Golf on the Hammock Coast
The golf courses and gardens on South Carolina’s relaxing coast are perfect for group getaways
By Sara Radley
We were headed to the Hammock Coast of South Carolina for a weekend full of golf. Our group consisted of my husband, Derek, my friend Lindsay and her husband, Josh. It was Josh who schemed up the vacation for the four of us. Lindsay is the only one of the group who’s not especially into golf, so while she enthusiastically agreed to a getaway, she also found an activity for just “the girls” on day two.
I knew Caledonia Golf and Fish Club would be great as soon as we began our cruise up to the front entrance, old oak trees outlining the drive. The course here is ranked #20 by Golfweek Magazine and the excitement built with each foot closer to it: the white gated entrance, tall flourishing trees and beautiful flowers caught my immediate attention. It’s no wonder Derek and Josh wanted to play here. From the attention to detail on the entrance alone, I knew this course would be tremendous. We next noticed the beautiful clubhouse at the end of the avenue of oaks. Caledonia was sculpted out of property that was part of an antebellum rice plantation, and the clubhouse was built in that style. The porch commands a picturesque view of the 18th green, complete with rocking chairs, many occupied by people who likely were sipping on sweet tea or cocktails.
The starter pointed us toward the first tee and it was easy to see why this course is ranked so highly. The first hole is a short par 4 lined with trees up both sides of the fairway. Derek took one look at Josh and they smiled ear to ear, knowing the golf gods were surely looking down on them when they had picked Caledonia as the course to play.
We made our way around, stopping to take in all the course had to offer and hitting some good shots and some bad—but still having fun while doing it. At each new hole, we saw a different part of the Old South captured beautifully in different angles, lighting and foliage.
We approached the 18th tee, which was a 383-yard par 4 for the gentlemen and a 301-yard par 4 for us ladies. With the view of the lake to our right, the trees to the left and the clubhouse beyond, it instantly became my favorite hole of the day. The approach into the green was surrounded by rocking chairs and twice the amount of people than we noticed when we first arrived. It’s an intimidating shot as you have to carry the water. Josh, Derek and I were able to successfully cross the water, but didn’t hit the green in regulation.
While I took the challenge in stride, I was worried about Lindsay golfing with an audience. She swung the club back, and whack, she struck her golf ball over the water on the green, and people in the chairs started to clap and cheer! We rolled our carts up to the green, where Lindsay putted for her first and only par of the day. Celebratory drinks were a definite after this incredible achievement, and what better place than the restaurant that Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella ranked his favorite 19th hole? With drinks in hand, we made our way back outside to the rocking chairs, taking in one last memory of this beautiful day and reminiscing over the amazing par Lindsay had made. Watching and cheering on other golfers as they finished their rounds, we discussed our plans for the following day.
Coming off of the previous day’s success, Lindsay and I were looking forward to more golf. But, we were also looking forward to the alternative attraction Lindsay had found. We dropped Josh and Derek off to play the Jack Nicklaus-designed Pawleys Plantation Golf Club, and headed to our destination.
The sun was continuing to rise as we walked up to the exquisite fighting stallions statue surrounded by thousands of the most vibrant flowers I had ever seen, and that was just the entrance to Brookgreen Gardens. Named one of the top 10 public gardens in the U.S. by Coastal Living magazine, the gardens had everything we could have asked for—nature, sculptures, three eateries, boat tours and a native species zoo. Good thing we had our walking shoes on.
Our first stop was the Sculpture Pavilion, where we took in the craftsmanship of 45 sculptures from around the United States. It’s hard to pick favorites, but a bronze statue of an adorable dachshund on her back made me want to reach out and rub her belly. Outside, the gardens were surrounded by majestic oaks and exquisite flowers. Among the lush vegetation, we found marble slabs inscribed with poetry and quotations.
While classical music played throughout the gardens, I marveled at its incredible beauty, it was unlike anything I had ever laid my eyes upon. The statues, many sitting in reflective pools, were placed in just the right way. Wherever we turned, I saw a whole new version of each sculpture.
Lindsay especially loved the labyrinth located along the Trail Beyond the Garden Wall. This medieval designed seven-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth was immaculate. Made of shells and natural grass, it’s set on the banks of the Waccamaw River. When we started the maze, I felt like a kid in a playground, but by the time we reached the middle, I was in a much calmer state of mind. Lindsay and I spoke little by our journey out, and I noticed myself focused on my breathing in a meditative way.
Afterward, we made our way over to the 48-foot pontoon boat that took us on a tour around the Waccamaw River. The 45-minute trip allowed Lindsay and me to sit and rest, although we definitely perked up when we saw alligators along the way. We also learned a little history behind the rice plantations.
When the tour ended, our guide shared with us about an elaborate event that takes place the first three weeks of December: Nights of a Thousand Candles. The event attracts more than 60,000 people and the gardens become flooded with millions of vibrant and magical Christmas lights. While walking the premises, you will find Christmas carolers, Christmas music and some of the best theatrical performers around. It sounded incredible to me. Suddenly, I was envisioning a romantic return trip hand in hand with Derek amidst the twinkling lights. I couldn’t wait.
Lindsay and I met up with our husbands back at the hotel, excited to share what we’d seen and learned at Brookgreen Gardens. Derek and Josh were eager to share their stories of golfing as well.
“Great idea to come here, Josh,” Derek said.
“Definitely!” I agreed. “And I’ve got a great reason to come back.”
“Let’s hear it!” Josh said.
See you soon, Hammock Coast.