South Carolina 2005
Tutelman -- February 4, 2005
As last year, the winter trip to Carolina consisted of Brent Hutto,
Terry Easton, and me. We were joined the last day, at the University
Club, by others -- but we'll get to that.
We decided not to go to Fripp again because those courses that were not
heavily residential last time were definitely headed in that direction.
There are more houses on Ocean Creek every time we play it, and by now
SC National (Cat Island) should have a residential infestation of the
entire back nine. So Brent suggested some courses at Charleston, and
Charleston was most of the itinerary this year.
We arrived Saturday, January 29, in a chilly rain. I flew into
Columbia, where it was cold enough to be an ice storm. Terry had a
later flight into Charleston. Brent and I drove to Charleston in the
afternoon, and straight to the Shadowmoss Plantation course. Looked
like it would have been fun and not too difficult, but we didn't get a
chance to find out. Because of the rain, the course was closed; in
fact, even the driving range and putting green were closed. We checked
into the hotel, met Terry, and found a Plan B for the afternoon. There
was a big Edwin Watts store near the hotel, and we passed some fun time
there until they closed. Then we went grocery shopping and headed into
Charleston for dinner. Terry had a recommendation for Jestine's Kitchen
on Meeting Street. Excellent low-country food. I had the best catfish
I've tried, and Brent and Terry seemed similarly enthusiastic about
Sunday morning, we were up bright and early -- well, dark and early; it
isn't bright at 5AM in the winter. But we had a 7:20 tee time at Stono
Ferry a half hour from the hotel, and we wanted to get breakfast first.
It was still raining when we got to the golf course (which we barely
found in the dark; the first driveway we tried was somebody's house).
But the rain stopped quickly after we got there. We were hitting balls
on the range before 8AM, and teed off at 8:30.
Stono Ferry is a challenging course, with lots of water and trees.
Brent feels it plays longer than the yardage on the scorecard, but I
didn't find that to be the case. It is a lot of fun, and we played it
twice. It is somewhat expensive at $72. But the replay fee is simply
the cart fee. Since we were walking, the afternoon round was free. So
we concluded that it is very reasonably priced at $36 a round.
Brent and I didn't score very well at all; I'm sure Terry wasn't happy
with his score either, but it was a lot better than ours. Even so, I
had a very good time, playing a beautiful golf course in 50°F
weather, and leaving the knee-deep snow back in New Jersey. Two of the
holes run alongside the Stono River, and involve carries across parts
of the river. After the river come three long holes (two par-fives and
a long dogleg four), followed by a dramatic home hole. It is a
relatively short par-four with an island green. Well, actually it's a
moated green, with a rather wide, deep moat.
BTW, the grill in the Stono Ferry clubhouse makes excellent lunches. I
had an outstanding grilled spiced chicken sandwich, with a cup of
really tasty crab and asparagus soup.
We managed to get in 36 holes before dark, and went to eat at Ruby
Tuesday's. Then back to the hotel and to sleep.
On Monday morning, we had an 8:20 tee time at Legend Oaks Golf Club at
nearby Summerville. They had a frost delay, so we didn't tee off until
The front nine is beautiful. Water is in play on seven of the nine
holes. And among us, we put balls in the water on five of the seven.
The course also makes good use of sand to define the proper way to play
each hole. In general, it was skillfully architected (Scott Pool) and a
pleasure to play. However, it had some of the annoying
characteristics of a residential course. There were one or two long
walks among houses and across streets from one hole to the next. But
most of the holes didn't have houses in play. That is, not unless you
played them the way I played the fifth and sixth holes. On those holes,
I hit two houses and had to retrieve balls from the yards of two
others. But that was more my fault than the course's.
OK, I had two major meltdowns of my game that round. On each occasion,
I hit about five shots in a row dead right. No, not a slice and not a
push... dead right. It was
bad enough to look like a shank -- even a bad shank. But I was doing it
with the woods as well as the irons, so that wasn't the problem. To
this moment, I don't know what was doing it (open clubface? toe hit?),
but I'm pretty sure the swing problem was tension. And of course the
tension increases once you've hit one or two shots like that, making
the problem even worse. Fortunately, I was able to dig out of it both
times. Terry and Brent helped me with the problem; though you may doubt
it, they really were a help. I picked up a "relaxation" move for my
pre-shot routine from watching Terry. And Brent made like a Tour caddy,
and told me "relax, tempo" before every shot until I had my game back.
As good as the front nine was, that's how bad the back nine was. It was
probably a very reasonable course until this year, though not in the
same class as the front nine. But this year they began construction of
hundreds of new houses on the back nine. Problems brought about by this
We finished eighteen with plenty of daylight left, though the frost
delay killed our chances of playing 36. But Terry wanted to rest up for
tomorrow (you don't want to be tired for the University Club) and none
of us wanted to play the back nine again. So Brent and I did a repeat
of the front nine, and enjoyed it thoroughly -- finishing in an hour
and forty minutes. Then we picked up Terry at the clubhouse and headed
for Columbia. We ate dinner at Fran's, a favorite restaurant of
Brent's. Then Terry and I checked into our hotel and zonked out.
