Oconee County, South Carolina

Number 14 Teebox on Jack Nicklaus’ The Reserve Golf Course at Lake Keowee

While “rediscovering America,” we stumbled on one of the country’s most super natural spots. Oconee is the Cherokee word for “land beside the water” which is an understatement in Oconee County, South Carolina considering three beautiful lakes for swimming and boating and over 300 waterfalls, 29 with trails. Until you go it is impossible to imagine how surreal the land and water vistas are including the Chatooga River where Deliverance was filmed for the sheer beauty of the river rapids and shore scenery. You may climb down a path to a point of class 4 rapids on this river from the movie, fantasizing the maneuvers required or you could go on a real rafting trip with Wildwater. 

Every natural treasure spot is so mesmerizing we could have stayed to absorb it all day long, but golf delivers hours of those moments starting with Cross Creek Plantation Golf Club in Seneca. Private yet closed on Mondays for charity tournaments, the day we visited, a fun group of lady members were playing “beat the pro” with Director of Golf and GM, Mark Ernst, father of Austen, the LPGA pro. Guess where she played growing up? Any junior on a team plays for free at Cross Creek. Owner Al Shadwick says, “It was built for kids, after all.” The kid was he actually. When his entrepreneurial dad Jack saw his talent and interest in the game, he brought in PB Dye to build a championship venue in Seneca from where Dyes’ wife hailed. They weaved a challenging track crossing 3 creeks, hence the name. Al noted, “This is what Augusta looked like in the 60s and 70s, not like today’s astro turf appearance with hand manicured azaleas.” 

The azaleas on Cross Creek are quite pretty as well and Tom Grundy the superintendent keeps the grounds in good shape while he is supervised by his famous dog, Doc. Now Al, who inherited the business genes and has worked all over the globe, coaches the middle school girls’ golf team where his daughter plays. He believes the socialization aspect has slipped so Cross Creek reinforces mentoring kids when they come along. 

New stay and play packages are available for 2, 4, 8, and 12 visitors including a 2-night stay at the Lodge at Dove Valley, an iron shot from the clubhouse, tucked away in 53 acres of privacy, fully equipped with indoor/outdoor kitchens, private pool, game tables, firepit, and more memorable activities. Packages by Cope Property Management include the lodge, 2 rounds of golf per guest, and lunch at the Bogey Bar and Grill both days where Chef Christian who invented the Clemson Blue cheese delights members and guests.

Homeowners might join the boat club and rent a slip or a boat on one of the Oconee lakes. Lake Jocasse was ranked #9 on National Geographic’s Top 50 lakes list. We absolutely loved our pontoon tour day on this 7,500-acre water world, visiting falls, stopping on shore for a picnic and hike through the woods over a suspension bridge where hikers walk by from the 76 miles of Foothills Trail. We watched eagles soar to their oversized tree top nests and ducks paddling over our wakes, and loooons, (“the loons Henry”), with webbed feet on their backs for a different propelling strategy. 

On Lake Keowee, Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink both own homes. Jack Nicklaus saw the potential of a golf course on the shores and through the foothills forest below the Blue Ridge Mountains. He designed The Reserve course for a very elite, private community in the woods with elevation and 3 holes along the lake’s edge where Austen officially practices. The Keowee lake tour reveals many little isles, including Blue Heron Island with mammoth nests in tall trees, the targeted landings of elegant big birds. A castle viewed from South Cove County Park contrasts with 86 cozy campsites for an RV or tent for $30/night with online reservation.

On the shores of Lake Hartwell, Clemson University members and public golfers enjoy a scenic round on the Walker Course. Our challenge was getting on it due to lightning but just a broad view of 18 on the water’s edge and several other picturesque holes made us want to rebound for a rain check round. It’s all about the orange paw on the logoed gear and even 17’s peninsula green is shaped like the mascot tiger’s paw at Clemson. Oconee County, South Carolina is all about the great outdoors. 

Alice and Danny Scott are known as America’s Golfing Couple and travel the world writing
for many publications. Visit their website at www.americasgolfingcouple.com.