Travel: Columbia, SC
by Art McCafferty
I recently had the opportunity to take a guided tour of Columbia, S.C. golf and examine a few of that areas newest golf packages. The opportunity occurred while covering the U.S. Olympic Trials womens marathon for our sister publication, Michigan Runner. My guide for the visit was Dan Hartley, a former publisher of a golf newspaper in the Columbia area, who has now turned to packaging Columbia Golf. He plans to do the same in Augusta, Georgia in the future.
I met Dan at the London, Ontario golf show. It was his first Canadian show and was one of five he had attended in Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania this year. He said he was interested in the Michigan market and indicated that he thought that many Michigan golfers were aware of the golf packages in the South Carolina cities of Santee, Sumter and Myrtle Beach, but that Columbia Golf probably would be new to them. However, since forming his company in 1997, Dan has made many golf groups aware of Columbia Golf and in the process, has put together a thriving business. Golf Columbia has 13 golf courses and three lodging properties.
While I cannot speak for the entire Golf Columbia product, I did get a chance to see three of the 13 courses and two of its three lodging properties. Each of the three courses had a unique pedigree. Oak Hills, voted Golf Club of the Year by the State Newspaper is situated on a 160-acre tract and is surrounded by thousands of oaks, pines and dogwoods. The layout was designed by its original owners, Chip Beck, Steve Melnick and Curtis Strange.
The Windermere Club is yet another spectacular Peter and E.B Dye course. It is truly amazing what a Dye course offers a golfer. This course has hosted a number of state tournaments, the U.S.Mid-Amateur Qualifier, and Mid-Amateur Championship. Randy Few, the golf professional, won the 1998 South Carolina Open.
The third course, The Golf Club of South Carolina Country Club at Crickentree, has a terrific layout done by Ken Killium, another nationally renowned architect. All of the three courses had exciting layouts, were reasonably priced, and had clean, upscaled clubhouses and plenty of southern hospitality.
I checked out two of the three lodging properties as well, Sleep Inn and the Sheraton Plaza. The Sheraton offers all the amenities that you need and is the most expensive of the Columbia properties. However, you could stay next door at the Sleep Inn and buy your dinner at the Sheraton with your savings. Incidentally, the same management company owns both properties.
While being shown around, we met over a half dozen foursomes that were Dan Hartleys clients. They represented golf groups from Kentucky, Canton, Ohio and Canada. Generally, all those we saw were pleased with both the product and its value.
Columbia, South Carolinas capital city, is a sleepy town that is beginning to awaken. The state has had its share of notoriety of late, with its Confederate flag controversy, Republican primary and the womens marathon Olympic Trials. The surrounding suburbs of Columbia seem very healthy economically and the downtown area shows signs of continuous renewal.
For information on Columbia Golf, contact www.danhartleygolf.com.
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