Golf

Bob Gillespie

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Lucky No. 13: Penny Branch celebrates 13th anniversary

Posted 8/24/2012 10:55:00 AM

The first time I heard about Penny Branch Club, I had no idea where it was. Then I looked it up … and still wasn’t real certain I could find it.

In fact, Penny Branch, which is the handiwork of the McKenzie family – parents Truett and Susan McKenzie, son Chris McKenzie and daughter Wendy McKenzie Wolverton – is located in the town of Furman, in Hampton County. And it’s one of the great can-do stories in golf anywhere – just ask Golf Channel, which profiled the course and the family on its “Destination: Golf” program in early 2011.

Back in the 1990s, the McKenzies worked for a number of big-name golf architects in building courses around the Southeast. In order to give their workers a way to refine their skills, they built three holes (one each par-5, par-4 and par-3) on land on their family farm. “Then we decided, ‘Let’s make some money on this,’ so it became nine holes in 1999,” Wolverton says, and Penny Branch was born. A year later, the McKenzies expanded to 18 holes.

Furman (nowhere near the college of the same name, by the way) isn’t the easiest place to find, but if you love interesting golf courses, it’s worth going. Drawing on their experience in building big-name layouts, the McKenzies fashioned a modest but challenging design.

Especially intriguing are the par-3s, which include an “island” (actually peninsula) green a la the PGA Tour’s TPC Sawgrass; a cloverleaf-shaped green with bunkers between the “legs” of the green; and a mounded green guarded by fescue-covered mounds that looks transported straight from Scotland or Ireland.

The course has changed a bit in 13 years. “We re-routed it some in 2005,” Wolverton says, “and of course, the trees are a lot bigger.” The pro shop is inside the old farmhouse and also was opened in 2005.

Wolverton hopes the anniversary will draw interested outsiders to what has become a Hampton County favorite. Penny Branch also gets traffic each April during the RBC Heritage at nearby Hilton Head Island, and even during the Masters. “We’re only about an hour and a half from Augusta,” she says.

Rates with cart range from $29 weekdays ($22 seniors) to $35 for everyone on weekends – call (803) 625-0222. Or go to the club website at www.pennybranchclub.com.

That’s also the best way to get directions to the course from any of several points, Wolverton says. Penny Branch still isn’t the easiest to find, but after 13 years, it’s also still worth the effort.