Golf News for Monday, April 22, 2013 | Courses

Chechessee Creek Club in Okatie, South Carolina continues to thrive

OKATIE, S.C. -- Like many private golf havens along the historic stretch between Charleston and Hilton Head Island, Chechessee Creek Club endured its share of challenges during the recent recession. But today — thanks to a proud, committed membership, a 12-bedroom lodge adjacent to its award-winning clubhouse and gracious service all around — Chechessee Creek has emerged a vibrant, sought-after coastal enclave.

Chechessee Creek opened around the turn of the 21st century, yet was clearly conceptualized and constructed to provide the game's connoisseurs a classic golf experience from yesteryear. Nearly an equidistant, half-hour drive from Savannah, Ga., Beaufort and Hilton Head, the club has stood since its inception as a throwback to simpler times, providing its members an intimately refined and discreet experience with the same balance of detail and understated tranquility that characterized their golf course. When it debuted in 2000, the Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore-designed masterpiece was heralded among the finest modern golf courses in the United States, as well as one of the best layouts in South Carolina. Some 15 years later Chechessee Creek is better than ever, its facilities and array of offerings helping the club reach near capacity membership.

"We've added a significant number of members while maintaining the quality of the membership," said Franklin Newell, Chechessee Creek's general manager and director of golf who has been with the club since its inception. "Our members have great pride in what they have. The club is something they want to share with their families and friends."

From the beginning Chechessee Creek has been known for its Crenshaw-Coore routing — a timeless, low-profile classic on which most of the famed duo's time-honored design techniques were put to practice. A marvelous exercise in restraint, Chechessee Creek's eclectic collection of short, long and medium length holes brings to mind Golden Age architects such as Seth Raynor, Donald Ross and Allister MacKenzie. In its tranquil setting, a lush canvas of mature Lowcountry pines and oaks, the layout is highlighted by generous fairways and rugged bunkers scattered throughout appearing more like works of art. Chechessee Creek's pushed-up, classically styled green complexes bring to mind those at the storied 1920s era courses throughout the northeast United States, with canted putting surfaces that slope from back to front offering players of all skill levels a unique challenge.

"Chechessee Creek GC is a step back in time — at least 80 years back," Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten tweeted after a recent visit to the club. "Raynor, Ross, [A.W. Tillinghast] all represented."

Crenshaw and Coore view Chechessee Creek as "our tribute to the Lowcountry and the classic coastal designs of South Carolina." On their regular return visits, they have been pleased with how the course has matured—including the many subtle but strategic improvements to the property and its magnificent Lowcountry views. "The nuances of the course—the details on which we worked so diligently—reveal themselves over time," says Crenshaw. "Different types of players are encouraged to attempt a variety of shots and strategies to best reward their individual game."

Checheessee Creek is equally impressive away from the golf course. Like its clubhouse and all but one of its 11 on-site cottages, Chechessee Creek's lodge was designed by the noted architectural firm of Thomas & Denzinger of Charleston and Beaufort and offers a rustic, southern feel to the club's natural, environmentally friendly landscape. A modest 5,000 square feet, the lodge includes 12 single bedrooms, a comfortable common living and gathering area, fireplaces and a large screened outdoor sitting area.

The lodge stands just off the 18th green and continues a circulation around the clubhouse along a brick walkway that includes a gathering area with a fire pit and summer kitchen. Like Chechessee Creek's clubhouse, the lodge is unpretentious and rural in flavor with understated and traditional lines of detail. Like the cottages, the lodge is a warm and modest wood-framed structure with board-and-batten siding and understated metal roofing accented by high ceilings and beam trusses made of yellow pine timber — all lending to the feel of a Lowcountry home. The rooms are simple yet sophisticated, modern and stylish.

At Chechessee Creek, golf is a passion, camaraderie is a given and walking with a caddie is a treasured tradition. Service at the club is friendly, thoroughly professional and dedicated to member comfort. Boasting one of the Lowcountry's finest dining facilities, Chechessee Creek's award-winning chef Tony Pope offers an ever-changing variety of cuisine often featuring his renowned Old European style with a Lowcountry twist, incorporating mostly local food indigenous to the area including seafood fresh off the boat. Chechessee Creek's comfortably elegant lounge, golf shop, and men's and ladies' locker rooms are part of the club centerpiece. Catering services for the club cottages are available, and in addition members enjoy boating, fishing, and crabbing, from the club's private dock along an unspoiled creek bank and tidal marsh of the Chechessee Creek.

From the course to the clubhouse, the cottages to the caddie program, Chechessee Creek serves as an old-fashioned golf club celebrating the game and its heritage. "I used every club in my bag at least once during my tour of Chechessee," wrote Mike Purkey, deputy editor of Global Golf Post. "Every moment was pure golf. It was an absolute delight — golf as it was meant to be."

Contacts:
Martin Armes, 919-608-7260, martinarmes@nc.rr.com
Brad King, 336-306-9219, king@bradkingcommunications.com