My wife and I were invited to spend a week with Joe and Nancy at their place on Fripp Island, South Carolina so naturally we golfed down and back.
Our first stop was at Three Ridges Municipal Golf Course just north of Knoxville, Tennessee. It gets 4 starts from Golf Digest but don’t believe it. It’s a nice muni and worth the $35 but it’s not worth 4 stars. It’s designed by Ault, Clark and Associates. I’ve played several of their courses and haven’t found one worthy of a 4 star rating yet. Ed Ault did the Founders Course at Penn National and it’s the best Ault course I’ve found at about 3 ½ stars. Everyone named Ault seems to fail the drainage test. At Three Ridges about ½ the bunkers were holding water two days after a rain. Does anything drain better than sand?
The best thing I can say about Three Ridges is I eagled the 490 yard par 5 12th hole with two drivers and a wedge from 30 yards. It was my first eagle this year.
After golf we drove on over the mountains to Hendersonville, NC. We did that so we could eat at the Highland Lake Resort Dining Room. It is definitely 4 stars! The menu looks so good it’s hard to choose. They use lots of fresh local vegetables and the wine list is extensive. It’s not far off I-26 and hard to beat.
The next day we golfed just north of Charleston, SC at the Art Hills designed Dunes West (www.aesir.com/scratchgolf/dunswest). The course is an all Bermuda subdivision course. That’s two strikes against it right away. Bent grass is the reason Michigan is my favorite place to golf in the world and anyone could pick better scenery than houses. Having said that, Dunes West is the best all Bermuda subdivision course I can image. It was in impeccable condition from tee to green and used sand bunkers instead of water as the primary hazards.
We played for $58 and as a September special, we each got a golf shirt with our round. It was my 39th Art Hills course and while it won’t make the top ten it was a very pleasant round.
There are two golf courses on Fripp Island (www.frippislandresort.com) Ocean Point is a 1964 George Cobb design that winds through houses and then both nines end up along the ocean with accompanying winds. The course was in good shape for September. The newer course is called Ocean Creek and it is a 1995 Davis Love III design that skirts the marshland on the south side of the island. It offers some lovely sunset views and some tight holes. The greens this time were unusually slow. Both of the Fripp courses were in better shape than the two we found on Dataw Island. The Morgan River course is a 1989 Arthur Hills design so I was anxious to try it. Joe got on as a Fripp member for $50, but I believe anyone can get a reciprocal and play for $67. Morgan River had some drainage work going on, but I still do not believe it is one of Art’s best. There was water in play on nine holes and the routing was nice but not outstanding.
The Cotton Dike course is a 1985 Tom Fazio design which is very playable, but also not awesome in anyway. There are some nice marsh views on the backside, but the current condition was not good.
On a previous visit Joe and I had gone over to Hilton Head to tackle the Art Hills course at Palmetto Dunes (www.palmettodunes.com) and found it to be awesome in some ways that were not all good. It was a tough course to play without prior knowledge and we played poorly to shoot 99 and 100. That’s at least 10 strokes over our worst rounds. Naturally we blamed Art.
Mr. Hills only other design on Hilton Head is the Hills Course @ Palmetto Hall Plantation. We heard it was easier than the Palmetto Dunes course so Joe finally agreed to drive over and try it. It’s not easy. It employs water hazards on 13 holes and ends with another beautiful Hills cape hole at 434 yards, par 4. I was really happy with my bogie there. Joe and I did play much better than at the Palmetto Dunes course and shot low 80’s like we should, and therefore we like this course a lot. Joe has agreed that on another trip when we are hitting it straight we will go back and try the Dunes course again. I definitely need to because that June day in 2002 was the last time I shot a 3 digit score (100) and I need to purge that from memory.
Our other outing on this trip was to the Legends at Parris Island. Joe is a marine so a visit to this famous Marine Training Center is a highlight for him. You might think that since Joe is 62 and doesn’t fight much anymore that he would be an ex-marine. You’d be wrong. There are no ex-marines.
The golf course on Parris Island was built in 1957 and was pretty ordinary until Clyde Johnson redid it in 2000. Now it’s a very moderately priced hidden gem. I believe that any one can play the course. You need to call to learn the procedure for getting through the marine guarded gate to the Island. The course is flat and not flashy in anyway, but the holes get more interesting as you go round and the greens putted well at medium speed. Joe and I each shot 83, but Joyce beat us both with her 104 and many strokes.
The fine dining we did in South Carolina was in Beaufort at the Beaufort Inn. It’s old, relaxed and 4 stars.
On the way home we stopped in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and visited with Joe’s brother-in-law Bill and his wife Wendy. Bill is an old high school rival of mine so we talked old times as we played the Carolina Country Club. It’s a great course with short Bermuda fairways, very long Bermuda rough and lightning fast bend grass greens. I wasn’t up to the challenge, as Bill and I both shot 89. Joyce had another 104 to beat the boys again. The course is a very interesting 1984 design by Tom Jackson. I am now interested to learn what else he has done. This course uses water, sand bunkers and some rough terrain to very good effect. It plays 6877 from the tips with a 73.6 rating and 139 slope.
After spending the night in Spartanburg we drove over the mountains and home. It was another successful golf trip.