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Wescott Plantation Puts North Charleston on the Low Country Golfing Map

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - It might have happened in some small conference room in the back of one of those sterile government buildings, or it could have happened in some greasy spoon diner over grits and corn beef hash. Wherever it happened, the important thing is that it did happen.

North Charleston's leaders decided they were tired of their town being the red headed stepchild of the Holy City.

Located on the northwest side of historic, charming, you-can-do-no-wrong Charleston, North Charleston had been force-fed a steady diet of unchecked suburban growth since its incorporation in 1972. Strip malls bumped up against strip malls, one congested roadway led to another, and civic pride was something to be discovered down at the Battery, or on Market Street, but not out here.

But the city rallied to build the North Charleston Coliseum, and with it attracted a minor league hockey team, the Stingrays, and an NBA Developmental League squad, the Low Gators. The injection of urban pride was infectious. The Sheraton North Charleston blossomed as one of the region's best full service hotels, and the city recently announced plans for the largest urban redevelopment project in the U.S. - a massive project encompassing 2800 acres of the historic city center and the old naval base complex.

And in the middle of all this moving and shaking, North Charleston commissioned and financed the construction of the Golf Club at Wescott Plantation - a 27-hole Michael Hurdzan designed golf panacea that has to rank as one of the finest municipal facilities in the state.

"We try and shy away from that word (municipal) because it has certain connotations that aren't true out here," says Wescott Plantation head professional Rodger Hogan. "I think you can put this facility up against Charleston's' high end courses and it will hold its own against any of them."

The price tag for the project was well over $15 million, an eye-popping expenditure for a city government on a golf course, but a clear signal that North Charleston has arrived as a player on the local golf scene. The course 's 27 holes, its antebellum style clubhouse and Wescott's legion of new homes are built on the site of the old Oak Forest Plantation and the entire development is surrounded by more deciduous hardwoods than you'd ever expect to find in the Low Country.

Hurdzan and design partner Dana Frye are known worldwide for their environmentally sensitive design philosophies, and their work at Wescott Plantation could serve as a veritable instruction manual on how to deposit a compelling, thoughtful golf course design on the existing land.

"The way these holes fit with the harmony of the land is amazing," says Doug Schmidt, president of Charleston Golf Partners, a local golf packaging company. "A lot of players will tell you that this course puts them at peace, and reminds them of a North Carolina or Georgia layout with all its tree lined fairways. Neither of these nines will beat you up and you always come away shooting one of your best scores."

Hurdzan designed the Oak Forest, Burn Kill and Black Robin Nines with graduating degrees of difficulty. Oak Forest, named after the original plantation, is a collection of wide fairways, subtle greens and the occasional lateral hazard and penal bunker. Burn Kill tightens up a bit, and good players will find that they can use different shot shapes off the tees and on approach shots to the green. Black Robin features narrow fairways, smaller greens and is three to four strokes harder than Oak Forest.

"Hurdzan wanted to cut this course right out of the swamp, but you tend not to notice all the protected wetlands here because he took them out of play," says assistant professional Chris Myers. "Black Robin will chew you up and spit you out if you play it from the tips, but the entire facility was designed for the average golfer to have a good time and not get beat up. Hurdzan doesn't build up the fairways and greens like (Robert Trent) Jones Jr. There are no moguls or tiered greens here, just a pure golf course."

Pure, and traditional in many respects. With its swampy topography, the majority of Charleston area courses place an emphasis on target style golf. Forced carries over lagoons and bogs are the norm from Sea Island to Sullivan's Island and greens are approached either via arial assault or not at all. The greens on Wescott's par 4's and 5's, however, are all accessible by land and only the par 3's require significant carries over water. The putting surfaces are unequivocally firm, and the smart play is to club up and aim for the front part of the green.

"We want to host a lot of rounds out here, because we have a commitment to the taxpayers to do so," says Myers. "But we don't want any five hours rounds, and that is what Hurdzan has done for us. He's created a golf course that plays true and fast that accommodates different playing styles. No one should be out here looking for a golf ball for five minutes."

Wescott Plantation will celebrate its second birthday this October, and word of its sublime conditioning and mesmerizing design has made its way through North Charleston, Charleston, Mt. Pleasant and other surrounding towns. Myers says the course does about 120 rounds per day on weekdays, and about 180 on weekends. Close to 80 percent of play is local, no doubt a function of the ridiculously affordable green fee of $34, seven days a week and an afternoon rate of $25. That percentage could ultimately shift in favor of the traveling golfer, however, as visitors are sure to realize that this golf course in Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head could easily command an $80 to $100 fee in the peak season.

"We feel like we are sitting on the surprise of the golfing world here," Myers says. "The first time they might come out because of the convenience or the price, and when they see the course, they can't believe it. Word of mouth has been our best advertisement."

For the time being, Wescott is not only a first class golf course, it's a first rate walk through nature as well. Nary a single dwelling has been constructed along its 27 holes, and players looking to experience the course "ome" free have close to three years to do so - the development of 1500 future units have to undergo strict environmental clearance before breaking ground.


The Golf Club at Wescott Plantation
5000 Wescott Club Drive, North Charleston S.C. 29485
Tee times: 843-871-2135
Website: www.charlestongolfvacations.com

Where to Stay

The Sheraton North Charleston is a full service hotel just 20 minutes way via Interstate 526. The Sheraton offers a full range of golf packages in conjunction with Charleston Golf Partners. Golfers also enjoy the Sheraton's golf themed bar and restaurant, an all-you-can eat breakfast, and shuttle service into downtown. For more information, reservations, or golf packages call 800-247-5786 or log on to www.charlestongolfvacations.com.


Conditions: 4 (out of 5)
Scenery: 3.5
Layout: 4
Par 3's: 4
Par 4's: 3.5
Par 5's: 3
Service: 3.5
Practice Facilities: 3.5
Club House/Pro Shop: 3.5
Pace of Play: 4
Value: 4.5
Overall Rating: 3.7

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.

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