Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Behind the net: Spring Lake Country Club tempts passers-by with view of rolling terrain

Posted 9/10/2013 10:21:00 AM

If you’ve happened to be driving past York on S.C. 5 en route to Shelby, N.C., you’ve no doubt seen “The Net” – a series of 30-40-foot posts supporting a large mesh screen between the highway and the picturesque fourth hole at Spring Lake Country Club. More than a few passers-by have slowed to look – and then wound up finding the club’s entrance and playing a round.

Buck Miller, Spring Lake’s owner the past 35 years, can recall when that didn’t happen. That’s because until six or seven years ago – he’s not sure exactly – there was no net, and no view of his course.

“Until the state widened Highway 5 (to four lanes), there was a thick tree line between the hole and the road,” Miller says. “You couldn’t see the golf course. Then it was brought to my attention that those trees were on the (highway) right of way.”

When the widening occurred, the trees disappeared – and the net went up. “I had to put it up – it was a liability issue,” Miller says. “But that also opened things up where people who didn’t know the course is here now could see it.”

He laughed. “It’s actually helped our business.”

And that’s a good thing, Miller says, in a time when golf play nationally has flattened and many courses struggle to survive. Spring Lake, built in 1960 by architect Bob Renard (the second nine was completed in 1970), draws players from a 200-plus membership but also up to 40 percent of its traffic is from non-members, both locals and tourists.

“Lately, we’re getting more from outside,” Miller says. “We’ve always been semi-private (and open to the public), but maybe the “country club” in our name made people think it was private.”

Certainly, the 6,748-yard layout, with steeply rolling terrain and dense forests – but almost no housing – lining its fairways, offers a private-club experience, albeit a small-town, rustic one. Spring Lake also has large, undulating greens that can challenge the best of games. Rates are attractive, too, at $42 for weekends ($33 weekdays) and winter rates at $33 and $27.

Its most distinct holes (besides the 354-yard, par-4 fourth that beckons to Highway 5 travelers) are the par-4 seventh – a dogleg left around a large oak that then plays downhill into a severely sloped (back to front) green that flattens out on top. “If you don’t carry your shot to the top, it’ll roll back down,” Miller says – and the par-4 17th (410 yards), which plays downhill from the tee to a landing area between two streams, then uphill to a two-tiered green.

Miller’s favorite hole is the par-4 12th, the highest point on the hilly course. “From the green you can look out on the whole back nine,” he says. “After a rainstorm, looking at the countryside, it’s a pretty place to be.”

After 35 years, he knows. He and his wife moved to York from Florida in 1978, and a group headed by Miller’s father-in-law saw its plans to buy the course stall when a principal suffered a heart attack. “They had no one to run it,” Miller says, “so they let my wife and me buy in as partners.”

They’ve been there since, becoming the faces of the club. About 15 years ago, the course’s architect came with his son and grandson to visit; “(Renard) was going to all the courses he’d designed,” Miller says.

If he’d forgotten the way over the years, a drive along S.C. 5 would’ve made finding his project again easier. To find it yourself, call (803) 684-4541 or visit www.springlakegolfcourse.com.