Promoting excellence in South Carolina golf course design and operations
through competitive rankings, education and public advocacy.
SC Golf Panel Selects State's Top Courses Available for Public Play for 2019

For Immediate Release
Contact: Michael Whitaker

North Myrtle Beach - Hilton Head’s Harbour Town Golf Links Claims Top of Rankings

After several years of playing runner-up to Kiawah Island Resort’s Ocean Course, which debuted by hosting the 1991 Ryder Cup, Harbour Town Golf Links has returned to the top of the rankings among Lowcountry golf courses.

The Hilton Head course is the site of South Carolina’s annual PGA Tour stop, the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. The vote was reportedly close (totals are not disclosed), but the “elder statesman” among Pete Dye-designed golf courses in South Carolina (1969) regained the title as Best in the Lowcountry, bumping The Ocean Course (built in 1991) out of the top spot.

A total of 32 courses across the state were named to the list by members of the ratings panel, made up of about 120 media, golf business and avid player members.

A year ago, The Ocean Course was the state’s top course, public or private, out of the Top 50 selected by the panel. So what gave Harbour Town, which had held the No. 1 spot in the state in the panel poll dating back to the early 2000s, an edge this year?

How about a multi-million dollar renovation of the Sea Pines Resort headliner, from the course to a new and improved clubhouse and everything in between? And of course, hosting the 50th Heritage in April 2018 couldn’t have hurt publicity-wise, either. “Quite a battle has taken place at the top of our ‘Best You Can Play’ listing,” ratings panel executive director Michael Whitaker said.

“Fifteen years ago, Harbour Town was at the top of the list. Then The Ocean Course hosted the PGA Championship (in 2012) and took the throne. Harbour Town has now regained the top spot by impressing our panelists with outstanding course renovations and a magnificent new clubhouse. No one is sitting on their laurels,” Whitaker said. “Everyone is really upping their game, and the golfing public is the beneficiary.”

Cary Corbitt, Director of Sports Division for Sea Pines Resort, said, “we’re extremely excited that we’ve been recognized for the efforts we’ve made here at Sea Pines. For us, it’s about the guest experience, the enjoyment, so that when (guests) arrive it’s a memorable day, from the course conditioning to the clubhouse and all that has to offer, including one of the best locker rooms in golf. That provides everyone with a wonderful environment before and after golf. And we couldn’t be more proud of the work we’re doing and the recognition.”

While Harbour Town earned this year’s Lowcountry “throne,” the Charleston area continued to rule the region overall. Of the 13 golf courses receiving votes from the region, eight are from Charleston, Mount Pleasant and Isle of Palms. Four of those are located on Kiawah Island: The Ocean Course, Turtle Point, Osprey Point and Cougar Point, designed by Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Fazio and Gary Player, respectively. Neighboring Seabrook Island’s Ocean Winds (designed by Willard Byrd) and Crooked Oaks (Robert Trent Jones) courses also made the rankings, along with Isle of Palms’ Wild Dunes Resort Links Course (one of Fazio’s first solo designs) and Rivertowne Country Club (Arnold Palmer) in Mount Pleasant.

Brian Gerard, director of golf at Kiawah Island Resort and former head professional at The Ocean Course, also had four of his five courses named to the previous “Best You Can Play” rankings in 2017. “To have all four in the top 30 is pretty special,” Gerard said then. “The people who come here and give us that ranking know the area, so it’s a special honor and we’re proud of that.”

The rest of the Lowcountry’s lineup includes Harbour Town; May River Club at Palmetto Bluff (Nicklaus); Sea Pines Resort’s Heron Point (Dye) and Atlantic Dunes (Davis Love III); and Palmetto Dunes Resort’s Robert Trent Jones Course.

Another 13 courses from the Grand Strand made the rankings, led by area best Caledonia Golf & Fish Club. located in Pawleys Island. Three Barefoot Resort courses, designed by Dye, Fazio and Love, also earned spots.

In the Midlands, Orangeburg Country Club was tops among four courses named to the rankings, joined by North Augusta’s Mount Vintage Golf Club, Florence’s Country Club of South Carolina and Aiken Golf Club.

