The idea of a links course in the mountains is a little ridiculous, but for years I’ve heard people refer to the The Cliffs at Mountain Park as a links-style course. Hearing that description, the course has been on my to-play list for a long time. When I got the invite to play, I hopped in the car and drove down the mountain!
Mountain Park is located in upstate South Carolina and is one of seven courses/communities that are part of The Cliffs. There are elements of the course that are certainly “linksy.” Jeff Lawrence was the design associate who built the course for Gary Player Design in 2013. LINKS Magazine wrote that Jeff referred to the course as “low profile and traditional style.” Jeff doesn’t use the word “links,” but I think you could fairly translate that quote to “linksy.” Jeff did a great job with the course.
The course has extremely wide fairways, relatively little rough, and a lot of short grass around the greens. The bunker edges are also sharply cut, similar to what you’d see in Melbourne’s Sandbelt. You’ll also spot a revetted bunker or two out on the course.
Mountain Park is one of my favorite gated community / residential courses that I’ve played. There are relatively few houses on the course and they don’t impede the design at all.
I also love that the course is very walkable – there’s very little elevation change and very short walks from green to tee. Unlike so many other residential courses it feels like they designed a golf course and then planned for homes, not the other way around.
Hole No. 1 – 423 yards – The first hole has a few features that you see repeated throughout the day. The wide fairway has a gentle concave shape that feeds balls back toward center. Outside of the fairway is tall whispy grass.
The green is surrounded by short grass and collection areas, not dissimilar to what you see on the links courses in Scotland. There are good and bad places to miss depending on the hole location – course knowledge is valuable.
Hole No. 2 – 160 yards – The par threes at Mountain Park are varied and fun. This second green looks shallow from the tee, but it works away and to the right of center.
Hole No. 4 – 540 yards – I didn’t get a good picture from the tee on the fourth hole, but there are some trees tight on the left that force you to play a draw. I’d love to see those trees cut back to open the tee shot.
There is a marshy creek area in front of this raised green that creates a forced carry from the fairway. Long players can get there in two, but you need to carry your second shot 100% of the way.
Hole No. 5 – 465 yards – The fifth is the number one handicap hole and it threw me for a loop. There is a river that crosses the fairway about 290 yards from the tee and the trees on the left create a very narrow chokepoint through which you have to hit your approach shot.
I pulled my driver slightly and flew through the fairway into a river on the trees on the left. If you’re anywhere left of the fairway center you have to pitch out to the right side of the fairway or lay up short of the green. That’s especially true the further you hit it up the left side. In hindsight, I would hit a hybrid up the right side and lay back far enough to have a viable shot to the green. I would love to clear out many of the trees on the left to open this hole up.
Hole No. 7 – 120 yards – Could this be considered a volcano green? I think so… The seventh is a downhill short par three that falls away on three of four sides. There is also a biarritzy dip in the middle of this green separating a front and back plateau.
Hole No. 8 – 385 yards – If you want to hit driver, you need to take it down the left side of this dogleg left. The green is elevated just enough so that you can’t see the surface from the fairway.
Hole No. 9 – 490 yards – The ninth is a fun birdie opportunity to finish the front nine. The concave shape of the fairway returns here and the green is surrounded again on three sides with short grass. Time to go for it in two!
Hole No. 10 – 390 yards – After a stop at the halfway house/grill, you walk up the raised tenth tee. The fairway is very wide and the green is shallow and wide as well. There are hundreds of ways to play this hole.
Hole No. 11 – 148 yards – Holes 11 and 12 play alongside a lake and the par 3 11th is a forced carry over the water.
Hole No. 12 – 433 yards – You can bite off some of the lake to gain yardage off the tee. The water continues all the way up to the short left side of the green.
Hole No. 13 – 350 yards – The bunkers on the right cut in a little closer than you think on this hole. It’s a tee shot where you hit it into a bunker and then look at the wide fairway and wonder how you missed it. The big green is guarded by one bunker in the front and one in the back.
Hole No. 14 – 466 yards – This fairway is very wide, but you need to stay up the right side if you want a clear shot to the green. The trees on the left cut in enough to block approach shots from the left side of the fairway.
Hole No. 15 – 535 yards – The 15th is one of my favorite holes on the course. It has a quirkiness that you’d expect from an old Scottish course. The fairway is wide, but there is a huge tree (technically two trees) in the middle of the fairway. Beyond the tree, the entrance to the green is a narrow chute guarded by a revetted bunker set into a mound.
Do you play left of the tree and go for the green in two? Do you play to the safer right side of the fairway and risk being blocked by the tree? Where do you lay up? There are so many things to consider and so many different ways to tackle this hole. I’d love to play it over and over.
Hole No. 16 – 216 yards – The final par 3 on the course is one of the best. It played 200 yards to front pin during our round. The massive green and variety of teeing options could make this a par 3 1/2 or something much easier depending on how they want to set up the course.
Hole No. 17 – 290 yards – I love a driveable par 4 and the 17th hole is a perfect point in the round for one at Mountain Park. The green works away and to the right of players.
Hole No. 18 – 525 yards – The final hole on the course is a par 5 with a wide, rolling fairway. The hole works to players’ left off the tee and a creek protects the front of the green.
The final four holes at Mountain Park are some of the best on the course.
The walkability, width, options, and fun of Mountain Park make it one of my favorite residential courses that I’ve played. In some ways it reminds me of Cassique on Kiawah Island with linksy elements and some really creative holes that force you to think. If Mountain Park thinned out trees in areas and completely removed some trees in other spots, it would be even better. Even as it stands now, I’d happily play my golf there!