Promoting excellence in South Carolina golf course design and operations
through competitive rankings, education and public advocacy.
"Most Challenging Finishing Holes" in South Carolina Announced for 2014

Golf course architects often save their best of last, perhaps to give the golfer a lasting memory of the layout, and the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel sought the most challenging finishing holes in each region of the state.

Heading the list for the Lowcountry and the state is the most recognized hole in South Carolina, the 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island. The other "Most Challenging" No. 18s: Upstate, Musgrove Mill Golf Club, Clinton; Midlands, Orangeburg Country Club; Grand Strand, Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet.

Each one has the characteristics that can put an ugly number on the scorecard. But, the golfer will remember them.

The golf panel is composed of 125 golf enthusiasts from throughout the state and represents a diverse range of occupations, handicaps and backgrounds. The organization's objective is to promote excellence in the state's golf course design and operations through the competitive rankings, education and public advocacy. Judging criteria include routing, variety, strategy, equity, memorability, aesthetics and experience. In addition to the toughest finishing holes, the best courses, public or private, are selected in even-numbered years, and the best public courses are ranked in odd-numbered years.

Harbour Town Golf Links 18th
The "Most Challenging" Finishing Hole in SC


Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, 472 yards, par 4

Thanks to the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage being played over the Harbour Town layout, this is almost certainly the most recognized hole in South Carolina with the candy-striped lighthouse and yacht-filled marina for a backdrop. The landing area, framed by Calibogue Sound and marsh on the left and condos and out-of-bounds stakes on the right, is generous, but the second shot - a long iron into one of the course's trademark postage-stamp sized green with water in play - is demanding.

Then, there is the wind. A tough challenge on calm days, Harbour Town's 18th can be impossible into the wind. In one Heritage, Ernie Els played the hole with a driver and 3-wood into the wind in the first round and with a 3-wood and 8-iron with the wind at his back the next day.

Sea Pines Resort V.P. of sports operations Cary Corbitt says: "Boo (Weekley) chipped in to win from the left side and Davis (Love III) chipped in from the right side. (Greg) Norman got up and down out of the back bunker the year he won. A little bit of everything can happen on this hole."

Musgrove Mill's 18th Hole As Seen From The Clubhouse


Musgrove Mill Golf Club, Clinton, 452 yards, par 4

The left side of the fairway is guarded by marsh and the right side by a pine forest, but the landing area is wide, perhaps 80-85 yards wide. A 250-yard drive still leaves the golfer with a 200-yard shot to a huge three-tiered green guarded by a waste area from the back left to the front right. Putts from one tier to another can be adventurous.

Longer drives can get extra yardage from roll on the down slope, but the risk is coming up a bit short and facing a second shot from a downhill, sidehill lie of 170 yards.

Pro Jeff Tallman says: "Four is a birdie on that hole. It's a hole that you want to have a two-stroke lead on. We put a flagstick in the cup only to give golfers a little hope."

The Finish to Wachesaw Plantation's Demanding 18th


Wachesaw Plantation, Murrells Inlet, 565 yards, par 5

Reaching the green in regulation requires three good shots and accuracy is a must. A lateral water hazard and marsh loom on the left and trees and out-of-bounds stakes are on the right, and the fairway narrows for longer hitters off the tee. Two deep bunkers will catch shots hit short and right near the green and water is still on the left. To compound the challenge, the green is banked toward the water and a low trajectory shot can run into the hazard.

If that's not enough, the green is narrow and deep and any downhill putt is treacherous. Oh, and the hole slopes toward the Waccamaw River, which can create depth perception problems.

Pro Joe Gagliano says: "Tight and intimidating. It's like a tunnel with the water on the left and wrapping behind the green and the out of bounds on the right. A tough finishing hole? We've got one."

Orangeburg CC's 18th Hole


Orangeburg Country Club, 616 yards, par 5

A three-shot challenge for all but the longest players, club officials usually play the hole at a little more than 500 yards.

The drive must avoid the fairway bunker on the right that came back into play with the club's renovation. The second shot must be precise to set up a short iron over a pond to the green. A bunker at the end of the fairway provides more of an aiming point than a hazard for the second shot.

Pro David Lackey says: "This hole creates legends for those who have reached the green in two. Puddin' Powers, Rod Stroman, Jacob Burger and maybe Bob Varn have done it. The list is very, very short."

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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.

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 – Biannually (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 125 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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