I just couldn’t wait to get to Coosaw Creek Country Club. I had heard so many good things about this Arthur Hills-designed gem, located in North Charleston, S.C., that I was simply itchin’ to try it out.
It was a delightfully warm early January day, you know, the kind that makes you wonder why the heck you live anywhere else than in the Southeast, as I drove through the attractive community that surrounds the golf course, stately brick homes gracing quiet streets. Once I arrived at Coosaw I was greeted by the friendly general manager and director of golf, Mike Benner, and his staff who, in typical Lowcounty fashion, welcomed and wished me a great day on the course.
After a chat with the affable starter, I hooked up with a psychiatrist from Portland, Oregon, who was visiting the area. I figured it would be a great opportunity to get a little free advice on my mental state of being, but I wound up giving him tips on how to hit from and chip out of the sticky and tricky Bermuda grass.
Before I tell you about the course, first a primer on Arthur Hills, who, I do believe, is one of the most under-appreciated golf architects of his time. Still at it at the age of 82, he has designed more than 180 new courses and renovated or modified more than 120 others, including some of the most significant clubs in the country, often in preparation for major USGA or PGA championships. He has laid plans to Bonita Bay and the TPC Treviso Bay in Naples, Florida; The Champions in Lexington, Kentucky; Wolfdancer Golf Club in Lost Pines, Texas; the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio; Half Moon Bay Golf Links’ Ocean Course in California, and Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California.
Hills is known for his wise use of the natural terrain and is big on making a player think his or her way around a layout rather than simply trying to overpower it. His courses are laced with water hazards and sand bunkers, and the greens are usually undulating and difficult to read, as is certainly the case at Coosaw Creek.
The first hole at Coosaw gives you an indication of the fun you’ll have here. There’s a bunker that sits on the right side of the fairway about 210 yards out from the tee box of the 336-yard dogleg right par-four. The temptation, which I readily fell victim to, is to take it over the large bunker and shorten the hole by 50 to 60 yards. I did indeed carry the trap, left myself with a short wedge, stuck it to 12 feet and made the putt for birdie. Ahh, for once the reward was well worth the risk.
Despite being located in a residential community, Coosaw Creek has the feel of a course in the wilds. That is because much of the natural area, i.e. wetlands and woods, were left intact by the developers in a wise move that only enhances the pleasure of playing their golf course.
The overall length of the holes is modest; the track plays 6,593 yards from the tips and just over 6,000 yards from the second set of markers down. But there is enough trouble around to make you place your tee shots in the proper position or club down a bit to leave yourself with unfettered approaches to the putting surfaces.
I thought one of the best short holes was the 160-yard third, a sweet par-three that demands a tee shot over water to a very deep green. You can make birdie or an easy par here, though if you come up short or push your tee shot a bit right you are going to hear a splash and are looking at double bogey.
The back nine has quite a bit of water on it, but most of the wet stuff can be cleared with relative ease off the tee.
The 16th hole is the best par-five on the course. It’s 516 yards from the tips and big hitters can get close to a pond that kisses the fairway about 270 yards from the back tees, which will leave you with a chance to get onto the green in two. I preferred to play it safe after a so-so drive and hit a four-iron to the fairway layup area to steer clear of sand traps, which left me with a short iron into another deep green. A two-putt from the front of the putting surface made par feel real nice. My playing partner continued to have trouble chipping out of the Bermuda grass and made a tough bogey after getting close in two. The thing about Bermuda grass I have learned is that you really have to commit to the shot, whether it is a five-iron from the rough or a delicate chip from beside the green. If you don’t, the creeping grass has a tendency to grab the club and either turn it over or stop if from moving through the ball properly.
Many designers like to beat you up on the way into the clubhouse. Not at Hills’ Coosaw Creek, which ends with a delightful, 343-yard par-four that doglegs sharply to the left. The hole plays slightly uphill (by the way, the elevation changes here, although slight, are atypical of Lowcountry courses), so that makes the 18th play a tad longer than its yardage. I hit a good drive and was left with a wedge into, yes, another deep and very narrow green. As is the case with most of the putting surfaces at Coosaw Creek, you’d better be true with your approach or you will be left with a tough up and down. I pushed my shot a bit and wound up in a depression off the right side of the green, short siding myself. After a good 60-degree wedge just to remain on the green that sloped away from me, I two-putted and thus ended a most enjoyable traverse of one very fun test of golf.
As I said, Coosaw Creek won’t beat you up but it doesn’t hand out birdies easily either. This is a course where it is wise to take what the holes give you, think before pulling driver out of the golf bag, and don’t get too greedy on your approach shots. The conditions were very good through the green.