessible only to its 200 or so members.

Harbour Town isn't overly long at 6,973 yards, but it requires precise tee shots to set up tricky approaches. Dye re-designed the course in 2000, but left it pretty much alone, only re-building his dilapidated railroad ties, tees and greens.

Harbour Town is also known for the excellence of its par-3s and its short, but difficult par-4s, Nos. 9 and 13. The wind swirling off Calibogue Sound makes the 185-yard 17th longer and dangerous and the closing 18th par-4 is one of toughest holes anywhere.

Harbor Town Golf Links was the result of a collaboration between Dye and Jack Nicklaus, when Nicklaus was still finding his identity as a golf course architect. The course almost immediately launched Dye into the most-wanted list of top architects. The course is one of three at Sea Pines Resort, the other two being Sea Marsh and the Ocean course.

Beware, Hilton Head is not for the weak of wallet, unlike its northern neighbor Myrtle Beach, which has courses that run the gamut of green fees. Green fees of $100 and more are commonplace at Hilton Head, topped by Harbour Town's hefty rates at $250.

Hilton Head golf well represented

The barrier island of Hilton Head is almost always named as one of the top golf destinations when various publications prints such lists. It got a late start, since the island didn't have electricity until 1951 and the second golf course didn't appear until 1967.

Today, most of the 18 courses on the island are multi-course resorts, with a burgeoning of choices along the U.S. 278 corridor that approaches the island.

"The island's only 11 miles long and it's becoming more developed than it used to be," said a local golf vacation packager. "So now we have all these great courses that are popping up on the in-road, just as nice and a little less expensive."

Another Hilton Head golf course by Pete Dye, Long Cove Club, placed third. Kiawah Island's Ocean Course and private Cassique were in the top 10.

The top 50

1. Harbour Town; 2. Sage Valley; 3.Long Cove Club; 4.Ocean Course at Kiawah; 5. Yeaman's Hall Club in Hanahan; 6. Greenville Country Club's Chanticleer Course; 7. Cassique at Kiawah; 8. The Dunes Golf and Beach Club; 9. Secession Golf Club in Beaufort; 10. Musgrove Mill.

11. GC at Briar's Creek (John's Island); 12. Bulls Bay GC, Awendaw; 13. Old Tabby Links, Spring Island; 14. Kiawah Island Club/River Course; 15. The Reserve at Litchfield; 16. Palmetto GC, Aiken; 17. Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards, Sunset; 18. CC of Charleston; 19. Colleton River/Dye Course, Hilton Head; 20. The Reserve at Lake Keowee, Sunset.

21. Wild Dunes/Links Course, Isle of Palms; 22. Colleton River/Nicklaus Course, HHI; 23. Camden CC; 24. Caledonia GC, Pawleys Is.; 25. Chechessee Creek Club, Okatie; 26. Mount Vintage GC, North Augusta; 27. Belfair Golf Clubolf/East, HHI; 28. Tidewater GC, Little River; 29. (tie) Belfair Golf Club/West, HHI and Haig Point Club, Daufuskie Island.

31. Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet; 32. Thornblade Club, Greer; 33. Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach; 34. True Blue Plantation, Pawleys Is.; 35. Berkeley Hall/North, Bluffton; 36. Daniel Island Club/Beresford Creek; 37. Kiawah Resort/Turtle Point; 38. Cliffs Valley GC, Travelers Rest; 39. The Patriot at Grand Harbor, Greenwood.

40. Palmetto Dunes/Arthur Hills Course, HHI. 41. TPC of Myrtle Beach; 42. (tie) King's North/Myrtle Beach National and Berkeley Hall/South, Bluffton; 44. Columbia CC; 45. Barefoot Resort/Love Course, N. Myrtle Beach; 46. Oldfield GC, Okatie; 47. Greenwood CC; 48. Dataw Island/Cotton Dike Course; 49. CC at Woodcreek Farms; 50. (tie) The Cliffs at Glassy, Landrum and Debordieu Club, Georgetown.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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