Promoting excellence in South Carolina golf course design and operations
through competitive rankings, education and public advocacy.
"Best 19th Hole Experiences" in South Carolina Announced for 2017

Panel Toasts SC's Best 19th Holes

A seat on the porch of the Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course with the sun setting over the back nine and the Atlantic Ocean has been voted one of the best places to be in SC golf.

Pleasure and pain are as integral to sports as the contest itself. All athletes, regardless of ability level or pay grade, know the sheer joy that comes with the triumph of the moment. Lucky ones get to celebrate an entire season. The vanquished - and we've all been there at some point - know the heartache that comes with defeat, the hurt that comes with injury.

Regardless of which side you come out on in the end, it's hard to beat a cold beer in a cool place to toast the win or temper the loss.

And that's where golfers often boast an edge over their fellow athletes. Their watering hole, affectionately known as the 19th hole, is invariably close at hand and frequently adjacent to some of the more attractive parts of the property, which at the end of the day, meets most definitions of a park.

As a result, some golfers love their favorite 19th hole like they do their favorite 18. The best can inspire true passion and, as the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel discovered recently, even something close to poetry.

The panel asked its 100-plus members to determine the Best 19th Hole Experiences in the state. The votes came in thick and quick like they did for another election back in November and with almost as much conviction from all sides.

But this time, at least everyone agreed they had a quality field from which to choose.

While there were multiple strong contenders in each of the public and private club categories, the winners were clear cut. Kiawah Island Resort's Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course, which the panel also happens to rate as the No. 1 course in the state, won the public category. Among private clubs, the panelists say there is no beating the experience on the clubhouse porch at Secession Golf Club near Beaufort.

Secession Golf Club's porch overlooking marshlands near Beaufort encourages a rich fraternal bond after play.

Winners were presented with awards at the panel's annual spring kick-off banquet at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head on February 25. Representatives from both facilities spoke eloquently, not just about their 19th holes and what food and drink they offer, but also about the soul and spirit of each place.

When Secession president Michael Gonzalez talked about the mission at his club, some panelists nodded because they feel the same way about the Ryder Cup Bar at the Ocean Course. That mission: "To nurture a fraternal spirit among a group of members drawn from throughout the United States and the world who are united in their intense dedication to the game of golf." It's that fraternity - that bond through shared experience - that makes that time after play so rewarding, whether as a celebration or a salve.

Consider what panelist Dennis Nicholl had to say about the Ryder Cup Bar: "After a fantastic 7.2-mile oceanfront walk with caddies, over 18 windswept holes, through loose sand as my ball rarely finds the fairway grass, from the tips at the Ocean Course…my muscles are fatigued and my brain is exhausted from the grind.

"It is in this moment I realize that I scored way worse that I imagined I would when I was standing on the first tee filled with anticipation and hope. I congratulate the caddies for the yeoman's job of chasing my ball and make the walk up the hill to the clubhouse from the 18th green.

"The porch of the Ryder Cup Bar is full of golfers who can sympathize with my memorable adventure and offer a friendly smile and nod of assurance that everything will be alright after a pint of ale. I gather my group, order Guinness, and find a comfortable seat on the porch, stare out over the Atlantic Ocean and watch the sun set over the back nine.

"It is then that the smiles return to the foursome and I personally look forward to my next visit where, I am sure, I'll finally beat the mighty Ocean Course … if only I can find the strength to get up out of the wicker chair and cushion that has now become a permanent part of my anatomy."

Clearly there are a lot worse places to find yourself glued to the spot.

And it's not like Nicholl is a novice. He is head professional at The Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach and has been there for a decade. He knows his way around a golf course and has enjoyed the game and glass or two at countless facilities in South Carolina and beyond.

The same is true of Daryl Boe. Greenville-based Boe is the owner of Applied Materials but his golfing credentials include 18 years as a rater for Golf Digest magazine. He's been to and seen all kinds of 19th holes across the country.

"Enjoying a refreshment at the 19th hole after your round you can still almost hear the roars from the 1991 Ryder Cup - 'The War by the Shore,'" he says. "And if you are having a drink to calm your nerves while thinking back to the finishing stretch of holes you just completed, you can almost feel the nerves that were exposed bare for all to see coming down to the end of that Ryder Cup!

"If the wind is blowing on the day you are there you can almost put yourself in Rory McIlroy's shoes as he destroyed a field of the world's best golfers who were nearly sandblasted in the winds that week in 2012 at the PGA Championship - the only actual major ever held in SC.

"And just maybe if you are fortunate enough to be standing there at dusk on a beautiful evening, as the gorgeous shadows of the sand dunes seem to come alive and move across the landscape, you might even feel the calming influence of Bagger Vance standing right by your side guiding your golf game and possibly even your life just like he did for Rannulph Junuh so many years ago (or maybe it was just yesterday)…

There is nowhere in SC other than the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island where you can get all of that."

A look back at the Secession clubhouse and the best private 19th hole in the state.

Secession's 19th hole might not have witnessed a Ryder Cup or welcomed a major championship. It might not have been the setting for a much-beloved movie. But within that fraternity of its members and its guests, it offers just as much that is special.

"Everyone who visits Secession plans on sitting on the porch drinking a fine liquor and smoking a cigar while kibitzing with all the others," says Jim de Leon, of Bluffton, retired president of Vancouver Olympic Solutions. "A truly bonding experience."

Bob Paulling, president and CEO of Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative, says, "I can't think of a better place to unwind after experiencing one of the most spectacular golf courses in all of America than sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the Secession clubhouse… sipping on an adult beverage and enjoying the pure splendor and beauty of the low country of South Carolina."

Surfside Beach's Sammy Truett, vice-president of Moore and Associates, echoes those sentiments when he says, "Sitting on the back porch overlooking the 18th green and marshland makes your cocktail just a little more special. Total serenity!"

So as spring takes hold and clubs are dusted off for another season, here's a figurative raising of a glass to all the triumphs, failures and of course friendships that will play out at 19th holes across the state this year.

It's a game after all and games are meant to be fun!

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Background On SC Golf Course Ratings Panel


The South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel is composed of golf enthusiasts representing a diverse range of occupations, handicaps and backgrounds. These individuals have been charged with the task of identifying the best that South Carolina golf has to offer.

Objective and Purpose

The objective of the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel is to promote excellence in SC golf course design and operations through competitive rankings, education and public advocacy. The Panel serves as an ambassador for golf in South Carolina by striving to stimulate and facilitate the promotion and marketing of outstanding golf courses, resorts, and real estate developments.


The Panel consists of 130 members, twenty-five percent of which represent each of the following geographical regions: The Upstate, The Midlands, The Lowcountry, and The Grand Strand. Twenty percent of the panel are women.

Categories of Membership
  • Golf Industry – individuals who have a direct connection to the golf industry
  • Players & Coaches – individuals who excel at playing or coaching the game
  • Media – individuals who report on golf for one or more media outlets
  • Business & Industry – individuals who utilize golf within the business community

For more information on the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel contact its Executive Director, Michael Whitaker, via email at

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