A casual observer might think nothing ever changes around sleepy little Santee, South Carolina. While it is a fact this tiny lakeside town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people has remained true to its roots dating back more than a half century; upon closer review you will discover that the town has been busy lately making subtle but tasteful changes.
There is a new exit off Interstate 95 to Santee. There are high-powered Tesla charging hook ups at historic Clark’s Inn & Restaurant, with an impressive 17,750 square foot state-of-the-art Conference Center housing three breakout rooms that can accommodate 1,200 people.
The recently opened County YMCA run Waterpark includes an aquatic center with an 80,000 gallon pool separated into three sections for different age groups, plus a thrilling 300 foot slide that starts at 100 feet in the air and takes you on a swirling tube ride through three loops down.
Known as AMERICA’S VALUE GOLF DESTINATION, Santee has established itself as the perfect stop- over point whether going north for the summer or escaping the dreary winter weather over the years. For golfers or traveling families, there are lakeside condominiums at Ballard Pointe, fully equipped villas and townhouses overlooking the beautiful Lake Marion Golf Course, and Chapel Creek Plantation villas along the first fairway of Santee National Golf Club. Santee is set up like a sprawling resort, offering an array of more than a dozen accommodation options designed to suit any taste or budget all just a short walk from Santee’s famous southern hospitality and cuisine. When the snowbirds migrate the town’s population swells to close to 20,000.
Located on the south shore of Lake Marion, South Carolina’s largest freshwater lake where a number of world record catches have been set through the years for largemouth, pickerel and white perch, Santee has two I-95 exits almost exactly halfway between New York and Miami, and just north of I-26, midway between the Palmetto State’s popular cities of Charleston and Columbia.
Among budget-conscious golfers, Santee has morphed into a revered year-round destination. Within the town, there is a trifecta of outstanding golf courses that don’t cost a small fortune to play. This trinity has become sacred ground for players from all over North America.
Santee Cooper Country Club, designed by George Cobb and opened in 1967, is the oldest of the three and arguably the course you should never leave off any visit to Santee, due to its prime positioning on Lake Marion. Set among majestic pines, this classic challenge winds its way from an opening tee shot over water, through a series of scenic dogleg holes with elevated greens, featuring some of the best par 3s in the region. The best closing hole in the area is unquestionably the par 4, No. 18 that provides a panoramic view of the lake.
Lake Marion Golf Club opened in 1978 and is the Country Club’s sister course featuring outstanding Miniverde greens. Architect Eddie Riccobani designed this traditional layout with tree lined fairways, bordering ponds and dotted by 47 sand bunkers which will test your course navigational skills. The gently rolling terrain of Lake Marion Golf Club provides an abundance of varied looks and the elevated greens have subtle but tricky contours. The pro shop is a whole other matter. You definitely don’t want to miss the largest on-course FootJoy retailer in the Carolinas. My wife bought three pairs of golf shoes the day we played. Every Labor Day weekend Lake Marion hosts the annual Patriot Golf Tournament in conjunction with the PGA of America with proceeds going to the Folds of Honor Foundation.
Last but certainly not least is the Porter Gibson routed Santee National Golf Club, the only four star rated layout by Golf Digest, which opened in 1989 and underwent a renovation in 2005. With Bermuda fairways and Champion Bermuda greens, this true test has lovely rolling hills with mossy live oaks and four lakes for a great golf experience that reaches 6858 yards from the tips. There are four sets of tees and wide open fairways to make any ability capable of a good round.
But that is not the only golf. For those wanting to enjoy America’s best golf value, an extended stay could afford golfers play on five other reasonably priced gems within 20 minutes of Santee and another 10 course within 40 minutes. Your golf collar definitely goes further in these parts of the Palmetto State. For about $60 during the off-season you can play golf with cart, enjoy comfortable accommodations and a hearty breakfast. That sounds like a deal to me!
Santee is a “people Place.” Behind the golf counters, inside the restaurants, hotels and on the streets you will find friendly faces and welcoming hosts offering good old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Clark’s warm and beautifully appointed restaurant is a perfect dining option and has been serving travelers over 70 years. The Oasis Bar & Grill exudes the Santee charm. Coasters is a local must-visit for golfers, where Steak Jack Daniels will rival most cuts up & down the East Coast. Great tasting fish and prime rib can be found at Captain Kirk’s.
Find more information at SanteeTourism.com. Specific golf packages are available at GolfSantee.com and SanteeCooperGolf.com.