My most recent trip to play the Country Club of Charleston marked my third round on the course. A generous friend of mine arranged for me to play in the Saturday morning “Gangsome,” and after chipping in a few dollars for a skins game, I was playing golf with new friends. Our round took place in early December, and the weather was warm enough to wear short sleeves and shorts… the South has its benefits! Because of the time of year, the course’s bermuda grass was dormant. The brown grass, combined with overcast skies, makes the course appear as though it lacks definition in some of these photos, which is not the case. I hope to visit the course again in a warmer season and will take some photos that do the course justice.
The Country Club of Charleston is a Seth Raynor design. This quote from the Golf Club Atlas review sums up the layout well. “On flat property, the best way to give character to holes is by making interesting green complexes, which is exactly what Raynor did at Country Club of Charleston.” Every single green site on the course is interesting and characterful. The Lowcountry terrain has very little in the way of slopes, so it took a real master to design a great course on the property without making it feel too manufactured.
The only other Raynor design that I have played is Fishers Island Club (click for review), which is built on a beautiful island coast line. Raynor created a very fun and interesting course at the Country Club of Charleston by focusing on the green complexes. The bunkers have flat bottoms and steep grass faces. Many of the greens are large, and most are broken up into “quadrants” by various hills and valleys. Many of the holes can initially appear lackluster from the tee, but approach shots and anything around the greens quickly erases any of these “mundane” expectations.
The course was in excellent condition during my round. The fairways and rough were dormant, but provided nice, tight lies. The greens were very fast, firm, and smooth. I suggest clicking on some of the photos of greens and enlarging them to see additional detail.
Hole #1 – 416 yards – “Westward Ho!” -The first hole on the course is a perfect example of a tee shot that seems simple, but a green that presents a fun challenge. The bunker-less green spills off on all sides into closely mowed collection areas. A false front also spits balls back off the front edge of the green.
Hole #3 – 359 yards – “Belvedere” – The photo above is looking at the second green from the left side of the hole. The large, flat bunker with a steep grass face is indicative of what is found later in the round.
Hole #4 – 384 yards – “Alps” – The back to front slope on the fourth green is seen on many holes at the Country Club of Charleston. The severity of the slope is difficult to see in this photo, but after hitting my approach onto the front of this green, it took a real knock to reach the hole in the middle of the green, even on very quick greens.
Hole #6 – 204 yards – “Biarritz” – I don’t agree with the scorecard that this is the 17 handicap hole on the course. It’s not the most dramatic Biarritz green you’ll see, but the raised back plateau adds plenty of challenge. At 225 yards from the tips, this is a serious par 3! Run off areas behind and on either side of the green add difficulty.
Hole #7 – 354 yards – “Maiden” – The 7th features another very interesting green site. It is tough to see in the photo, but there are serious undulations on this green. Little plateaus back left and right make for some fun putts when the greens get running fast.
Hole #9 – 535 yards – “Long” – The 9th is yet another great green complex (see a pattern here?). It is slightly raised, and runs off from the back and sides. A ridge divides the green in two, from front to back. The putting surface is divided into quadrants by the various slopes and a few well-placed bunkers make you think twice on approach shots.
Hole #10 – 365 yards – “Battery Means” – The approach shot on the tenth features two bunkers that are about 50 and 25 yards short of the green. Initially, these bunkers appear to be greenside, and these little Raynor details can be seen on many holes. A trough runs across this green from left to right, again dividing the green into two putting areas.
Hole #11 – 165 yards – “Redan” – This is one of my favorite par 3s that I have ever played! The massive front slope on the green rejects any balls coming up short. Balls landing on the front left portion of the green feed all the way to the back right portion of the green in a reverse-Redan style. This hole is a perfect example of how architects can use traditional templates yet still create something exciting and new.
Hole #13 – 356 yards – “Wappoo” – The thirteenth green is massive and is broken into smaller putting areas by ridges dissecting the large putting surface. This photo is taken from the left side of the hole, and the pin is sitting in a small bowl on the right edge of the green.
Hole #14 – 346 yards – “Knoll” – The fourteenth at Country Club of Charleston “rivals the third at Fishers Island and the seventh at Country Club of Fairfield as one of Raynor’s finest short two shotters” according to Golf Club Atlas’s take on the hole. That is quite the compliment! The green is massive. The pin is sitting in a bowl on the right side of the green, and a plateau on the back right edge of the green is the ultimate nerve-testing Sunday pin. A series of bunkers in the fairway require thought off the tee rather than blasting drives indiscriminately at the green. All architects should have a look at this green.
Hole #16 – 436 yards – “Lion‘s Mouth” – I doubt you could name many cooler greens than this on the sixteenth hole! The green is much larger than it would appear, and the raised back edge creates a Punchbowl green effect, helping balls hold the green. This is another hole where you want to sit in the fairway with a bucket of balls for an afternoon.
Hole #17 – 154 yards – “Short” – The Short green has the raised back and bunkering that golfers know well at this point in the round. Subtle slopes on the green endlessly toy with green reading efforts.
Hole #18 – 462 yards – “Home” – The eighteenth fairway is very wide and presents an uphill shot to the green, which is framed by the well-equipped clubhouse. A false front spits golf balls back off the green, getting more severe towards the right edge of the putting surface.
Charleston is one of my favorite cities in the United States and the fact that they have two great Raynor courses (this one and Yeamans Hall Club) makes it all the more special. I’ve lived in the South Carolina Lowcountry the last few years and I’ve seen dozens of golf courses in the area. Few make used of flat land in as thoughtful and interesting a way as Country Club of Charleston. It’s a must-play for Raynor fans everywhere.