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|Sanctuary Golf Club's second hole is a visually intimidating start from the white tees on back. (Lisa Allen/WorldGolf.com)|
BEAUFORT, S.C. - Where did the former South Carolina National golf course get its new name? From history. Sanctuary was the name of the nudist colony that inhabited Cat Island in the 1930s and '40s.
As a golf course, Sanctuary Golf Club on Cat Island near Beaufort is a work in progress. Owner Richard Grant bought it out of bankruptcy in September 2007 and closed it last summer to rebuild tee boxes and greens, add a few bunkers there, remove others here and improve drainage. The turf on the greens and fairway isn't quite there, but it's easy to see that it will be. The greens appear to have a few more months of bumpy left before the pospolum grass fills in.
It's short, less than 7,000 yards from the blue tees, and the boxes end there. No black tips here.
"It's a very challenging layout," said Jim Veater, a 12-handicap with years of golf experience under his belt. "A lot of holes, they look different each time, depending on where you land the ball."
And regardless of your game, there is a lot to look at. Four holes overlook the Beaufort River, and part of a round includes gator counting. It often hits the double digits.
"We have all types of wildlife and water in play on 13 holes," said Head Pro Joe Matheny. "There are not a lot of forced carries. We're old-school golf."
The pace is not hurried, but the service is there. Golfers are greeted in the parking lot by staff in a golf cart ready to unload your bags.
No. 1 starts with a wide expanse of fairway then thins to an alley to the green, edged by a large tree on the right, water left.
No. 2 is a visually intimidating start from the white tees on back, with a barely perceptible landing area with sand bunkers as a backstop. Master that shot and a large green awaits. Careful there, though. The green has sand on three sides.
There's not much to say about No. 3, but it's important. Tee-shot placement in order to carry the marsh onto the green is everything. Period.
The course has back-to-back par 3s on the front that can snarl up the pace when busy. Sadly, they weren't using alternative tees on the holes that are the most dramatic over the marsh. There are beautiful river views here.
No. 8 lost most of its bite with the removal of a fried-egg sand bunker. No. 9, frankly, is the least appealing hole on the course. Flat and open.
Sanctuary quickly redeems itself with a long tee-shot carry on No. 10. Add a gator lazing on the far bank, and the risk ramps up in a hurry.
Another hole worth mention is No. 15, the course's signature hole on the back. Visually, there's a lot between your tee shot and safety, but despite the water, there's a large margin to the right. The approach to the green is brutal, with water cutting in from the right and no room to roll it up to the green.
Overall, the greens are large and feature a few with tiers or bowls that can make three putts distinct possibilities. It's easy to see that once the pospolum grass fills in, the greens are going to be formidable, given the proclivity to slant most of the greens toward bunkers.
It would be nice to see some rough year round instead of waiting for the bermuda to arrive only in the fall.
Sanctuary is an interesting golf course that takes away a long-ball hitter's advantage and shifts focus to planning your approach-shot strategy.
Wide fairways provide a lot of options. Putting the ball near the pin with something other than a putter is optimal. Otherwise, there could be a whole lot of turf between you and a nice score.
A hole's finish, and the view, make it worth a trip to Sanctuary Golf Club.
May 12, 2009
Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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