Golf: Cruise and Drive

  • James Y. Bartlett

The South Carolina low country, a pristine region of tidal creeks and serpentine rivers, mansions and marsh grass, provides some of the finest golfing grounds in the country. Here you will find everything from rolling fairways along the Atlantic to murky, gator-filled water hazards on courses surrounded by marshland. It is little wonder, then, that the Low Country’s collection of five-star resorts and private golf communities has attracted generations of golfers to this sun-warmed setting.

Now there is a new way to experience all the Southern charms of golf in the Low Country: by sea. The Charlestonian, a 94-foot floating mansion, offers a week long golf itinerary that follows the winding Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston to Hilton Head, with stops at some of the Low Country’s finest courses.

Some yachts are built for speed, and some, for comfort. Whatever the function, there is usually a form in there somewhere. The Charlestonian, however, will never win any design awards. She is big and boxy and looks something like a floating Winnebago. But inside, where it counts, she offers exquisite and comfortable surroundings, and friendly down-home service.

South Carolina jewelry tycoon Ted Andrae designed The Charlestonian to carry small groups of no more than 10: There is one master suite, plus four twin-bedded cabins, each with private bath. The second-deck saloon contains the formal dining table, a sitting room that also serves as a surround-sound home theater, and a mahogany bar. Picture windows and a small aft deck allow guests to admire the passing views, and an open-air top deck is perfect for catching some rays or admiring the bird life.

Andrae figures The Charlestonian is perfect for a board of directors meeting, a family reunion, or a golf group looking for a unique way to experience the Low Country’s best tracks. Typically, the ship cruises for a few hours in the morning, making its way slowly through the twisting and sometimes narrow passages of the Intracoastal Waterway while chef Randy Prater prepares omelets or spicy Cajun shrimp from his small galley. After lunch, you are shuttled from the marina to the first tee, returning after the round for cocktails and a fabulous multicourse dinner. And chef Randy usually has a few slices of his famous key lime pie in the icebox for a late-night snack.

On a typical itinerary, you will get to tackle some of the Low Country’s most renowned tracks, including the Links Course at the Wild Dunes resort, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (home of the 1991 Ryder Cup “War by the Shore”), Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines on Hilton Head, and the lovely Melrose course at Daufuskie Island. Occasionally, arrangements can be made at some of the Low Country’s better private clubs as well, such as the Cotton Dike course at Dataw Island or the magnificent new Coore & Crenshaw-designed Chechessee Creek Club near Callawassie Island.

Affable Captain Bob Murray, who knows every twist and turn of the waterway, and his mates, who double as bartenders, keep the atmosphere friendly and relaxed as the vessel crawls past miles of empty marshes, magnificent waterfront mansions, and plantation ruins. Though some great golf is waiting at the next stop, The Charlestonian is in no rush to get there. After all, the proper way to experience the Low Country is slow and steady, with grace and charm.

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