Courses

The best courses you can play in South Carolina

The question for those considering a South Carolina golf trip is usually not whether you should go but rather where in the Palmetto State to go. For a small state (it’s the 10th-smallest in the U.S.), there are great destinations that are very varied from each other.

Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular American buddies trip destinations, boasting over 90 golf courses (and most of them are public). Hilton Head Island and its surrounding areas combine relaxing vibes and nice beaches with strong golf. Charleston is one of the most popular cities for all travelers with all-world food, beaches, and yes, some decent golf. That’s not even mentioning Kiawah Island, which boasts some one of the best upscale resorts in the world.

Which trip will you take next? Like we said up top, each destination is worthy of a trip. If you haven’t been, organize a trip and you won't be disappointed. The only thing to figure out is where you ought to play—which we’ve aimed to help you figure out below.

Scroll on to read more about each of these public golf courses in South Carolina. And we hope you enjoy exploring our new Places to Play hub.

Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Carlos Amoedo
Public
Kiawah Island Golf Resort: The Ocean Course
Kiawah Island, United States
Often considered to be the first course designed for a specific event—the 1991 Ryder Cup—this manufactured linksland-meets-lagoons layout might well be Pete Dye’s most diabolical creation. Every hole is edged by sawgrass, every green has tricky slopes, every bunker merges into bordering sand dunes. Strung along nearly three miles of ocean coast, Dye took his wife’s advice and perched fairways and greens so golfers can actually view the Atlantic surf. That also exposes shots and putts to ever-present and sometimes fierce coastal winds. The Ocean Course will forever be linked with Phil Mickelson and his improbable victory at the 2021 PGA Championship.
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Harbour Town Golf Links
Courtesy of Rob Tipton
Public
Harbour Town Golf Links
Hilton Head Island, United States
In the late 1960s, Jack Nicklaus landed the design contract for Harbour Town, then turned it over to his new partner, Pete Dye, who was determined to distinguish his work from that of rival Robert Trent Jones. Soon after Harbour Town opened in late November 1969 (with a victory by Arnold Palmer in the Heritage Classic), the course debuted on America’s 100 Greatest as one of the Top 10. It was a total departure for golf at the time. No mounds, no elevated tees, no elevated greens—just low-profile and abrupt change. Tiny greens hung atop railroad ties directly over water hazards. Trees blocked direct shots. Harbour Town gave Pete Dye national attention and put Jack Nicklaus, who made more than 100 inspection trips in collaborating with Dye, in the design business. Pete’s wife, Alice, also contributed, instructing workers on the size and shape of the unique 13th green, a sinister one edged by cypress planks.
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May River Golf Club At Palmetto Bluff
Courtesy of the club
Private
May River Golf Club At Palmetto Bluff
Bluffton, United States
Built some 35 years after nearby Harbour Town Golf Links, May River is an interesting contrast in Jack Nicklaus's portfolio (Nicklaus was co-designer of Harbour Town with Pete Dye). It's an equally low-profile layout with a number of bump-and-run approach shots but with several Pine Valley-like waste areas and with larger, bolder greens. The classic routing has the front nine turning clockwise through forest while the back nine circles counter-clockwise, and each touch repeatedly on the wetlands of namesake May River. Gorgeous and mysterious at every turn, the course is at its best when it gets players thinking, like at the short par-4 seventh where they must decide to either lay up to an island of fairway or take a swipe at a shallow green situated on another small isthmus of land along the marsh, and the par-5 10th where a wetland crossing the fairway and several small centrally arranged pot bunkers put indecision into the second and third shots toward a green backed up against the river.
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The Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Private
The Dunes Golf & Beach Club
Myrtle Beach, United States
