TRIP PLANNER: CHARLESTON, SC
WHERE TO PLAY
Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean *****
When Pete Dye elevated the fairways here at the urging of his wife, Alice, to bring the Atlantic more into view, he recalls, "I thought I'd wind up in jail for all the dirt I stole." Had he, every golfer who's played this thrilling, windswept course—with the possible exceptions of 1991 Ryder Cup casualties Bernhard Langer and Mark Calcavecchia—would have bailed him out. The Ocean course will host next year's Senior PGA Championship as well as the 2012 PGA. For a different experience, Jack Nicklaus's Turtle Point wends through a maritime forest. 1000 Ocean Course Drive, Kiawah Island; 800-654-2924, kiawahresort.com. Yardage: 7,356. Par: 72. Slope: 144. Architects: Pete and Alice Dye, 1991. Greens Fees: $244–$305.
Charleston National ****
Just before this club's opening day, Hurricane Hugo blew to pieces what was supposed to have been a state-of-the-art private course on five islands in Mount Pleasant. Some seven thousand trees came down, opening the corridors of play on what reinvented itself as the area's premier daily-fee course. Be sure to bring your A—for aerial—game: Charleston National features several forced carries, including a finishing par three with no safe harbor between tee and green. 1360 National Drive, Mount Pleasant; 843-884-4653, charlestonnationalgolf.com. Yardage: 7,064. Par: 72. Slope: 142. Architect: Rees Jones, 1989. Greens Fees: $55–$85.
Club at Seabrook Island, Crooked Oaks ****
Robert Trent Jones Sr. was clearly taken by Seabrook Island's topography of black lagoons and Low Country woodlands—he let his routing wander across and through so much of it. Given the winds, the course plays longer than its yardage, with no single shot more daunting than the forced-carry approach over marsh grass at the 398-yard fourth. Although the course is officially open only to residents and guests of the island, Charleston Golf Inc. (800-774-4444) can secure tee times both here and on Seabrook's links-style eighteen, Ocean Winds. 3772 Seabrook Island Road, Seabrook Island; 843-768-2529, discoverseabrook.com. Yardage: 6,780. Par: 72. Slope: 139. Architect: Robert Trent Jones Sr., 1981. Greens Fees: $91–$142.
Wild Dunes Resort, Links ****
Tom Fazio knows how to build drama. His first sixteen holes here, studded with live oaks and lively palmettos, traverse hill and swale before colliding with the ocean on seventeen and eighteen, a pair of holes truly worthy of the course's titular designation. At 501 yards, with the wind aswirl and a fairway heaving like an angry sea, the dogleg par-five finale looms like a dangerous voyage, and with the beach in play at the elbow, a golfer's shipwreck is distinctly possible. 5757 Palms Boulevard, Isle of Palms; 800-845-8880, wilddunes.com. Yardage: 6,722. Par: 72. Slope: 131. Architect: Tom Fazio, 1980. Greens Fees: $140–$160.
Links at Stono Ferry ***1/2
Some courses make history. Stono Ferry, about twenty miles southwest of Charleston along the Intercoastal Waterway, arrived with its own. Architect Ron Garl coaxed these holes from land bloodied in the American Revolution. A historical marker on the twelfth hole commemorates the 1779 Battle of Stono Ferry and its most famous casualty, the older brother of future president Andrew Jackson. 4812 Stono Links Drive, Hollywood; 843-763-1817, stonoferrygolf.com. Yardage: 6,701. Par: 72. Slope: 136. Architect: Ron Garl, 1989. Greens Fees: $59–$85.
Architect Brian Silva is restoring the Country Club of Charleston, a vintage 1925 Seth Raynor layout, bringing back such classic features as cross bunkers and hogback fairways. Home to another timeless Raynor course that opened the same year, the elite Yeamans Hall Club hired Tom Doak in the late 1990s to enlarge the greens to their original size after decades of top dressing had shrunk them.
WHERE TO STAY
Charleston Place Hotel Don't be fooled by its size (nearly five hundred rooms and suites) or its modern amenities, including a spa, a swimming pool and a gym. Nestled in the heart of the city's historic district across the street from Charleston Market, this full-service hostelry has charm enough to match its comforts, bowing to—rather than upstaging—Charleston's antebellum feel. It's also home to one of the best restaurants in town, the Charleston Grill. 205 Meeting Street; 800-611-5545, charlestonplace.com. Rooms: $339–$489. Suites: $639–$1,800.
John Rutledge House Inn Okay, so George Washington didn't sleep here. He had breakfast here, though, and so can you, in any one of the nineteen rooms spread between the grand residence that Rutledge built in 1763 and the two carriage houses behind it. This is true Southern colonial grace: high ceilings, soft beds, Italian-carved fireplaces, parquet floors, and wine and sherry every afternoon in the ballroom where Rutledge conducted the business that helped establish the nation. 116 Broad Street; 800-476-9741, johnrutledgehouseinn.com. Rooms: $285–$315. Suites: $345–$395.
Wentworth Mansion Built in the 1880s for cotton king Francis Silas Rodgers, this Second Empire manor has been converted into a twenty-one-room boutique hotel. The large rooms are outfitted with period furniture, and the cupola atop the mansard roof offers Charleston's most arresting panorama. Even the outbuildings are spectacular: The old carriage house is the home to the superb restaurant Circa 1886, and the old stable has recently been converted into a spa. 149 Wentworth Street; 888-466-1886, wentworthmansion.com. Rooms: $345–$425. Suites: $505–$695.