Where? Aiken / North Augusta – YUP!!!
It might just be because they are so close to arguably the most recognized name in golf, Augusta, and the fabled Masters Tournament which takes place every spring just across the Aiken/N. Augusta, South Carolina border.
Does anyone ever think of going there on a golf vacation? Those in the know do!
The rest – you may want to read on. These three courses make up a trifecta that will challenge any 3some in the State of South Carolina.
In the few weeks around the masters golfers line up and pay anywhere from $75 to $300 to play. At other times of the year you can play these for as little as $40 to $75.
One of these courses, Mount Vintage Golf Club, is ranked on Golf Advisor as #7 in the State and if you like seeing the stone bridges around Augusta National on TV, you will actually get to walk across these. When I expressed my feelings to the Philly based Traveling Golfer, Tony Leodora, “that Mount Vintage was as good as any course in the State” – after playing he turned to me and uttered, “Claudio, I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, you were correct, this is one great course!”
With that six months later Tony returned with a group of 20 golfing buddies and not only played Mount Vintage but also played the rest of this trifecta The River Club and one of the oldest courses in America, a Donald Ross gem – The Aiken Golf Club.
The River Golf Club in N. Augusta is set along the banks of the Savannah River with views of the downtown Augusta skyline. Where there are rivers and wetlands you will find plenty of bridges. The layout winds its way around several lakes with plenty of wetlands, water hazards and, of course, gators. As you wind your way along the courses lush fairways and slick greens you can’t help but notice leftover train cars, tracks and trestles that might just indicate that this may have been the site of an old rail yard in days gone by! Here’s a tip – play the right tees or carries off the tee will be an issue!
The Aiken Golf Club – Nothing fancy here, a journey back in time that is just a great fun golf experience. Located in the charming Town of Aiken and opened in 1912 you will experience the taste and feel of Pinehurst #2 – Donald Ross greens and all! The putter will get a workout, likely your sand game and if you walk, you will too. Plenty of ups and downs on the longest short course you will ever play. Only 5,800 yards from the tips – guaranteed they will be memorable. Take a minute to wander around the clubhouse – FYI food is great!
Mount Vintage Golf Club – set in a private community, 27 holes, three distinct nines designed by Tom Jackson just about 20 years ago. The tremendous topography that Jackson had to work with is further enhanced by the stone wall that accents tees, bridges and ponds around the course, reminiscent of Augusta National. You don’t have to take mine or the other Traveling Golfer’s word about how great this course is…even golf legend Byron Nelson once referred to Mount Vintage Golf Club as a “magnificent layout.”
All three of these courses are within the Thoroughbred Country region of South Carolina, with the charming City of Aiken being the focal point. Thoroughbred is one of the four regions that make up the Mountains to Midlands Golf Alliance. The Alliance has over 50 courses in four regions of the State.
For us golfers we always feel that golf carts have the right of way and this is the case almost everywhere. But not here in Aiken – often referred to as the Saratoga of the South, Horses rule! Horses have the right of way!
The Aiken Winter Colony was established by Thomas Hitchcock Sr. and William C. Whitney, and over the years, Aiken became a winter home for many famous and notable people, including those with such last names as Astor, Vanderbilt, Pinkerton, Rockefeller and others.
These days, Aiken does boast a vibrant and unique downtown shopping and dining experience, but there’s a saying that you’ve truly succeeded when you live on a dirt road. That’s because most of the horse district on the outskirts of downtown is still dirt roads, just off the oak canopy of often-photographed South Boundary Avenue. There is even a stoplight on one of Aiken’s busiest roads for horse riders to safely cross.