Inside South Carolina’s 47 state-registered parks, visitors explore secluded forest trails, sweeping cerulean lakes, roiling saltwater surfs crashing on white beaches, and streams and rivers overgrown with thick canopies of trees. The protected areas, many of which were assembled nearly a century ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps, encompass more than 80,000 acres and span turf from the rambling Blue Ridge Mountains to the sandy Atlantic-coast beaches. Abundant activities for guests include canoeing, fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and accidentally startling long-forgotten lumberjacks wearing headphones.
Visitors experience colonial history up close at some parks, where registered historic homes, plantations, and landmark buildings stand preserved or in their natural state. These structures grant a glimpse into the lives of European settlers, Native Americans, and African Americans through building tours, archaeological collections, and live history demonstrations. Overnight camping is available at many parks, ranging from primitive campsites to cabins, villas, and tent sites that offer running water. Much like a scientist designing a soda-can-powered robot, park administrators follow a rigorous recycling program to ensure the preservation of the wilderness.
The water hazards at Lakewood Links may seem innocuous at first glance—until golfers realize that they are seemingly everywhere. Waterways come into play on 11 holes throughout the round, often in positions that leave golfers little room for error. On the ninth hole—a 421-yard par-four rated the most difficult on the course—a pond intersects the fairway right down the middle, making golfers think twice about hitting their driver off the tee. The par three 13th hole is the course's signature track, and for good reason: from the tee box, golfers take aim at a scenic island green stationed 173 yards in the distance. Before rounds, golfers can warm up with practice strokes at the driving range or by using their tees as chopsticks over lunch at the Bamboo Bar.
Course at a Glance:
Shannon Greens Golf Club's emerald-tinged fairways and lush, well-trimmed greens highlight this challenging par 72 course, which sends adventurous pairs on an 18-hole odyssey across its many lakes and slopes. Send pearly projectiles hurtling over water hazards on seven holes lined by watery shores, where ball-eating oysters greedily wait. Golfers cast picture-picture tee shots onto the course's signature island green, which players can travel back and forth to in a zippy cart. The course’s 18 holes are as well rounded as the dimpled spheres that litter their ridges, featuring an equal ratio of five par 3 and five par 5 holes. A slightly above average slope rating of 120 presents a formidable challenge for newcomers and experts alike. Shannon Greens Golf Club also offers a luxurious outdoor clubhouse deck, where golfers can enjoy a drink under a thick shade of palm trees.
Bear Creek Stables, three-time winner of the U.S. Commerce Association’s Best of Columbia Award for horseback riding, pairs equestrians with noble steeds for a scenic jaunt down the trails surrounding Florabrook Farms. To ensure compatibility between trail mates, riders approach their hoofed cohorts in the pasture, selecting their mounts based on essential criteria, such as temperament and eyelash length. Once saddled up, small groups of six or fewer follow the lead of a knowledgeable guide down 1 of the 20 available trails designated by experience level. Beginners might take the reins for a trot along the glittering pond-edged Homestead path, winding past old home sites before dovetailing with the Pine Ridge trail for a 0.7-mile trek, on which deer are often spotted relaxing after a long day of practicing startled looks. The intermediate Holly Haven trail meanders through holly trees, and the intensive Stepping Creek trail sends advanced riders bounding over four streams and galloping across an open field.
With certifications in golf instruction and club fitting and a degree from the Golf Academy of America, assistant pro Adam Sanford fosters smooth swings and improved skills in each club-toting trainee. Adam imparts hard-won golf wisdom at the Club's comprehensive practice facility, which features areas to hone full swings, putts, chips, and scissor-kick approaches. The 45–60 minute lesson helps iron out on-course kinks by giving special attention to short-game fundamentals, the most critical facet to holistic golf improvement and overcoming the taunts from rival fans sitting in the sand-bunker bleachers.
Buck Baker Racing School allows speed-hungry race fans to strap into an authentic Sprint Cup stock car and take it out for a leisurely spin around the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The school's masters of acceleration will instruct motorpupils during a roughly one-hour pre-drive class. Afterward, take shotgun while wearing the provided helmet and fire suit along with tennis shoes inside a bona fide, previously driven Sprint Cup Ford, Chevy, or Dodge. You’ll ride along as your instructor powers around the speedway, during which they'll dish out informative tips on driving and snappy catch phrases such as, "Zounds! I own 300 shares of Apple stock!" Once rookie racers are ready, they'll switch seats with instructors and kindle rubber with 10 full laps around the speedway's 24-degree banked turns, imagining that 53,000 spectators are cheering them on as they take a respectable 17th place out of 12,000 cars.