The old reputation of Aberdeen Country Club was put to the test in a review of the course in early June.
The 1989 Tom Jackson design is known for the influence of water on most holes, and the low-lying former Buck Creek Golf Club has also been notorious for water where it wasn’t welcome.
Yet despite high rainfall amounts in the week leading up to our round, the drainage improvements that have come since the name change in 1999 allowed our group to enjoy a shot-makers layout in dry conditions.
“The course is in really good shape, especially considering all the rain we’ve had recently,” said Mike Blanton of Conway, a 3 handicap who performs power plant maintenance and took part in the review. “This is the first time I’ve played this course since the 1990s and it’s come a long way. The maintenance staff has done a great job.”
Joining me and Blanton in the review foursome were Mike Hardee of Conway, a retired Lance snack food salesman with a 10 handicap, and Torey Johnson of Conway, a junior on the Charleston Southern women’s golf team.
Trees lining many fairways, water hazards – some blind from the tee box – wetlands, numerous bunkers and angled fairways combine to require precision on the 27-hole layout. Our foursome played the 6,672-yard combined Highlands and Meadows nines.
“It’s a placement course,” Johnson said. “You have to put the ball in the right spots, and it’s not always because of the water. It’s really the angles. If you get too greedy you get blocked out easily. It’s a great yet difficult layout.”
The additional nine, the Woodlands, has water on every hole and has the highest slope and course rating of the three nines. The Meadows and Highlands are more forgiving.
Though the course is in the midst of a housing development, out-of-bounds is limited, housing seldom comes into play and one side of a fairway is often open. “The golf course is very fair,” Hardee said. “You could miss-hit a shot and still play it, and the rough wasn’t overly penalizing. You can come out here and enjoy yourself.”
The course maxes out at 6,823 yards from any 18-hole combination, and its dryness allows shots to roll out. “I didn’t think it played as long as the yardage, other than the par-5s were true par-5s from the back tee,” Blanton said. “You won’t see too many people reaching those in two. They were lengthy holes. The par-4s and par-3s are very playable from the back tees length-wise.”
Because of consistent mounding and rolling fairways, golfers have a number of sidehill, uphill or downhill shots. “I think it’s good because you don’t see a lot of hills and mounding down here and it’s more challenging,” Johnson said.
The Champion ultradwarf Bermudagrass greens are generally large and rolling, so they seldom slope entirely in one direction. “The greens were very smooth and consistent,” Blanton said.
The entire group was impressed with the friendliness and professionalism of the pro shop and bag drop staff. Hardee was also impressed with the clubhouse and its amenities, and the accuracy of the yardage markers in fairways.
Johnson enjoyed the thought process the course evokes. “It takes a creative mind to play most of the par-5s and par-4s,” she said.
Blanton considered landing areas off tees generous, and both Blanton and Johnson appreciated the condition of the greens and secluded feel on much of the property. The entrance road meanders through neighborhoods en route to the clubhouse.
“It feels like it’s a course in the country more than in the city, which it kind of is,” Johnson said. “Other than one hole along [S.C.] 9 the other holes are back in the woods.”
Blanton found some of the holes had water and other trouble that is not visible from the tee box, and considers a $3.50 yardage book a must. “A course yardage book would be highly recommended,” he said.
Johnson thought the greens were excessively sloped in places, leading to some awkward and angled pin positions, and the food and beverage service could improve.
The course’s six par-3s max out at 128 yards from the gold tees, and from the 5,545-yard gold tees on the Highlands-Meadows 18, some of the hidden water hazards are in play off the tee on par-4s. “For someone who hits a decent tee ball the [gold] tees could be pushed back a little bit,” Hardee said.
Par-3s measure between 147 and 204 yards from the tips and between 129 and 160 from the white tees. “They have a mixture of yardages,” Johnson said. “They are not all generally the same like many courses.”
The Highlands 159-yard third hole is 138 from the white. A kidney-shaped green is two-tiered and higher in the back, has a wide bunker front right, a pond right and mounding left. The 167-yard seventh is 144 from the white, and a tall oak tree front left of a rolling green can be in play with left pin placements. Three bunkers are below the tree canopy, and the green slopes primarily to the right.