Its ocean-side dunes are mostly covered with turfgrass and mature trees now, but when Robert Trent Jones built The Dunes back in the late 1940s, the property was primarily windswept sand dotted with lagoons. Those lakes come in prominently on many holes, particularly on the 11th through 13th, dubbed Alligator Alley. (The boomerang-shaped par-5 13th is called Waterloo.) The home hole, with a pond in front of the green, started as a gambling par 5 but today is a daunting par 4. The course has hosted three USGA championships, including the 1962 U.S. Women's Open and most recently, the 2017 U.S. Women's Amateur Four-Ball.
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Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
JD Cuban/Golf Digest
Public
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club
Pawleys Island, United States
4.1
115 Panelists
Caledonia was Strantz’s first solo design in 1994, and his creativity shines on this golf-only, oak-dotted, sand-dune parcel abutting the marshes and rice paddies of Pawley’s Island. The design is ordered and composed, twisting low through the heavy tree canopy while setting up classic hole strategies into angled greens. There are touches of Pete Dye and just enough quirk to suggest something more intense and experimental brewing under the surface. Subdued and rhythmic, Caledonia is currently ranked 85th on Golf Digest's latest 100 Greatest Public ranking (it’s been as high as 66th). Two musts: The chowder at the turn, and a drink on the porch behind the 18th hole.
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Barefoot Resort & Golf: Dye Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Dye Course
North Myrtle Beach, United States
4
63 Panelists
The highest ranked of the four courses at Barefoot Resort, the Dye course features classic Dye bunker complexes with risk/reward opportunities for low-handicappers with playable options from forward tees for higher handicappers.
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True Blue Golf Club
Public
True Blue Golf Club
Pawleys Island, United States
4.1
92 Panelists
Strantz returned to Pawley’s Island just a few years after Caledonia opened, nearly to the exact same place, in fact. True Blue is Caledonia’s sister course, located on an inland property that sits just across the street, though sequestered from any marsh views. But what it lacks in scenery it makes up for in volume. Everything at True Blue is bigger and more heroic. Greens erupt out of sand barrens, fairways are 60 to 90 yards wide and holes take on the form of ambling caterpillars. The abrupt, hi-contrast shaping, made possible by the sandy terrain, is a not so subtle nod in the direction of Pine Valley.
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TPC Myrtle Beach
Golf Tourism Solutions
Public
TPC Myrtle Beach
Murrells Inlet
3.9
65 Panelists
Once the host of the Senior PGA Tour Championship and now home to Dustin Johnson’s annual World Junior Golf Championship, TPC Myrtle Beach is designed to challenge even the pros. Numerous water hazards, strategically placed trees, and forced carries make this track a tough, but enjoyable test.
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Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Osprey Point
Patrick J O'Brien
Public
Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Osprey Point
Johns Island, United States
3.9
112 Panelists
Renovated in 2014 by Tom Fazio, several holes at Osprey Point run parallel to water hazards and deep bunkers provide ample defense against greens of varying sizes. Nestled in the natural Lowcountry salt marsh, this track’s stunning classic-style clubhouse also adds appeal.
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Grande Dunes Resort Course
Public
Grande Dunes Resort Course
Myrtle Beach, United States
3.9
67 Panelists
Grande Dunes reopened in September 2022 after a complete greens and bunker renovation over the summer. Spectacular views of the Intracoastal Waterway and Grande Dunes Marina make this links-style golf course well worth the visit. Designed by Roger Rulewich Group, the course was built on a high bluff—the ideal setting for a picturesque sunset round. Expansive fairways littered with penalty areas throughout define Grande Dunes as a difficult, yet enjoyable resort course.
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The Sea Pines Resort: Atlantic Dunes
Public
The Sea Pines Resort: Atlantic Dunes
Hilton Head Island
4
96 Panelists
Overhauled by David Love III, Atlantic Dunes is the reconstruction of The Sea Pines Resort’s Ocean Course, Hilton Head’s first golf course. This lowcountry track features water on almost every hole, beautiful Spanish moss-draped oaks, and lurking gators, if you look close enough. The seaside feel of the course is accentuated by the native grasses and coquina shells scattered throughout.
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Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
Public
Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club
