Golf is always a part of the South Carolina experience, but in the fall it’s college football that dominates the sports scene. Still, most of the state’s football-playing colleges and universities have found ways to combine great golf with great Saturday games and pageantry. Each week this fall, we will profile the teams and the courses in our “Go(lf) Team!” features.
Mike Owens’ college football allegiance is to the University of Tennessee, his alma mater – “Big Orange all the way,” he says with a laugh – so forgive the head professional at Mount Pleasant’s Patriots Point Links
if the amount of business coming his way in conjunction with The Citadel
home games doesn’t exactly make his pulse race.
“It’s not exactly 102,000 (fans) coming in,” he says with a laugh, referring to Tennessee’s stadium capacity. By contrast, The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium holds 22,000. “We get maybe a couple of groups going to the Bulldogs’ games.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that fall weekends aren’t busy at Patriots Point, perched along the banks of Charleston
Harbor and offering – especially on its three finishing holes – the water, Fort Sumter and the Charleston skyline as a scenic backdrop.
“Those last three are our signature holes,” says Owens, 42 and a Cincinnati native who got into the golf business only a few years ago. “You can see Fort Sumter starting at the 16th green, and 17 and 18 all have unobstructed views.”
It also doesn’t hurt to be five minutes from America’s favorite tourism city, across the Cooper River and near the Mount Pleasant foot of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Visitors are the lifeblood of Charleston, and Patriots Point Links is no exception.
“We seek out tourists, talk to the hotels and (Convention and Visitors Bureau),” Owens says. “We give (hotels’) guests a break if they book us through the hotels” – one course flyer placed in hotels and rental homes offers a $10 discount – “and the location definitely doesn’t hurt.” Nor do the nearby Charleston Harbor Resort
, formerly a Marriott hotel and once affiliated with the golf course, plus the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown and its attendant naval museum
But unlike other Charleston resorts such as Kiawah Island
and nearby Wild Dunes
, Patriots Point has more the feel of a locals’ course, Owens says. Indeed, “we get people who come to see the Yorktown or the museum and say, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s a golf course here.’”
Especially in fall and spring, the local vs. tourist play runs about 60-40, he says. “We get more out-of-towners then. You see a lot of empty-nesters who come for 3-5 days, stay downtown.” And often enough decide a round of golf is a perfect part of the trip.
Owens can relate. He left Ohio for college in Tennessee and “never went back north.” After being laid off from his job selling commercial trucks, “I said what the heck, I’m going to be a golf pro. I wanted to start out at a destination course, and I knew a few friends from college who live here.”
He hasn’t regretted coming to Patriots Point in 2010. Built in a links style with plenty of water, sand and especially wind, the 1979 design by acclaimed architect Willard Byrd offers a challenge for the pro and the weekend golfer alike. Four sets of tees range from a gentle 5,100 yards to a robust 7,000 yards, and the capricious breezes off the harbor only add to the adventure.
The par-72 course was named South Carolina Course of the Year in 2001 by the National Golf Course Owners Association. The par-3 17th, with its small island green and sweeping views of the harbor, is an ever-changing dilemma. Dubbed “the best par-3 in the Lowcountry,” the tee shot ranges from 95 to 150 yards, but distance can be meaningless. “I played it (recently) with the wind blowing 25-30 mph, hit a 5-iron and barely made it on,” Owens says.
Fall rates, which began Sept. 29 and run through Nov. 26, range from $65 weekdays ($55 after 1 p.m.) to $85 ($65 after 1 p.m.). Local rates are about $15 lower; all rates are subject to change. Patriots Point has a lighted driving range, available instruction, and a Southern-style clubhouse with grill and patio.
Owens says the club also has become a popular wedding/reception destination. Such events, he says, can rival The Citadel football – off to its best start in decades – as a draw. “W can get 16 to 32 guys on the Friday before for the bachelor gathering,” Owens says. “That’s become a popular practice.”
Either way, Owens is happy to have them all – no matter how many the stadium holds. For information and/or tee times, call (843) 881-0042 or go to www.patriotspointlinks.com
Patriots Point Links
1 Patriots Point Road
Mount Pleasant, S.C. 29464
The Citadel 2012 remaining home games
Oct. 6 – Chattanooga, 6 p.m.
Oct. 20 – Western Carolina, 2 p.m.
Nov. 3 – Elon, 2 p.m.