Appeared in Fall 2009 LINKS
The logo for Musgrove Mill Golf Club, with rifle stocks on one side of a millstone and driver shafts and heads on the opposite side, is the perfect emblem. Although golfers are the only ones grinding away these days, golf clubs now crack where muskets once did.
Located in South Carolina’s Piedmont region between Columbia and Greenville, Musgrove Mill is a hidden gem, largely because of its distance from major population centers. But what is notable is what is near the course: Just across the road near the 11th green is a state park commemorating the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Musgrove Mill.
On August 19, 1780, about 200 mounted Patriot soldiers planned a raid on what they thought was a Loyalist regiment of similar size that had camped on the land of a settler named Edward Musgrove. After discovering they were outnumbered by more than two to one, the
Patriot forces routed the Loyalist troops by luring them into a trap.
Two centuries later, a group of textile executives found the secluded site to be just as suitable for golf as it was for an ambush. They hired Arnold Palmer to design the 6,933-yard layout, a round on which is as peaceful a voyage as you can imagine.
Many of the club’s 300 members are nonresidents, so you can play all day without seeing another group (OK, there was one when I played), which only adds to the unspoiled setting. Most of the holes are their own sanctuaries, meandering around wetlands and through giant oak, walnut and cedar trees. “It’s 315 acres of just golf,” says head professional Jeff Tallman.
The privacy allows you to figure out the bentgrass greens, a rarity in the Southeast, at your leisure. Running as high as 13 on the Stimpmeter, the tiered, sloping putting surfaces are a primary defense of the course. But because they are quite true, it is possible to run the tables the way Lee Palms did during the 2008 South Carolina Amateur. He made 23 birdies and one eagle during the 72-hole event, although his winning score of five under ultimately served to illustrate the course’s challenges.
Another defense is the Enoree River, which comes into play on six holes, starting with the 364-yard 6th. The 189-yard 7th sits hard by the river—too hard, as it turns out. In 1995 flooding from Tropical Storm Jerry washed away the 7th and 14th greens.
The most daunting tee shot is on the serpentine 574-yard 9th, with lakes on both sides of the landing area. The rest of the hole requires similar precision, since marsh and woods guard the lay-up, while the two-tiered green is 35 feet above the fairway.
It’s good preparation for the tighter back nine. “You never get comfortable playing the back side,” says member Doug Mahan. “You really have to know how far to fly your irons.”
That’s especially true on the 355-yard 11th, where a gully, two bunkers and perhaps an otherworldly hazard guard the narrow green. Legend has it that one of the Musgrove family sons is buried under it.
Clearly, some approach shots are scarier than others.