"Our goal at Chechessee was to create a golf course of traditional character that would reward thoughtful, imaginative and precise play; while utilizing and showcasing the magnificent oaks and pines of the Carolina Lowcountry.” Bill Coore
Flat and partly situated beside a South Carolina marshland, the Chechessee Creek Club is an elegantly unpretentious golf-only facility, and one of the real surprise packets of the American South. Established in 2000, the club occupies a quiet, attractive lowcountry property a short drive from Hilton Head Island.
In an area overflowing with big-name signature golf and photogenic, eye-candy design, Chechessee Creek is, by contrast, about as understated as the game gets. Aside from a handsome collection of majestic live oaks and long-leaf pines, as with other courses in this golf-rich region the native terrain was largely devoid of dramatic natural feature or undulation. Unlike most of its neighbors, however, at Chechessee Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw resisted heavy shaping and instead took a throwback approach to their design work. They essentially left the landforms unaltered, preferring subtle movement along the ground, minimal bunkering and strategic green complexes that would be challenging to play continually for the membership. Generally elevated above the natural grade, several of the greens fall from back to front and are built with steep sides and soft false fronts.
Among the many standouts are par fours like the 4th, with its small push-up green site, and the longer 9th and 18th, each gently bending toward larger greens that are open to the bouncing approach shot. The shorter fours are also terrific, particularly the 3rd with its lowset target beside a stream, and the lovely 12th, which plays across a tidal marsh and into a tall strand of trees, before turning toward a beautifully shaped lion’s mouth green site.
As strong as the longer holes are, it’s the par threes at Chechessee that elevate the golf to a higher level. As a set there are few better anywhere on flat land. Both the 11th and 16th are perfectly bunkered 200-plus yarders, while the 7th is a glamorous hole played from beside the marsh and across a bunkered mound that partly obscures a clever false front green. Arguably the best, and certainly the most sinister, of the set is the 13th, which is also the shortest hole on the course. A precise test of distance control and accuracy, the green is angled across the tee and plays a little like the famous 12th at Augusta National, in that it demands you play the right line and the right length in order to have success. As with so many of the greens at Chechessee, the 13th seems simple from the tee and it’s only after walking off with yet another soft bogey that you appreciate just how well you have to hit the ball here in order to score well.
While it takes daring to innovate in golf and build courses that push the envelope, it equally takes nerve and conviction to create something so subtle, especially in such a hot market, and trust that your customers will enjoy it. Although holes like the 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th and 13th are undoubtedly first-class, Chechessee Creek is greater than the sum of its parts thanks to its lay-of-the-land design, stunning cottage-style clubhouse and pure golf-only focus. The club had struggles in the early days, but is now thriving and home to one of the strongest membership models in the region.