With more than 30 prestigious golf courses in easy reach, as well as our own, Callawassie Island might well be the best starting point a golf lover has ever seen. The riches of this region are no secret, and during high summer, there’s a lot of company out there. It’s another reason that Callawassie’s courses are such an asset. Even in high season, the golfers we meet here are from around the world, and are relatives and guests of residents, so the love of the game is just the beginning of what we share in common.
“It’s kind of like a homecoming,” said Callawassie Island’s Head Golf Professional, Wes Grantham. “In the fall, many of our members are coming back from their homes up north, or after a summer getaway. We see the friendships being renewed each year on the greens.”
When we do venture forth to some of the busy neighboring courses, the enjoyment we see in others is part of what makes golfing here such a pleasure. Still, September is the beginning of what one friend calls “locals’ summer.” The temperature is milder, the breezes are refreshing and the courses become much quieter. Many Callawassie Island residents say fall is their favorite season of all. In fact, a Golf Magazine research study found that autumn in this region makes for the ideal golf getaway. For Callawassie Islanders, we’re already here.
As the traditional back-to-school time, Fall reminds us too of the commitment Callawassie Island has made to Big East Conference student golfers, by hosting their annual intercollegiate tournament. The glimpse we get each year of the energy and interest this new generation of golfers radiates, their talent and sheer physical prowess and the quality and commitment of the coaching they receive, tells us all we need to know about the future of the game, and the value of the commitment we’ve made to it here on Callawassie Island.
Particularly interesting in our Big East Tournament experience, is the high level of competition among young women golfers. Women make up a greater proportion of new golfers entering the game today than ever before. The experience they have on the course, and the encouragement they receive, are key elements in securing this vital aspect of the game’s future.
When Tom Fazio designed our courses, on Callawassie Island, he certainly understood the job of standing up to the nearby courses that make the Hilton Head Island area one of the golf capitals of the world. More importantly, Tom understood our desire to stand apart, too, to offer a golf experience unlike any other. To do that meant getting the most from the blessings of nature we enjoy here, without getting in its way.
The answer was to sculpt three, nine-hole courses that members could mix and match, keeping their interest and satisfaction at a high level year-round, and through the generations of enjoyment they provide our members and their families to come. Under Fazio’s design, each course offers a different personality, and experience, and calls on us to emphasize various aspects of our game. A recent $4 million renovation has given us the opportunity to evolve the course in response to the character of the game as it is played with today’s equipment, and to refresh the harmony we have with nature at the same time.
The Dogwood Course calls for confidence in both the long and short game. It proceeds clockwise around two small sounds or bays. On the fifth hole, we’re called on to go over a pond to reach the green, which is sloped back to front. The Magnolia Course is our longest, yet in addition to accurate tee shots, it challenges us to bring a well-rounded game. The Palmetto Course presents ponds on seven of its nine holes, so if your technique for going over water is to forget that it’s there, then the Palmetto will call for a lot of that, and yet the sloping ground that goes with a seaside course is an almost constant companion, here alongside our tidal creeks.
An annual reminder of the fellowship we find on Callawassie is coming up in November, with the Friends of Callawassie Island (FOCI) golf tournament. Old friends and new relish the competition that the tournament celebrates while raising funds for local charities and community causes. FOCI is a non-profit, organized by Callawassie Island residents, which contributes to more than 30 worthy causes in neighboring communities, and the annual golf tournament is just one of the ways they generate those charitable contributions.
From favorite foursomes to informal clubs-within-the-Club, relationships grow special on the course and off, thanks to the real community atmosphere that golf helps to foster on Callawassie Island. A favorite example is the “Blind Squirrel Club,” named from the proverb that “even a blind squirrel can find an acorn now and then.” They began with a simple 3-hole introduction to golf organized initially by the Callawassie Island’s golf staff, providing basic instruction and placing the priority on the fun. As so often happens on Callawassie Island, the members enjoyed the offering so much that they organized the Blind Squirrels on their own, and continued. Approaching its fifth year, the Blind Squirrels focus on women enjoying golf no matter what their experience and ability – or lack thereof.
You can hear it in the voices of a Blind Squirrel golfer as she describes what it meant to her to be made so welcome, to be so un-judged about a beginner’s game, and about the chance to pass on this pleasure to other Callawassie Island women. Often a woman becomes a Callawassie Island resident after a busy career, or family-rearing, or both. So, taking full advantage of the beautiful golf assets of our island means taking up the game. As a port-of-entry into golf, members say the Blind Squirrel Club cannot be beaten.
Jeff Spencer, Callawassie Island’s General Manager, brings the perspective and passion as a certified PGA Ambassador to Callawassie Island. The support for golf that stems from Jeff is part of what keeps the golf experience that people find on Callawassie Island second to none. In fact, three more PGA professionals join with Jeff in reaching these standards every day, Head Golf Professional, Wes Grantham and Assistant Golf Professionals, Monica Franklin and Ben Lee.
Perhaps the most unusual ingredient in making Callawassie Island golf the fulfillment of what many people dream when they imagine coastal Carolina golf is our Golf Course Superintendent, Ryan Watson and our Director of Agronomy, Billy Bagwell. Callawassie Island thrives in great part from the dedication of someone who went a step further. Certified by the International Society of Arboriculture as ASI-Certified Arborist, Billy felt that the distinguished oaks and the rich variety of plants that surrounds us here should have expert care, and remain a unique part of what people enjoy most while playing golf on Callawassie Island.