Pawleys Island, United States
3.9
31 Panelists
This Jack Nicklaus design would contend not only for the best in Myrtle Beach but the best public courses in South Carolina. Pawleys Plantation lies among the natural saltwater marshes and boasts some strong par 3s. According to Nicklaus, each hole has a distinct intended strategy shaped by hazards, trees, bunkers, and even a double green shared by two holes.
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Tidewater Golf Club
Brian Oar/Courtesy of the club
Public
Tidewater Golf Club
North Myrtle Beach, United States
3.7
61 Panelists
When Ken Tomlinson set out to build this Grand Strand course, he looked to world famous designs, such as Merion and Pine Valley. The architect wanted to ensure that his venue would harmonize seamlessly with its natural surroundings. Tidewater does just that: sitting atop a peninsula, the golf course is nestled between the tidal marsh and forest lands in North Myrtle Beach.
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The Heritage Club
Public
The Heritage Club
Pawleys Island, United States
4
31 Panelists
A Dan Maples design, The Heritage Club weaves along the Waccamaw River Trail and borders vast abandoned rice fields. This Pawleys Island course is complemented by lush native flowers along its rolling fairways as well as passerby boats on its riverside holes.
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Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Cougar Point
Public
Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Cougar Point
Kiawah Island, United States
3.8
90 Panelists
Renovated by Gary Player in 2017, Cougar Point reopened as a brand-new marshland course design at Kiawah Island Resort. Generous fairways and vast greens coupled with risk-reward par-5s and abundant water hazards make this golf course extremely playable. Plus, you’ll undoubtedly spot a gator or two.
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Barefoot Resort & Golf: Fazio Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Fazio Course
North Myrtle Beach, United States
3.6
61 Panelists
Fazio's entry at Barefoot Resort will challenge the best players—with the routing constantly changing direction to account for the seemingly ever-present wind—but is playable for the resort player. The par-5 fourth hole stands out—lined with bunkers and a sentinel pine up by the green. The 18th hole is a great finish, playing up to the clubhouse with a huge porch, perfect for watching players come in.
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Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Turtle Point
Patrick O'Brien
Public
Kiawah Island Golf Resort: Turtle Point
Johns Island, United States
3.4
131 Panelists
In 2016, Jack Nicklaus led the renovation of Turtle Point, regrassing the course with Paspalum, reconstructing all of the bunkers, and improving the irrigation efficiency. This Kiawah Island resort course now features increased shot variety and requires strategic play with several hidden water hazards.
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Barefoot Resort & Golf: Love Course
Public
Barefoot Resort & Golf: Love Course
North Myrtle Beach
3.8
62 Panelists
A member of Golf Digest's 100 Greatest Public ranking from 2003 to 2007, the Love course is one of the best in Myrtle Beach and yet ranked as the third-best at golf-rich Barefoot Resort (just a few tenths of a point behind the Fazio course, according to our panelists). This is Love Golf Design's only work in Myrtle Beach, and it makes good use of the land with a good variety of holes—long, short and doglegs in each direction.
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Wild Dunes Resort: Links
Public
Wild Dunes Resort: Links
Isle of Palms
4
59 Panelists
The Links course at Wild Dunes, designed by Tom Fazio, is one of Charleston's best public options with views of coastal marshes, lagoons, the Intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. The course hosted the 1985 U.S. Senior Amateur.
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The Sea Pines Resort: Heron Point
Public
The Sea Pines Resort: Heron Point
Hilton Head Island, United States
3.7
79 Panelists
With the goal of making the course more playable for an average golfer, Pete Dye modified this Hilton Head course by adding several tee boxes and enlarging a handful of the greens. However, Heron Point still maintains a tough test with its risk-reward holes, Dye-signature mounding and water-guarded greens. Additionally, the Sea Pines resort course conserves and protects its natural landscape, which led to its certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.
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