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.
When the then-University Club first opened near Blythewood
in northeast Richland County
, there was no question its was the University of South Carolina’s golfing
Part of a course collection that included University Clubs at Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU and Louisville, the 27-hole layout was all about the Gamecocks. The USC women’s
and men’s golf teams even built a team house just yards to the left of the club’s large driving range and practiced there regularly.
Today, the name has changed – it’s Cobblestone Park Golf Club
now – but the team house and the Gamecocks golfers are still there. And while the club is now open for public-access play, this is still where USC fans head on fall weekends for their golf “fix” before or after football games at Williams-Brice Stadium, about 20 miles away down Interstate 77.
“It depends on what time kickoff is,” says Cobblestone Park director of golf Tom Graber. “We like those 7 p.m. kickoffs; those are usually pretty busy mornings because (players) can finish by 3 p.m., go home, shower and still go tailgate for a couple of hours.”
That’s if the fans live in or near Columbia
. Cobblestone Park also gets plenty of out-of-town traffic, whether USC fans or fans of the visiting teams. “Florida was here” – one of USC’s school-record six SEC victories in 2011 – “and we had a big Winnebago pull up with eight guys traveling together,” Graber said.
Graber said players from Tennessee and Arkansas are sure to show up in the next few weeks, and “we’re more than happy to accommodate them, treat 'em like members for a day.”
It works that way for USC road games, too. “We had a call last year from the pro at Gainesville Country Club, asking, ‘You guys got any tee times?’ He said, ‘We’ll help your members down here’ (in 2012). It’s sort of a reciprocal deal” for Gamecocks fans who like a little golf with their road trips.
When USC plays away, Graber said “it’s a pretty normal weekend. The diehards travel, but that’s a small percentage. Night games, we don’t feel much impact. If it’s an afternoon game, most regulars want to watch it. For our members, we’ll do game-watching parties with the hi-def TVs at our Amenities Center, serve snacks and cocktails.”
Graber also has a secret weapon when it comes to attracting the Gamecock Nation to his golf course. USC “head ball coach” Steve Spurrier
is a member at a Columbia private course but plays a lot of golf – in the off-season – at Cobblestone Park. “We brag that coach Spurrier likes to play here and so do his assistant coaches,” Graber said.
With forest-lined fairways, rolling terrain and water guarding many holes, including the Black nine’s strong finishing par-5, Cobblestone Park is a challenge for all levels of player. Rates for guest members run $45, compared to $65 for walk-ins on game weekends, and Graber says with a laugh that he’s pretty liberal about who qualifies.
“If a guy says, ‘I’m a Gamecocks fan,’ that’s fine,” he said. “We understand. We’re all Gamecocks here.”
For information and/or tee times, call (803) 714-2620 or go to www.cobblestoneparkgolfclub.com
Remaining USC home schedule
Oct. 27 – Tennessee, noon
Nov. 11 – Arkansas TBA
Nov. 17 – Wofford, 1 p.m.