By David Theoret
Santee, South Carolina is about as small a town as you’ll find. The town sits at exit 98 off of I95 and consists of three stoplights moving east to west. At first glance it doesn’t seem like there’s a whole lot to the town – several restaurants, gas stations, and motels – all owned by hard-working locals who have made this their life’s work- clutter the real estate off the exit ramp. A little further down is Clarks Inn and Restaurant, owned by the Clark family who pretty much founded the town. However, if you’re a golfer, Santee, SC could easily become your dream destination.
Santee is home to three championship golf courses and some wallet-friendly golf packages at Santee Cooper, Santee National, and Lake Marion. All are located within about 10 minutes of each other. Each course has its own driving range and practice green. Lake Marion’s driving range is lit and it’s not unusual to see players out there after dark working on their game.
With Lake Marion serving as the backdrop, Santee Cooper Country Club has the most scenic views of any golf course in the area. The course was designed by George Cobb and opened for play in 1967; it’s still in fantastic condition. SCCC sits amid majestic pines and native foliage; the course is well-conditioned and will have you using every club in your bag through a series of beautiful dogleg holes, strategically placed bunkers, and challenging par 3s that require crisply struck tee shots. You’ll find considerable elevation changes considering the area and enjoy several risk-reward opportunities. Santee Cooper Country Club has the most scenic holes in Santee with a panoramic view of Lake Marion.
The first hole on either side at Santee Cooper Golf Club provides a good challenge. Number 1 is a nice risk-reward par 4. From the No. II Tees this dogleg left hole plays 335 yards over water to a well-protected green. A good drive will leave a short pitch shot into an undulated putting surface.
Number 10 is a short dogleg left par 4. Bite off as much of the dogleg as you can off the tee without hitting through the fairway. Pull your tee shot left and you’ll have to deal with some pine trees. A good drive that finds the fairway off the tee will leave a short uphill pitch shot into a well-protected, elevated green.
The golf course at Santee National Golf Club features Bermuda fairways and Champion Bermuda greens. The club has been rated 4 stars by Golf Digest’s Places to Play. Rolling hills and mossy oaks combine to offer highland terrain with Lowcountry charm. Five lakes bring water into play on 8 holes and strategically placed bunkers will have you thinking about each shot placement. The course offers four tees and can be enjoyed by every level of golfer. Matt Beischlag and his group have been coming here from Ohio for over 20 years.
Numbers Ten and 11 are two memorable golf holes. Number Ten is a 460-yard par 5 with a lake that keeps you honest off the tee. Most players can’t reach the water off the tee and a well-struck drive down the left side may result in the opportunity to go for the green in two. Your layup and approach shot play uphill and the green is well guarded by a large deep bunker and a lot of grass mounding.
Number 11 is a beautiful tree-lined par 4 dogleg left with a fairway bunker at the corner of the dogleg. A well-struck drive down the right side will leave the best angle into the large green fronted by a deep-faced bunker.
Lake Marion Golf Club is a perennial favorite with traveling golfers and presents one of the more rewarding golf experiences in the area. The course opened in 1978 and was designed by Eddie Riccoboni; it has been delighting locals and golf travelers ever since. Lake Marion features pine tree-lined fairways, plenty of strategically placed hazards in the form of sand and water, and incredible Miniverde greens that are in perfect shape all year round. Five sets of tees provide yardages suitable for every level of golfer.
Number 14 is a risk/reward par 4. The lakes on the right side create a dogleg right and the tall pines dare you to try and carry the water. The fairway’s not real deep and the more you try and cut off, the harder it is to hold. A good tee shot over the water will leave a short chip shot into a green protected on the right side by a deep bunker. Even with a great tee shot, par is a great score here.
In addition to a great layout, Lake Marion also boasts the largest golf pro shop in the area with a lot of the latest and greatest equipment, apparel, and accessories. Lake Marion Golf Club is also home to the Palmetto Traverse, a 35,000 square foot natural grass-putting surface with all kinds of twists and turns and humps and bumps. It’s lit and sees a lot of night play too.
Lake Marion and Santee Cooper Golf Clubs offer some great package specials. Lake Marion offers several townhomes and villas that are spacious and roomy. All have two bedrooms with 4 double beds and flat-screen TVs in each, 2 bathrooms, a living room, dining area, and fully equipped kitchen. There’s also a hospitality room and a swimming pool. They offer the only “all-inclusive” golf package in the area, which includes daily buffet breakfasts and dinners during the golf season, range balls, and replay rounds. With access to 15 local golf courses, the packaging staff at Lake Marion can put together a package to delight and please every golfer. Local players can join their Golf Advantage Club for $80 which includes a free round of golf, a $25 gift card, and a ton of added benefits.
A popular local restaurant can be found at Clark’s Inn and Restaurant. It was founded by William E. “Bubba” Clark in 1946, moved to its current location in 1971, and continues to meet its high standards of Southern hospitality and delicious food. Enjoy such southern favorites as a Calabash Seafood Platter, Southern Style Shrimp & Grits with lightly blackened shrimp, and a local favorite, the Lowcountry Stir Fry; shrimp, chicken, and kielbasa sautéed with a blend of fresh vegetables in a light teriyaki sauce served over savory brown rice. For dessert, Clark’s Famous Apple Crisp, made from a 60-year-old original family recipe is a must-try.
Lake Marion is also one of the top fishing destinations in the Southeast and has held state records for more than 8 species of fish. Several guides are available and can be found through their website, www.SanteeCooperCountry.com. Golf course and hotel information can be found there as well.
Santee, SC is proof that northerners seeking sunshine and golf don’t have to go as far south as Florida to enjoy great golf opportunities. The weather is more predictable and not as humid, the golf courses are scenic and challenging and the golf packages are a lot more affordable. Between the time you’ll save not driving as far south and the money you’ll save, you can probably stay an extra couple of days. For more information, visit their websites at www.santeecoopercc.com and at www.golfsantee.com.