Two Upstate courses – Clemson’s Walker Course and the Furman University Club in Greenville – rounded out the list.

Two of the 32 courses in the rankings – Orangeburg and The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in Myrtle Beach – earned “Best You Can Play” spots despite being "private" clubs. Both allow outside play via hotel and vacation packages in Santee-Cooper and Myrtle Beach, respectively.

Information on previous rankings can be found on the organization's website

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The "Best You Can Play" Public Access Courses in South Carolina for 2019

# = Best In Region     * = New to the list of Best You Can Play for 2019

Listed alphabetically within region


The Furman Golf Club
(864) 294-2000

# The Walker Course at Clemson University
(864) 656-0236


Country Club of South Carolina
(803) 669-0920

Mount Vintage Golf Club
North Augusta
(803) 278-5000

# Orangeburg Country Club
(803) 534-5988

* The Aiken Golf Club


Kiawah Island Resort - Cougar Point Course
Kiawah Island
(800) 576-1570

Kiawah Island Resort - Osprey Point Course
Kiawah Island
(800) 576-1570

Kiawah Island Resort - The Ocean Course
Kiawah Island
(800) 576-1570

Kiawah Island Resort - Turtle Point Course
Kiawah Island
(800) 576-1570

May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff
(843) 706-6580

Palmetto Dunes Resort - R.T. Jones Course
Hilton Head Island
(800) 827-3006

Seabrook Island Club - Crooked Oaks Course
Seabrook Island
(866) 586-6380

* RiverTowne Country Club
Mt. Pleasant
(843) 849-2400

Seabrook Island Club - Ocean Winds Course
Seabrook Island
(866) 586-6380

* The Sea Pines Resort - Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III
Hilton Head Island
(866) 561-8802

# The Sea Pines Resort - Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island
(866) 561-8802

The Sea Pines Resort - Heron Point by Pete Dye
Hilton Head Island
(866) 561-8802

Wild Dunes Resort - Links Course
Isle of Palms
(888) 778-1876


Barefoot Resort - Dye Course
North Myrtle Beach
(800) 320-6536

Barefoot Resort - Fazio Course
North Myrtle Beach
(800) 320-6536

Barefoot Resort - Love Course
North Myrtle Beach
(800) 320-6536

# Caledonia Golf and Fish Club
Pawleys Island
(800) 483-6800

Grande Dunes - Resort Course
Myrtle Beach
(843) 315-0333

Heritage Club
Pawleys Island
(843) 237-3424

Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
Pawleys Island
(800) 367-9959

Pine Lakes Country Club
Myrtle Beach
(877) 283-2122

Prestwick Country Club
Myrtle Beach
(843) 293-4100

The Dunes Golf and Beach Club
Myrtle Beach
(843) 449-5236

Tidewater Golf Club and Plantation
Little River
(843) 913-2424

TPC of Myrtle Beach Myrtle Beach
(843) 357-3399

True Blue Plantation
Pawleys Island
(800) 483-6800

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 the outstanding golf courses, resorts, and real estate developments.

1)      South Carolina’s 50 Best Courses – Bi-annually (in even-numbered years) members of the Panel identify their choices for the “50 Best Courses” in the state, public or private.

2)      The Best Courses You Can Play – Bi-annually (in odd-numbered years) the Panel releases a listing of the best non-private courses in the state. Every resort, public access, and daily-fee course is eligible for this elite listing.

How We Rate Them

In determining their ratings panelists consider the following criteria:

  • Routing – How the course flows from hole to hole in harmony with existing topography.
  • Variety – Degree to which the course demands a full range of shot requirements.
  • Strategy – How design features test course management.
  • Equity – The course’s capacity to reward good shots and penalize poor ones.
  • Memorability – The distinctiveness of the golf course and its individual holes.
  • Aesthetics – The degree to which scenery and surrounds lend to the enjoyment.
  • Experience – Incorporates all elements of the course: practice areas, clubhouse and more.


The Panel consists of a maximum of 130 members with twenty-five percent representing 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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