For the 50+ Traveler

There are three main golfing “hotbeds” in South Carolina, all along the coast. Hilton Head Island has long been a golfing destination, especially with Harbor Town hosting a PGA Tour event every year. Kiawah Island is probably the state’s newest golfing hotbed, with courses like The Ocean and Cassique popping up in the last 30 years. And Myrtle Beach has a campaign where they promote themselves as the Golfing Capital of the World.

It’s true that there are dozens of great courses in these areas, but there’s more to South Carolina golf than just the three ocean-side hotbeds. And because courses in those areas can get insanely expensive (Harbor Town can run you as much as $370, and it currently costs $383 to walk The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island), you might be looking for a better deal than that. Below, I’ve listed seven great courses for the money in South Carolina.

They won’t all be “cheap.” Finding good value in golf, to me, means a course where you’d willing pay twice what they ask. I just played a course in Illinois last night for a $25 twilight rate, and I feel like I’d easily pay $80 to play that course again given the great layout and pristine conditions. So this will be a list of “value,” even though some of the courses get a bit pricey.

Note: I rate the cost of each course (for 18 holes, in most cases) in dollar signs from $ to $$$$.

  • $: $35 or less
  • $$: $35 to $65
  • $$$: $65 to $100
  • $$$$: $100 and up

1. Aiken Golf Club, Aiken

Cost: $

We’ll begin with a course that many believe to be the best value in South Carolina: Aiken Golf Club. It has a long history (it’s one of the oldest golf courses in South Carolina) as well as a recent renovation to help with maintenance. And, for golf junkies like myself who subscribe to YouTube channels about golf, it’s the location where many of the Bryan Brothers golf competitions are held. In the 2020s, there’s probably no greater promotion for the next generation of golfers than to host online golf competitions.

This course has run the gamut of golf course iterations. It has been a private club, it’s been the municipal course for the City of Aiken, and it’s been a resort with a historic hotel (which later burned down). Its current status: a semi-private course that offers public tee times.

Aiken is right across the border from Augusta, Georgia, so obviously this is a golf-crazy area. There are several well-known courses in the area, but none of them will let you walk 18 holes on a Sunday morning for $25.

2. Walker Golf Course At Clemson University

Cost: $$$

If you’ve heard of this course, it’s likely because of the 17th green. The green and its bunkers were designed to be the Clemson logo -- a tiger paw print. Pull it up on Google Earth, and you’ll see the university’s logo right there next to the lake.

But The Walker Course at Clemson is not just a course with one unique hole. It’s a challenging layout (used by the Clemson golf team) that can be played for a very affordable rate. It seems you find this quite often at campus golf courses. They’re designed like many of the top private clubs and maintained like the top courses (so that the men’s and women’s golf teams can practice in conditions similar to those they’ll find when they go play some of the more famous courses in the country). But they’re not nearly the same cost.

A challenging course maintained in pristine condition but without the fees you’d normally have to pay to access a course like that? Yes, please.

3. Santee National Golf Club, Santee

Cost: $$

Because South Carolina is known as a golfing destination, there are several small towns that have made golf their main marketing focus. Some small town in Iowa might market itself with “Come see our many antique stores;” well, a town like Santee, South Carolina, markets itself as “Golf’s Little Big Town.” The city logo even has a golf tee as the t in Santee.

One of the best courses in Santee: Santee National Golf Club. Located just a few minutes from I-95 (the interstate that runs from the Maine/Canada border to Miami), it’s easy access to affordable, challenging golf. There’s one main lake at Santee National and then several small ponds, so you get several challenging water holes. And all for well less than you’d expect to pay.

There are other great courses in the area, so Santee is a great destination for your “we don’t want to go to Hilton Head or Myrtle Beach -- where should we go?” golf trip.

4. True Blue, Pawley’s Island

Cost: $$$$

A list like this has to include one of South Carolina’s high-end courses. The truly elite courses -- The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island or Harbor Town on Hilton Head Island, for example -- are always going to be extremely expensive. But there are some fantastic South Carolina courses that you can play for just over $100. True Blue is such a course. A $200+ round of golf for half that.

True Blue was designed by “the Cowboy” Mike Strantz. He designed only 10 golf courses before his untimely death from cancer, but those ten courses have grown in stature as the true genius of his design philosophy became understood and appreciated. True Blue is one of his best, with challenges around every turn providing moments of exhilaration when you pull off the shot.

I have a friend who played Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach one day and True Blue the next day. He felt both were equal courses and fantastic rounds of golf. The difference -- he paid $200 at Dunes Club and $105 at True Blue.

5. Carolina Lakes, Indian Land

Cost: $$

The Rock Hill area in South Carolina -- just across the border from Charlotte, North Carolina -- is also known for its golf. And Carolina Lakes is the best golf for your money in the region. Golfers in Charlotte know that a good round on a Saturday can cost you well over $100. But hop across the state line to Indian Land, South Carolina, and you can play a great course like Carolina Lakes Golf Club for right around $50.

Carolina Lakes might be a bit of a misnomer because the golf course is known for its sand. Make sure your sand wedge is ready to go because there are a lot of bunkers here. But that makes for a challenging and enjoyable round of golf. Manage your round correctly, and you can avoid the bunkers and feel great about some of the shots you pull off.

6. Wyboo Golf Club, Manning

Cost: $

If you happen to make it to Santee, mentioned above as Golf’s Little Big Town, make your round the next day at Wyboo Golf Club, only 25 miles away in Manning, South Carolina. You can laugh at your friends who spent $350 on two rounds of golf in Myrtle Beach while you played Santee National and Wyboo Golf Club for less than $100 combined.

Wyboo is right up there with Aiken Golf Club in terms of “I’d probably pay twice this rate.” Rates vary based on the day of the week and the time of the day, but you can often play Wyboo for $35 or less. So think of it this way: One round at The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island or ten rounds at Wyboo? I’d love to play Kiawah, but I have to go for the ten rounds here.

7. Hilton Head National, Hilton Head Island

Cost: $$$

This is the first “high-end” golf course I ever played. It was the summer after my senior year of high school, and thus far, I had only played a bunch of municipal courses and the local country club when a friend could get me on the course. But that summer, my family took one final family vacation (before the youngest child, me, headed off to college). We chose Hilton Head Island, and my dad wanted to take me golfing on one of its famous courses, so he chose the brand new (at the time) Hilton Head National, designed by Gary Player.

It’s one of my fondest memories from those months before I headed off to college. When I get back to Hilton Head Island, I’ll certainly play it again. And researching it now, I was pleasantly surprised by the rates. It’s a great course on a great piece of property and appears to have remained affordable.

If you’ve golfed in the Hilton Head area before, you know that many of the courses wander in and around the houses on the island. It seems like you’re in danger of hitting it into someone’s back yard off any tee. This course, just across the water from the island itself, doesn’t have that. There are no houses -- only great golf holes and fantastic scenery.