South Carolina’s – “Biggest Small Town – I’ve ever seen.”
By Tim Baines
In a small South Carolina town, there’s going to be some golf magic happening again Dec. 2-4.
Yep, Christmas is coming early to Santee – billed as America’s Value Golf Destination – offers up its second annual Winter 4-Ball Classic, with your $539 US entry fee nabbing you a Santa’s sack of goodies to go along with some terrific golf.
Santee Cooper Resort’s GM Todd Miller and Claudio DeMarchi (the long-time promotional rep for the area) last year hatched the tournament idea for a place, one southern gentleman coined (over a couple of beers) “the biggest small town I’ve ever seen.”
And, while Year 1 of the 4-Ball Classic was a huge success, it’s looking like Year 2 (you can enter at www.santeecoopergolf.com) will be even better – with several of last year’s Winter 4-Ball Classic competitors, including Canadians, already signed up and on board.
“The goodies certainly add to the whole experience – everybody likes to get stuff, especially good quality stuff,” said DeMarchi. “Then everything else – the camaraderie, the food, the golf – makes it a great experience.”
So what is it about Santee (www.SanteeTourism.com) that makes it so popular with visiting golfers?
“It’s just the ease of being there – meaning you don’t have far to go, whether it’s for breakfast or to the golf course,” said DeMarchi. “When the golf is done, you don’t have far to go either where you’re staying or to refuel as we like to say when we go to the bar.
“The one thing that people get really surprised at is the fact you’ve got three pretty good golf courses all within, let’s say, a three-wood of each other, plus you’ve got all the conveniences. You just wouldn’t expect such a small place to have all of that.”
“Part of what we are not is what people like about us,” said Miller. “We don’t have the hustle and bustle. We have good golf, good food and good hospitality.”
Santee’s three wonderful golf courses are actually about a mile apart – with 14 more within 40 minutes or so. Santee is also home of the biggest margaritas you’ve ever seen, but more on that later.
Your entry fee includes two nights’ accommodation at the Lake Marion golf villas or townhouses or at Clark’s Inn, one practice round at Lake Marion Golf Course or Santee Cooper Country Club, two competitive rounds (one at Lake Marion and one at Santee National), a welcome cookout and cocktails at the Lake Marion Villas Complex, two breakfasts, two lunches and one dinner at Clark’s Restaurant.
As for the swag, each golfer will receive a Tour Edge HL3 fairway wood or hybrid (or $180 Tour Edge dollars for any product or combination of products), PLUS – your choice of in-stock FootJoy or Skechers golf shoes, a FootJoy glove, a dozen Srixon golf balls and a Winter Classic windshirt, event ball cap and shirt. The value of the swag alone is probably more than the $539 tournament fee.
Take my word for it, it’s a perfect trip – whether for buddies, women or couples. Divisions for all three categories of participants. Just so you don’t get left out – last year there were 56 players. As of writing this they have 66 players and the cut off is at 100 players!
Santee is a destination that should be on your radar.
“I guess we’re doing something right,” said Miller. “The mayor had a great line, ‘We’re literally a town of 700, but on any given weekend night, we sleep 20,000 people.’ ”
Santee Cooper Country Club, designed by George Cobb and opened in 1967, is the oldest of the three courses and arguably the venue you should never leave off any Santee itinerary, due to its prime positioning on Lake Marion. Set among majestic pines, this classic challenge winds its way from an opening tee shot over water, through a series of scenic dogleg holes, with elevated greens and featuring some of the best par 3s in the region. The best closing hole in Santee is unquestionably the par-4 No. 18 that provides a panoramic view of Lake Marion from its elevated green.
Lake Marion Golf Club, which opened in 1978, is Santee Cooper’s sister course and features outstanding, Miniverde greens. Architect Eddie Riccoboni designed the traditional layout with tree-lined fairways, bordering lakes and dotted by 47 sand bunkers that will test your golf course navigational skills. Santee Cooper and Lake Marion are part of the Santee Cooper Resort.
Another popular golf course on the menu at Santee is the Porter Gibson-routed Santee National Golf Club, which opened in 1989 and underwent a renovation in 2005. This 6,858-yard offering is positioned in a truly natural setting filled with mossy live oaks is a more wide-open layout than Santee Cooper CC and Lake Marion.
Santee is loaded with dining options, including Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant (you have to try the monster margaritas, which just seem to keep refilling themselves), Wilbur’s Cocktails and Supper Club, Captain’s Quarters (seafood), and an excellent Thai restaurant.
One of the event dinners is at the fabulous Clark’s Inn and Restaurant (the restaurant has been in the family for more than 70 years), owned by Bill and Patricia Clark. There are room options suitable for everyone. And the staff serves up a huge dose of southern hospitality.
Located within the historic Inn, Clark’s Restaurant is the original Santee business founded in 1947 and has been recognized by Southern Living Magazine in “The South’s Best Road Food.” Customers come away raving about the food, with the fried chicken at the top of the list of deliciousness.
In the area, you’ve got a state park and some of the finest fishing in the state, if not the country. Lake Marion, has held and continues to hold some pretty impressive world records over the years – large-mouth catfish and striped bass.
Santee Cooper Resorts: http://santeecoopergolf.com
Clarks Inn: www.clarksgolfpackages.com
Town of Santee: www.santeetourism.com