Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Back (nine) stories: Wescott Plantation not your ordinary muni, with 27 holes and more

Posted 6/1/2013 1:20:00 PM

Mention “muni golf” to most players, and expect their eyes to glaze over. Across the U.S., munis (short for “municipal,” owned by a city or town) have a reputation for barebones golf: unremarkable (and sometimes poorly-maintained) layouts, rudimentary bunkers and greens so flat they could double as pool tables – except most pool tables roll smoother than muni greens.

So it’s a bit of a disservice to the Golf Club at Wescott Plantation to call it a muni – even though that’s exactly what it is. Built by architect Dr. Michael Hurzdan (whose resume includes a renovation of the acclaimed Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio, boyhood home of Jack Nicklaus) and opened in 2000, this 27-hole beauty is a real asset for the City of North Charleston.

And while a bit off the beaten path for Charleston golf (located between North Charleston and Summerville, just 15 minutes off Interstate 26 at 5000 Wescott Club Drive, Summerville), it is well worth the effort to find.

“An upscale, daily-fee, resort-style course is what they were shooting for,” says Wescott Plantation head professional Steve Rudd, a California native who’d lived everywhere from the Pacific Northwest to Georgia before coming to Charleston in May 2010. “They were looking to build houses around it, but they (First Golf, which built the course; Wescott is currently operated by Classic Golf Management) didn’t want a typical muni. And (Hurzdan) wanted it to be very playable, but still challenging for better players.”

Mission accomplished, on both counts.

Start with the 27-hole design. Hurzdan created three very distinct nines in Oak Forest (3,550 yards from the back tees), Burn Kill (3,647) and Black Robin (3,563). One player compared the nines to ski resort runs in terms of difficulty, with Oak Forest being the “bunny slope,” Black Robin the “four diamond” and Burn Kill somewhere in between.

All three nines feature forested perimeters, significant bunkering and water hazards and fairly open fairways; housing along holes is set back such that one rarely is hitting out of someone’s backyard. Perhaps the most interesting (and challenging elements), though, are the Tif Eagle greens, which vary from elevated to ground-level (not flat) with get-your-attention mounding, tiers and slopes.

Of note is the par-4 sixth hole on Oak Forest, where the green is guarded by a front bunker and offers a right-side opening, then slopes away toward the back left – a classic “Redan” green, but at ground level. “You’ve got to be careful where you land your (approach) shot there,” Rudd says. The same is true of the par-4 third on Burn Kill, with its multi-tiered green and menacing pot bunker. “That’s one of the few with a big drop,” Rudd says. “You can bump (a shot) into the slope and use that to bring the ball back down.”

Rudd’s favorite hole is Black Robin’s par-4 second, a relatively short (355 yards max) dogleg right with its green sitting atop a ridge line. “You’ve got to place your tee shot between three bunkers, with water to the right, then hit into a small green with water on the front right and a hazard behind,” he says. “It makes you think, and any hole that does that when you’ve got a wedge in your hands is a great design.”

Along with 27 holes, Wescott Plantation has a large, user-friendly clubhouse with grill and a tented patio area. “The plan was to be able to host large outings,” Rudd says. “With a shotgun start, we can put 216 golfers on the course at one time, fill all three nines – which is more revenue for the (hosting organization) – but still get everyone around in five hours.” For those events, foursomes get to play a few holes on each nine (a routing called “The Wheel”) so everyone gets a full taste of the course.

Wescott Plantation hosts 40,000-45,000 rounds a year, and “that’s one of the great things about having 27 holes,” Rudd says. Even on busy days, though, a round feels like a walk in the park because only on a few holes do players see other holes (and players).

North Charleston and Summerville provide most of the local play, with golfers as far away as Mount Pleasant finding their way to the course. Out-of-area and out-of-state tourist golf is “something we’re definitely focusing on,” Rudd says, and Wescott Plantation offers a three-day “Champions Package”: two rounds at the course and another at nearby Coosaw Creek Golf Club, food and beverages, plus a shirt-cap-towel combo, for $299/person. Area motels also offer a special rate to the deal (check the website below for details).

Rudd and his family had never visited South Carolina before he took over at Wescott Plantation, and they have enjoyed the Lowcountry lifestyle. But his golf course, he says, stands out from the coastal designs in the area. “And if you like diversity, the course never plays the same way twice (due to the mix-and-match nines),” he says. “(Superintendent) Barry Keck keeps it in great shape, and we don’t over-seed, so the course bounces back (from dormant grass in winter) pretty quickly.”

Good thing, because with spring all but here, Wescott Plantation figures to get plenty of traffic soon. That’s how it is with all municipal courses – even those that don’t play like a muni. For more information and/or tee times, call (843) 871-2135, (866) 211-GOLF (4653), or go to www.wescottgolf.com.