South Carolina is one of the leading golfing states in the nation, in terms of courses, participants, and tournament play.
South Carolina is one of the leading golfing states in the nation, in terms of courses, participants, and tournament play. The Grand Strand area alone, anchored by Myrtle Beach, has over one hundred courses, most of which offer vacation packages for tourists. In 2000–2001, the total economic impact of visiting golfers was estimated at $1.5 billion. The state’s connection with golf dates back to 1743, when a shipment of 96 golf clubs and 432 golf balls from the port of Leith, Scotland (near Edinburgh), arrived in Charleston. In 1786 the South Carolina Golf Club was established by merchants from Scotland, where the modern game of golf developed.
As of 2004 there were hundreds of courses in South Carolina, 341 of which were members of the South Carolina Golf Association. The SCGA, founded in 1929, sponsored a number of men’s, women’s, junior, and senior tournaments, including twenty-two designated as major events. The courses on which SCGA-sponsored tournaments are played vary from year to year, and most of the member courses have served as hosts for at least one event.
A number of tournaments of national significance have been played in the Palmetto State. The most prominent is the Heritage tournament of the Professional Golfers Association tour on the Harbour Town course at Hilton Head, begun in 1969. The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island was the site of the 1991 Ryder Cup, in which the United States defeated Europe.
Some of the nation’s leading golfing professionals have been either South Carolina natives or have South Carolina connections. Jay Haas, a former Wake Forest University golfer who later made his permanent residence in Greenville, has been one of the most successful players on the PGA tour. He was selected for the United States Ryder Cup teams in 1983, 1995, and 2004, when he became the second oldest player in Ryder Cup history. The state laid claim to the only men’s national amateur championship when Chris Patton, a Simpsonville native who played for Clemson University, won the 1989 United States Amateur title.
On the Ladies Professional Golf Association tour, South Carolinians Betsy Rawls and Beth Daniel have been elected to the LPGA Hall of Fame. Rawls, a native of Spartanburg, won fifty-five tour events, including the Women’s Open championships in 1951, 1953, 1957, 1959, and 1960, and the LPGA championships in 1959 and 1969. Daniel, a Charleston native who played for Furman University, won the 1990 PGA title among her thirty-two tour victories and was United States Women’s Amateur champion in 1976 and 1978. Betsy King, former Furman golfer, won Women’s Open championships in 1989 and 1990 and was LPGA champion in 1992. King recorded thirty-four tournament championships on the LPGA tour and is a member of the LPGA Hall of Fame.
College golf is now prominent in South Carolina, with most of the state’s institutions producing men’s and women’s teams. Originally college golf teams were involved mostly in dual meets, but the form is now confined to regional and national tournaments. Among the state’s colleges, Clemson and the University of South Carolina have been most prominent in the sport. Clemson has been the only college in South Carolina to win the National Collegiate Athletic Association team championship, having won the 2003 tournament at Norman, Oklahoma. Clemson’s Charles Warren, a native of Columbia, won the 1997 NCAA individual championship and later became a regular on the PGA tour.
Fox, William Price. Golfing in the Carolinas. Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 1990.
South Carolina. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. 2000–2001 Economic Impact of Golf in South Carolina. Columbia: South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, .