Most golfers landing at Savannah's sparkling airport are bound for Hilton Head, across the South Carolina state line, or down to Georgia's Golden Isles, some eighty miles down I-95. But there are several good reasons to stay closer to town.
The Club at Savannah Harbor is the centerpiece of the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort & Spa on Hutchinson Island (tee times: 912-201-2007; resort: 912-201-2000), a sliver of land on the Savannah River between the town's historic district and the South Carolina border. The most memorable facet of the course, designed by Robert Cupp with input from the late Sam Snead, is that it lies in the shadow of the magnificent Talmadge Bridge connecting Georgia and South Carolina, well within sight of downtown Savannah. Lively River Street and the leafy historic district are but an 800-foot water-taxi ride or a five-minute drive from the resort.
Playing 7,288 yards from the tips, the course begins mildly, but things start getting interesting on the 468-yard third hole, a par four featuring a green so mammoth that it can offer a three-club difference depending on pin placement. The outward nine follows the banks of the serene Back River before turning toward the clubhouse. The inward nine is more daunting, thanks to the 248-yard par-three twelfth, where many resort guests will doubtless hit driver; the rugged fifteenth, a long dogleg par four of 447 yards flanked by wetlands; and the brutal sixteenth, a 660-yard par five that can leave bruised golfers in need of a relaxing massage. Fortunately for them, the only Greenbrier Spa outside the original in West Virginia is on hand. Those who find Savannah Harbor's closing stretch of holes too taxing can check into the 403-room Westin resort, where they'll find the spa as well as a floating dock, tennis courts and a pair of lighted outdoor swimming pools.
Some twenty minutes away is the Woodyard at Savannah Quarters (912-631-2280), another Cupp design that's going private this month. Stretching 7,197 yards from the back tees, the rustic Woodyard features an opening nine comprised of three par threes, three par fours and three par fives. Hazardous wetlands, some nearly hidden from view, demand accuracy off the tee. Add severe swales and runoffs that can wreak havoc with indifferent chipping or lag putting and the Woodyard makes for a memorable test of golf. If you can wangle an invitation, do.
By the end of your escape to Savannah you may be ready for a bit of golf on the fly. What better way to kill a few hours before your flight than with a quick round on the way to the runway?Crosswinds Golf Club (912-966-1909) is only five minutes from Savannah International Airport. A well-conditioned, inexpensive layout with Bermuda fairways, TifEagle greens, five par-five holes and three drivable par fours, Crosswinds isn't overwhelming--just 6,512 yards from the tips--but as its 132 slope suggests, it's no pushover. And there's a bonus--a lighted par-three course that might make a fine farewell to Savannah, an ideal warm-up for a night flight home.
Savannah will never offer the variety of golf found on Hilton Head. Nor will it approach the rich golf heritage of the Golden Isles, the Sea Island Golf Club in particular. But let no man tell you there's no golf in Savannah, for the game is becoming another attraction for the millions who visit the city every year. Savannah golf complements the history, classic architecture, fine dining and nightlife that enchant so many who visit the Hostess City of the South.