Wade Hampton Golf ClubFEATURE STORY

For great residential golf course communities, it's finer down in Carolina

By Tim McDonald,

If you're looking to purchase a home (or have a second home) in a place where the golf justifies your mortgage payments, North Carolina and South Carolina offer up some of the country's best golf course communities.

Here are GolfCourseRealty.com's top picks:

1) Wade Hampton Golf Club, Cashiers, N.C.: High up in the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, Wade Hampton has long been a haven for second homes. It still is, but more and more people are deciding the area is worthy of full-time living, with its deep forests, cascading waterfalls and plethora of outdoor activities.

The Tom Fazio-designed course, opened in 1998, sits about 3,500 feet above sea level. Elevation changes run to 110 feet. The houses around the perimeter - including Fazio's - look down on the course from their lofty perches.

Old Tabby Golf Links2) Old Tabby Links, Spring Island, S.C.: If you're looking for splendid isolation in a pristine, almost primeval coastal setting, you won't do much better than this remote Hilton Head-area community, reachable by a bridge over the marsh from thickly forested Calawassie Island.

Old Tabby is awash in history. The ruins of the old plantation house are only yards away from the clubhouse. Walls made of tabby - oyster shells mixed with sand, lyme and water - still stand as a reminder of the days when men could still be slaves.

The design by Arnold Palmer and his associate Ed Seay enhances the setting. It's 7,004 yards, and every hole hits you with a different scenario.

3) Colleton River, Bluffton, S.C.: Set amid the unspoiled riverfront and salt marshes of the Colleton River Plantation between Hilton Head and Beaufort, this is the only private golf community to boast courses by both Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye.

The Nicklaus, which came first, made Golf Digest's list of best new courses when it opened in 1992.

4) Long Cove Club, Hilton Head Island, S.C.: The non-golfers at this small private enclave stay busy boating, kayaking, fishing, playing tennis or just lolling on the beaches. The golfers treat the Pete Dye course like a sort of Mecca.

"Nobody would intelligently pick the noblest courses without having played Long Cove," golf historian Charles Price wrote.

In 2002, when the course turned 20, Dye oversaw a $1.6 million renovation. Greens were rebuilt, a new irrigation system was installed and new tee boxes pushed the course to more than 7,000 yards. As at other great courses, walking is encouraged.

5) Forest Creek Golf Club, Southern Pines, N.C.: Forest Creek is well away from the beaches, but real golfers won't complain. The course is in the revered North Carolina Sandhills, three miles from Pinehurst.

The club has two courses ranked in Golfweek's list of the top 100 modern courses. They have more elevation than most other Pinehurst-area tracks, winding up and down through loblolly and longleaf pine. The fairways are wide, but placement is the key.

6) Kiawah Island Club, Kiawah Island, S.C.: The highlight here is the sublime Cassique course, a Tom Watson design opened in 2000. It plays through nearly 7,000 yards of former farmyards, maritime forests and marshes and is another fine walking course.

This exclusive private club for property owners on Kiawah Island 25 miles south of Charleston and also includes the River course, a Tom Fazio work that eases along the Kiawah River.

7) Haig Point, Daufuskie Island, S.C.: You'll need to take the ferry to get to Haig Point; it has Calibogue Sound, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean to keep the riffraff out.

Once you arrive, there's a historic lighthouse, a beach club and a pool, all managed by Troon Golf. Rees Jones' Calibogue course rolls through sea-island forest and along wild stretches of pristine salt marsh.

"I knew when I first saw it we could build a world-class golf course," the designer said. This is seriously scenic seaside golf.

8) Tidewater Golf Club & Plantation, Cherry Hills, S.C.: There are more than 100 golf courses in the Myrtle Beach area. This is one of the standouts.

Laid out along the Intracoastal Waterway a little north of North Myrtle Beach, Tidewater will dazzle you with scenery and shots.

It's a gorgeous course, with overhanging oaks, marsh everywhere and high bluffs overlooking sun-speckled water dotted with cruising sailboats and local fishermen. The conditioning is top-notch, even in the autumn when many other Strand courses are suffering.

Tidewater Plantation sits on an elevated peninsula of live oaks and pines, between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Cherry Grove Inlet.

9) Bulls Bay, Awendaw, S.C.: The clubhouse sits atop the highest point in Charleston County, and the home sites are less than 15 minutes from both downtown Charleston and the beach, where bonnethead sharks like to prowl the shallow waters.

The Mike Strantz-designed Bulls Bay Golf Club opened in 2002 on a site overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, with views to miles of tidal creeks and marshes.

10) Grande Dunes, Myrtle Beach, S.C.: One of the biggest residential developments ever to hit the Grand Strand, Grande Dunes is grand indeed.

The Roger Rulewich course sports some of the most spectacular golfing scenery on the Strand, with holes overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway from high bluffs. The fairways are multilevel and water is in play on nearly every hole.

A big bridge takes you to one of the biggest residential developments in South Carolina, a $20 billion project on 2,000 prime acres of waterway.

Honorable mention: Belfair, Bluffton, S.C.; Old North State Club, Albemarle, N.C.; Berkeley Hall, Bluffton, S.C.

July 25, 2007

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management. The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication. All contact information, directions and prices should be confirmed directly with the golf course or resort before making reservations and/or travel plans.

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