The wife and I are in Savannah for a couple of days before we have to drive up to North Carolina for my brother’s graduation. Both of us have been to Charleston just up the way, but neither one of us had ever been to Savannah, so we wanted to check it out. I spent several years in Greenville (SC), and I really like the South. Just about everything downtown is within walking distance – city parks, live music, and some of the best peach sangria you’ll ever taste! If you like old Southern architecture and spanish moss hanging from oak trees, you’ll like Savannah. I’ve played golf in and around Charleston as well as in nearby Hilton Head (a little over an hour away), so I knew what to expect from The Club at Savannah Harbor. The only reason I was able to afford to play it was because I found a smokin’ deal online at golfnow.com – $82.74… before noon. It can be more than $140 for a tee time depending on when you want to get out. The course is affilated with the nearby Westin Hotel.
The reason the course is so expensive is because from 2003-2013, it played host to the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour. The event has since moved and the course is owned and operated by Troon Golf in Scottsdale. We got to the course about an hour early, expecting to be able to warm-up at a world-class practice facility, but the weather had other ideas. It rained more than two inches overnight, and the range was completely submerged. When we started, the course was under water too. I tried to tee off from the back tees, but when I found myself in standing water, I had to change things up and play from the Gold Tees. It was a really windy day, and by the time we finished our round, the course was really starting to dry out. The range was also back open.
The Club at Savannah Harbor was designed by Sam Snead and Robert Cupp and opened in 1999. The two also collaborated on the The Meadows Course at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Golf Digest gives it a four-star rating and Conde Nast Traveler calls it of the of the America’s Top 100 Golf Courses. The course plays 7,288 yards from the Black Tees to a Par of 72, a course rating of 74.8, and a slope of 138. Here are some of the highlights of the round:
Holes Worth Writing Home About
Golf along the Carolina and Georgia coasts is very similar with palm trees scattered at random across relatively flat terrain. If you go, be sure to take your camera, because you are sure to see some wildlife. Courses in Savannah and Hilton Head are famous for their alligators. In the pond just to the left of the 14th tee, a hole appropriately named Alligator Alley, there were several baby alligators. Just don’t get too close, because a mama gator is never too far away. We also saw plenty of turtles and raccoon ran across the fairway right in front of us as we finished our round.
Each hole has a different name, like what you see at Augusta National, with very sharp-looking signs marking the teeing ground. We started on No. 10. My favorite hole on the back nine was easily the 595-yard Par 5 13th Hole, Waving Girl. It’s a slight dogleg to the right and finishes to a green overlooking one of the waterways along Hutchinson Island. It took three shots for me to get home because it was such a windy day, and I made a two-putt par. The bermuda greens here are fast. They were soft because of all the rain, but the extra moisture didn’t slow them down even though there’s no way they could have mowed them the morning we played.
On the front nine, the prettiest hole was Big Duke, the 660-yard Par 5 7th. The hole is framed by both bunkers and marsh. There’s even a tree behind the green that provides a nice aiming point coming in. Very pretty hole.
To get to the course from Savannah, you have to cross the Talmadge Memorial Bridge because the golf course is actually located on Hutchinson Island along the Savannah River. The cable-stayed bridge was completed in 1991. Cable-stayed bridges look a lot like suspension bridges, but their support cables tie directly to the support towers. Multiple tours can be used when practical. It’s a really pretty bridge and has become one of Savannah’s most recognizable landmarks. It overlooks downtown, and you can see it in looming in the distance from the golf course.
It was cart path only because off all the rain, which was inconvenient, but the local guy I played with told me we were lucky that the course drained as well as it did. Everything along the Georgia coast is flat, so nothing drains well. In fact, he told me other courses in the area would likely be closed for a day or two until the water subsided. You could tell that The Club at Savannah Harbor got hit pretty hard because there were leaves and several downed tree limbs scattered throughout the course.
My best shot of the day came on the Par 3 8th Hole, The Briar Patch. I hit a pitching wedge into the short Par 3 (just 132 yards from the Gold Tees) that hit a gust of wind and came up in the greenside bunker short and right. I hit a lob wedge to about eight feet, and made the downhill putt for par.
While We’re Young
Everywhere you look, Troon has signs reading, “Troon Values Your Time – TIME PAR: 4 hours and 15 minutes” and really wants rounds to be played in 4:15 or less. It’s doable. They’re not sticklers about the pace of play, but I appreciate when a course likes to move things along. There are a lot of things to do in Savannah! The starter was kind enough start us off on No. 10 (Thank you, Sir!)because there was a real log-jam forming around the first tee when we started. That moved helped us play quickly. We didn’t see another soul until we made the turn, and even then, it wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd hole. A play-through helped us finish in less than 3:30.