Nestled several miles north of Augusta National Golf Club, the 27-hole course complex at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Club resembles golf’s most hallowed grounds in ways that extend beyond geographical proximity. Designed by Tom Jackson, the course rolls through curtains of carolina pines, speckling nearly 2,000 acres with white-sand bunkers and scenic water features that test the accuracy of every swing.
The two original nines, the Chester and the Vintage, shine with visually stunning vistas and elevation changes—on the Vintage course alone, 8 holes boast a rise or fall of 30 feet or more. Opened in 2008—eight years after its forebears—the Independent course puts water in play on all but 1 hole, testing golfers’ abilities to manage high-pressure shots or skip balls close to pins.
A day’s worth of revelry awaits patrons at the Putt-Putt Fun Center, with attractions designed to amuse fun-seekers of all ages. Settle family feuds on the 18-hole Putt-Putt golf course ($6 for an adult or $3 for children 5-years and under), which includes both miniature scoring pencils and miniature mulligans if no-one sees. After a rousing round of putt-putt, cool off by recreating famous maritime battles with water-gun equipped bumper boats in the Putt-Putt WetZone ($6 per ride). Battle skills are similarly tested in the indoor laser tag arena ($6 for one round). Skee-ball all-stars can rack up a small fortune in winnings redeemable for prizes in the air-conditioned arcade ($.25 per token). The indoor climbing maze, bedecked with rope ladders, slides and tunnels allows children to live out their wildest hamster maze fantasies ($3 for 2-hours or $5 all day).
A 23-acre expanse of manicured grounds awaits soaring range balls at Wedges & Woods, a facility that houses a 300-yard driving range, short-game practice areas, and a pro shop. Golfers can line up their swings at any of the 40 hitting stations, including 10 covered stations outfitted with fans and lighting. Golfers can also work on finessing their shots at the short-game facility, where they’ll be able to aim at target greens and target caddies who have been inaccurate in their on-course distance readings.
As golfers stand over teed-up golf balls, staring down the fairway of Indian Trail Golf Course’s 370-yard 14th hole—the course signature—they may be perplexed by its ranking as the round’s most difficult hole. Though the scorecard reads “short par 4,” the hole packs a good deal of hardship into its diminutive stature. Golfers must aim for the top of the fairway hill off the tee, while steering clear of the boulder on the right side and the large pond just beyond. Players are forgiven for going the conservative route with a long iron off the tee, as opposed to risking the driver or a retrofitted t-shirt cannon. If they leave themselves a decent lie on the approach, a two-tiered green awaits just over the water, making three-putts an all-too-common occurrence.
While not every hole features boulders, uphill fairways, and the ever-present threat of boogeyman attacks, the course is characterized by the ubiquitous threat of hazards. In all, nine ponds and more than 40 bunkers haunt players along the 6,272 yards of Bermuda-covered terrain, lending an air of hostility to the otherwise pristine surroundings.
Course at a Glance:
Designed by prolific course architect Willard Byrd, Timberlake Country Club's 18-hole course plots a 6,579-yard trail across a Lake Murray peninsula as it dips southward into the glassy waters. Picturesque views of the lake abound throughout the round—because of its proximity to the lake, the club offers free docking and shore-side pickup for those who wish to arrive by boat or seahorse—and the supersized pool's watery fingers come into play on seven holes. Rounds culminate with dramatic flair at the signature 18th hole, a 483-yard par 5 where a mid-fairway water hazard looms on the business end of a blind tee shot, raising the stakes for players who unsheathe their driver in the hopes of reaching the green in two.
Alongside the grassy course, neon yellow orbs slice through the air at Timberlake Country Club's tennis courts, where tennis pro Mark Gardiner teaches students to hit a forehand passing shot or incite an earthquake with a deafening grunt. The club also houses diverse dining facilities to curb appetites or host social events.