Promoting excellence in South Carolina golf course design and operations
through competitive rankings, education and public advocacy.
"Best Kept Secret" in South Carolina Announced for 2019

For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Whitaker

North Myrtle Beach - Panel Recognizes SC Golf's "Best Kept Secret"

The Aiken Golf Club, a family-owned facility more than 100 years old, has been selected the "Best-Kept Secret" in South Carolina golf by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel.

"We don't have a parking lot, a practice range or a maintenance facility," owner Jim McNair Jr. said, "but we do have a really good golf course."

The rating panel, composed of 125 golf enthusiasts representing a diverse range of occupations, handicaps and backgrounds, agreed with the assessment in honoring the venerable Aiken course at its spring awards dinner in North Myrtle Beach. The club also earned a place on the panel's "best you can play" list.

"Golf courses like ours got lost in the shuffle during the golf boom in the 1980s and '90," McNair, whose family has owned the club since 1959, said. "Receiving this award is a huge honor."

The Aiken Golf Club features the "rumpled" ground of classic golf courses

The panel's objective is to promote excellence in the state's golf course design and operations through competitive ranking, education and public advocacy. The best courses, public or private, are selected every other year (even-number years) and the best courses you can play are chosen in odd-numbered years. Criteria used in the judging include routing, variety, strategy, equity, memorability, aesthetics and experience.

The Aiken Golf Club, located near the downtown business district, meets that criteria. And the panel's executive director, Michael Whitaker, said AGC dominated the "Best-Kept Secret" voting.

"We're short (less than 5,800 yards) by today's standards, but we have members who say it's too hard from the tips," McNair said. "The green complexes are incredible. The course is about strategy, accuracy and position off the tee."

Aiken Golf Club has famed architect Donald Ross in its DNA. John Inglis, a disciple of the man who created Pinehurst No. 2 among his many works, completed the layout and remained as the club pro until 1939. The club opened in 1912 with 11 holes and Inglis added the final seven.

Originally named Highland Park Hotel Golf Course to complement the nearby resort hotel, the city of Aiken took over the course after the Great Depression. McNair's dad, Jim Sr, bought the property in 1959 and the club prospered as a private club. However, a clause in the deal gave the city the right to buy back the club... leaving the family with little incentive to make improvements. An amended contract with the arrival of the younger McNair, and a $1 million restoration, has turned the layout into a touch of yesterday with modern maintenance.

History abounds at Aiken Golf Club. The original course was among the first to have women's tees. And, the Women's Invitational Tournament, played from 1937-39, brought the likes of Babe Zaharias and Patty Berg to compete. Julius Boros, Johnny Palmer and P.J. Boatwright played in men's events at the course.

Patty Berg and “Babe” Didrickson play in the 1937 Women’s Invitational Tournament

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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 a maximum 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.

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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