John Torsiello, Contributing Golf and Travel Writer
Santee, SC (Sports Network) -
Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, Kiawah, Charleston, Santee.
Okay, maybe Santee doesn't rank up there with other South Carolina golf destinations in name recognition and sheer number of golf courses. But this little town and its surrounding area, located near the middle of the Palmetto State, is home to a number of top shelf golf courses. Santee is being aggressively marketed and the prices are extremely affordable.
"We have been doing golf packaging for about 15 years," said Bob Barnes, director of operations for Clarke Management, general manager of the Santee Quality Inn and Suites, Santee National Golf Club and Foxboro Golf Club. "It's taken awhile to cultivate our business, but within the last seven to eight years we have really blossomed."
Barnes, who also represents the office of Golf Santee, a collaborative effort between 16 golf courses and various inns, hotels and resorts, said the key to Santee's growth is attractive pricing, especially when compared to other South Carolina golf hotbeds.
"We run specials year round and also daily packages. For $47 off peak season and $78 peak season, a person can get a hotel room, breakfast buffet, 18 holes of golf and a cart. The deal allows the person to play unlimited golf with only a cart fee for their replay."
Another fantastic offer, called the "Summer Sizzler, offered three nights stay, three rounds of golf and three breakfasts for $126. One of the most "expensive" packages the area offers is during the months of March and April where for $276, a visiting golfer gets four nights hotel stay, four rounds and four breakfasts. We run seasonal specials year round, not just during the off- season. Talk about great deals!
"These are typical of the specials we run," said Barnes. "People look at the prices and think that we have flea bag hotels and dog trap courses. But we offer first-class courses and superb accommodations. Obviously, we don't have all the glitter, nightlife, restaurants and shopping of a Myrtle Beach. We are smart enough to realize that we have to give people great deals to get them here and keep them coming back."
Word is getting out. Santee draws heavily from the Midwest states and Canada, said Barnes.
"Ohio has been our number one feeder state and the Canadian market is becoming real strong. Every year that segment seems to grow more and more. We also draw from the Florida market. People come up here during the summer to seek cooler weather."
Several of the fine courses in the Santee area portfolio are located in the nearby Charleston area. This charming tourist city is located only an hour's drive to the coast from Santee, and many visitors to the area pair golf with sightseeing in the historic old seaport.
Cooperation between the various golf courses in the Santee area has been tremendous, said Barnes.
"We all work together. It's in our best interest to get people here playing one another's golf courses. All of our 16 courses are within a 50-minute drive from Santee and 80 percent of them are within a 30-minute drive."
Courses located in Santee include Santee National Golf Club, Santee Cooper River Country Club and Lake Marian Golf Club. Foxboro Country Club, for which Barnes serves as general manager, is only a 17-minute drive from Santee, an Old South town of around 6,000 located near the junction of Interstates 95 and 25. The area is also fast becoming a haven for those looking for vacation or retirement homes, said Barnes.
Here's a look at several of the courses in the Santee portfolio.
Santee National Golf Club's quality rivals the best South Carolina courses. It has received high ratings from a number of leading golf publications. The course prides itself on its immaculate condition, and offers a pleasing blend a traditional Lowcountry routing and holes, designed over somewhat atypical rolling terrain. Five strategically placed lakes bring water into play on a number of holes. And this past summer the course closed for major bunker renovation and to enlarge the greens to their original size and replanted with champion Bermuda grass. The clubhouse even underwent a major overhaul. The course plays 6,858 yards from the tips with three other sets of tees. Number 18 is a great finishing hole, a 524-yard, par-five that has a lake guarding the right side of the fairway and green.
Santee Cooper Country Club is an outstanding layout that features tree-lined fairways and water hazards. The course plays to 6,512 yards from the tips with three other sets of tees. This is a fun, playable course for golfers of all abilities. The number one handicap hole is the 405-yard, par-four sixth. Lake Marion Golf Course offers a rolling terrain and well placed hazards that put a demand on accurate shot making and proper club selection. The fairways here are fairly wide and forgiving, although danger lurks if your tee shot wanders too far either way.
Foxboro Golf Club in Summerton plays 6,819 yards from the tips, although wide fairways and large greens make this a player-friendly layout. Number 18 is a super 385-yard, par-four. The tee shot must clear water, which follows the hole down the entire left side. Trees guard the right side of the fairway. Royal Oaks Golf Course in Manning was cut through mature stands of hardwoods and pine trees and has four sets of tees to meet the playing abilities of all golfers. Number 15 is a quirky little 110-yard, par-three, and 18 a 293-yard, par-four that big hitters can try and drive.
Three excellent courses, Crowfield Golf and Country Club, Legend Oaks Plantation and Pine Forest Country Club, are located in the Charleston area. Other courses in the Santee portfolio include Beech Creek Golf Club, Calhoun Country Club, Hillcrest Golf and Tennis Club, the Players Course and Wyboo Golf Club.
For further information about golf in the Santee area and stay and play packages, visit www.golfsantee.com.