- Mud everywhere! The slog from the tenth green to the eleventh tee
was impossible. This will get better when they finish paving, but it
was a godawful mess when we played.
- Of course, there was a lot of "moonscape" where things were dug
up for the houses. This may look better or worse once the houses are
- Like the front nine, the back has a lot of water in play. But,
because the new houses require increased drainage, the water hazards
are being enlarged and new ones added. The result is going to be an
unplayable golf course, judging from the blue stakes indicating where
they are going to dig. Two examples are the uphill fourteenth hole
(where there will be a new pond halfway up the hill; ridiculously
unnatural, and makes a layup on the second shot a necessity on this
par-4 for all but the longest hitters) and the fifteenth (where
enlarging the pond on the tee shot changes the shot from a challenge to
make square contact into a challenge to decide where you want the ball
to land; it will set up very badly, with little target for the drive).
It's Tuesday! Last day of the trip, and my muscles were telling me they
were glad. And -- best of all -- we play The University Club today! This is
now Brent's home course, and is one of my favorite golf courses. We
were met by Jason Poston, whom Brent and I met through the GEA (Golf
Equipment Aficionados) forum. He's a Carolina graduate from some years
back who lives in Charlotte now; the trip gave him a good excuse to
come back and play the University Club for the first time in years.
|Here are Terry, Brent, and Jason posing in front of
"The Claw". The University of South Carolina teams are the Gamecocks,
and the claw is the symbol on their uniforms. It is also a display of
colored stones off the fairway of the third hole. (Click on the thumbnail pictures here to
get a full-size picture.) This picture was taken early in the
day, while we were still bundled up from the morning cold. By the
middle of the front nine, the top layers were off and it was
approaching fifty degrees. It was in the fifties when we finished,
sunny and decidedly warm.
For you northern golfers who hibernate for the winter, you are looking
at a course with dormant Bermuda rough. The green fairways are bent,
rye, or blue grass, which thrives in cool weather. Bermuda grass likes
hot weather, and goes into a tan dormancy in the Carolina winter.
|Brent tees off on the first hole. It's difficult to
capture in a photograph how hilly this hole is. But it drops off five
or six stories beyond the tee, and you're looking down to the fairway.
But the fairway slopes up dramatically, and the green is above the
level of the tee.
Brent played really well early in the round. He parred the first five
holes, and they are certainly not pushover holes. His game has come a
long way. He doesn't miss many full-swing shots, has a very repeatable
swing, and knows his club distances well. A lot of that is practice,
but some comes from playing the shorter tees. Brent has taken to
playing courses from the tees that give a total of 5500 yards, instead
of the 6200 that the rest of us played. I think the advantage comes
from the fact that he doesn't feel he has to "press" for distance. He
can take a normal swing, and that is a big confidence booster.
|This is the picturesque fourteenth hole, a downhill
par-five. Jason is pitching out of trouble at the edge of the woods,
over a waste bunker and rough, and back to the fairway. The green is
peeking around the hill on the left, making the approach shot
very tricky. Making it even trickier is the pond you don't see
immediately behind the green; if your approach shot is hot enough to
even trickle off the green, it's wet. Don't ask me how I know.
|David Reiling, who originally introduced us to the
University Club in 1997, couldn't get away from work to play with us.
But he did get out in time to catch us at the fifteenth green. He rode
along with us for the last three holes, offering encouragement, local
knowledge, and general distraction.
This picture was taken from the lower fairway of the eighteenth hole
(it's a split fairway), looking across the green to the clubhouse. It
is an excellent stadium-style hole from which to view the finish of
My approach shot was from the 150 marker in front of David's cart. The
tree just covered the green, at the altitude that my seven-iron shot
would travel. David suggested cutting it around the tree -- from a hook
lie, as it turned out. (I preferred cutting it with a chain saw, but
airport security had confiscated it on the flight down.) Anyway, I
tried the cut shot and it worked pretty well. I came up just short of
the green; I had neglected to go one club longer to make up for the
higher loft of a cut shot.
After the round, we sat around the clubhouse over lunch and beer for a
while. Jason went back to the range to try out some of my clubs. (He's
a clubmaker, too, and was getting ideas for some upcoming projects.) I
changed into clothes for the plane. Eventually, we had to take our
leave and head for the next stop. For Jason and Brent, that was home.
Terry drove me to the airport, then continued on to visit his niece in
Columbia. And I flew back to New Jersey, glowing from yet another
wonderful Carolina winter golf trip.