The Meadows 134-yard third is 118 from the white, and a high-lipped front bunker is the main protection for a green that slopes left. The 204-yard eighth shortens to 160 from the white, has a fairly flat and slightly elevated green with front left, front right and back right.
“There’s a good array of par-3s from shorter to longer, but they’re very fair,” Blanton said.
The Highlands 370-yard fourth hole has S.C. 9 along its left side, with a water between the road and fairway. Wetlands must be carried beginning 115 yards from a green that slopes from a back left plateau. The 401-yard eighth turns left around water with mounding and OB right. The green slopes sharply to the front from the middle.
“There’s a good mix of holes moving right to left and vice-versa,” Blanton said. “You have to be able to move the ball both ways to score well.”
The Meadows 342-yard first hole is fairly narrow with a tree left and bunker right pinching the fairway, the 391-yard fifth has trees down the right side and a slightly elevated green, and the 400-yard sixth has water left of the green beginning 275 yards from the back tee and a trio of bunkers to the right of the green.
“I liked how the par-4s varied,” Johnson said. “No two holes on the course looked alike. Bunkers in fairways and around greens were placed to come into play, making you really think about what type of shot you were going to hit.”
The Highlands-Meadows par-5s measure between 514 and 570, though two are slightly less than 500 from the white tees. “All the par-5s were challenging and pretty long,” Johnson said. “Most of your layup shots have water in play.”
The Highlands 514-yard first hole has water to the left off the tee, a wide fairway with mounding right, trees along the left side after the drive, and a mild ridge separating the front and back of the green
The 565-yard fifth turns right from the opening tee shot. The second shot turns around a small tree and pond that juts in and out of the fairway, and a deep and narrow green slopes to the front and is protected by four front bunkers.
The Meadows 522-yard second hole has a fairly narrow tee shot with individual trees pinching both sides of the fairway, and the green slopes to the front from the middle and is well protected by bunkers. The 570-yard seventh doglegs right, has water down the right following the tee shot and a green tucked behind a pair of left-side bunkers.
“They were true par-5s with water and doglegs that made reaching the green in two very difficult,” Blanton said. “The greens are also well-protected with bunkers.”
Johnson’s favorite hole was the Highlands 427-yard par-4 ninth, measuring 389 from the white. It is a sharp dogleg left around trees, and lengthy wetlands have to be crossed on both the tee shot and second shot. “It’s a longer par-4 and you have to hit two good shots,” Johnson said. “I like how it goes back to the left and the flat green is protected short and long [by trees].”
Blanton’s favorite hole was the Meadows 387-yard par-4 ninth hole. It features a tree in the left side of the fairway 250 yards from the back tee, and a slightly downhill approach over a bulkheaded water hazard to a deep green that slopes to the back from the middle and is protected by a pair of pot bunkers below the green front-right. Water backs the green. “It’s visually appealing with water short of the green and an approach shot from an elevated fairway,” he said.
Hardee also enjoyed the Meadows par-4 ninth hole, measuring 329 yards from the gold tee, and the Meadows 331-yard par-4 third hole, measuring 280 from the gold. The third fairway angles to the right along a tree line off the tee, the green is angled to the right behind a large bunker beginning 70 yards from the green that can’t be seen from the tee, and bunkers are right and back of the green. “It’s a very good golf hole with sand all around the green,” Hardee said.
Least favorite holes
Johnson’s least favorite hole is the Highlands par-3 third. “It’s a very challenging and slopey green, and there’s no good place to miss it,” she said.
Blanton thought the Highlands 394-yard par-4 second hole with trees to the left and a single pot bunker on the right side of the fairway 260 yards from the tee was rather mundane. “It was just straightaway with not much trouble,” he said.
Hardee’s least favorite holes were the Highland fifth and sixth holes. The par-5 fifth measures 503 from the gold tee. “You can’t tell where the green is on the tee,” he said. The 381-yard par-4 sixth, measuring 261 from the gold tee, angles to the right off the tee and requires a carry over water to the fairway of 210 from the back tee and 90 from the gold. A pond begins 90 yards from the green on the right and continues along its right side, and two large bunkers on the left side begin 50 yards from the green and continue along its left side. “You don’t know there is water up by the green on the right from the tee without a yardage book,” Hardee said.