Orangeburg Country Club again among the best “classic” courses | Golf
BOB GILLESPIE Special for The T&D
Winter 2021-2022 promises to be momentous for Orangeburg Country Club, in both historic and contemporary ways.
This month the club celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding in the years following World War I, a milestone chronicled by local writer and club member Gene Atkinson in a forthcoming book.
It is also the 60th anniversary of the club’s move from what is now the Club Acres neighborhood to its present site along the Edisto River, a project spearheaded by famed course architect Ellis Maples in 1961-62.
Add to that the 100th birthday last fall of Jane Covington, the beloved Orangeburg icon and South Carolina first lady of golf, who lives just off the course’s fourth tee, and it could be that ‘there isn’t enough champagne to toast at all the moments to remember. the club this spring.
Amidst all these celebrations, a more current but no less welcome one: Orangeburg Country Club’s annual recognition last week as one of the best golf courses in the state by the South Carolina Golf Course Ratings Panel, an organization of 120+ media, top players and insiders who consistently include OCC as a favorite every year since 2014.
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SC Golf Course Rankings for 2022
For 2021-22, the 6,836-yard, par-72 layout is ranked 11th among the state’s top 20 “classic” golf courses (those built before 1980), a designation the rating committee initiated for recognize the differences between older and more modern courses. designs. This year’s ranking is down slightly from 2020, when the course was No. 9 among classic courses.
The Committee’s esteem for the OCC is nothing new. A year ago, the course – which has been enjoying a renaissance since its 2009 restoration by Pinehurst, North Carolina-based architect Richard Mandell – was ranked sixth in South Carolina by the panel among “Courses you can play” that are publicly available (although a private course, the OCC has the ability to play outdoors through tourist operations in the Santee area).
“I am so pleased that our panel is now giving special recognition to our state’s classic courses, like Orangeburg Country Club,” said Ratings Panel Executive Director Michael Whitaker. “Most of these courses were built at a time when moving large amounts of earth was not common and therefore they more accurately represent the property and surroundings on which they are built.
“Furthermore, they were created to be traversed on foot, before the golf cart exerted most of its influence on the design of the courses. Classic courses like Orangeburg truly represent golf ‘as it was meant to be’.
OCC member teams for the title on the home course; Orangeburg is the site of CGA’s Senior Four-Ball
In the panel’s most recent ranking of all courses in South Carolina, whether classic or modern and private or public, the club was 43rd among the top 50 in the state, out of approximately 360 public and private courses in Caroline from the south. The Ratings Committee first ranked the OCC among its Top 50 courses in 2014, and that year also named its 18th hole as SC Midlands’ ‘toughest’.
In 2015, the course was named “Best Renovation Since 2005” and was awarded “Best Private Club Value” in 2016. In 2019 and 2020, it won Top 30 “You Can Play”, Top 50 Overall and the Top 20 Classics.
The panel is not alone in its admiration for Orangeburg Country Club. In 2019 and again in 2020, Golfweek magazine included the club in its “Ultimate Guide” to the top 200 residential golf courses in the country.
Golf director David Lackey, an Orangeburg native who grew up on the course and has been at the club since 2004, said the ratings committee’s vote is proof the Maples’ 60-year-old design remains a challenge for 2022 players of all levels. . He also claims that the decision of the club – or rather that of the late Frank Tourville Sr., who bought the club in 2009 and hired Mandell to carry out the upgrades – was key to his current standings.
“With guidance from (Mandell), the course was ‘refreshed,'” Lackey said. “The (jury’s) ranking is a testament to Ellis Maples and the timelessness of the courses he designed.
OCC again ranked in ‘Top 30 You Can Play’, one of three in SC Midlands
“At the time (of the renovation), Mandell said it appeared that Maples had intentionally left space on some holes – such as numbers 4, 7, 13 (which were quite hard before the restoration), 15 and 18 – which allowed for these holes to be lengthened during restoration.This work has helped keep the course competitive and up to date with the increased distance offered by today’s equipment.
In his next book, Atkinson recounts the formation of the club in late 1921 by local officials, who the following spring oversaw the construction of a nine-hole course with sandy greens – the norm for many courses in that era – which were later converted to grass. The course was laid out on 95 acres at a cost of $20,000, or about $315,000 in 2022 dollars.
Atkinson writes that the club’s name was changed to Orangeburg Country Club in 1937 and remained so until Tourville was purchased in 2009. The original nine-hole course has hosted many events, including a match memorable exhibition in 1939 pitting PGA Tour legends Gene Sarazen and Sam. Snead against locals Mitt Jeffords and 17-year-old Darby Moore.
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But it was after Maples was commissioned in 1959 to build a new course that Orangeburg CC began to have a major impact on golf in South Carolina, Atkinson wrote. Club members swapped the original site for 137 acres owned by businessman Andrew David Griffith, and this property became the headquarters of the current club, which opened in November 1961.
At one time one of the longest courses in the state, the OCC has hosted a number of SC Golf Association and Carolinas Golf Association events over the years, dating back to the SC Amateur Championships from 1936 and 1949 on the original course. The new course continued and expanded that tradition, with the CGA holding its Junior (1965), Amateur (1974), Mid-Amateur (1986), Senior Women’s (2005), and Junior (2006) championships here.
In 2009, as the club’s members grew older and faced bankruptcy, Tourville – owner of Zeus Industrial Products Inc. and a member who lived off the fourth tee – took ownership by assuming the club’s debt of approximately $875,000 and pledging to spend $1.5 million on capital improvements over three years, a number ultimately eclipsed by actual expenditures (Tourville has consistently refused to reveal exact amounts). The restoration took place from July to November 2009, with 87-year-old Jane Covington firing the first ceremonial tee shot at the end.
Since Mandell’s restoration, the OCC has hosted the CGA Mid-Amateur (2012), the 2020 SC Amateur Match Play and the 2021 Senior Four-Ball and the 2021 Women’s Four-Ball.
Another, sadder anniversary comes in March: the death of Tourville, the man who “saved” the Orangeburg Country Club and whose family still owns the club. Lackey said the elder Tourville, a lifelong golf lover, would be as proud of this year’s Top 20 Classic finish as any of those past awards.
“To be recognized in this regard is satisfying,” Lackey said, “in the fact that (Tourville’s) legacy and commitment to Orangeburg and OCC lives on.” All the more reason to crack the champagne.
Bob Gillespie is a former senior sportswriter for The State and former sportswriter for The Times and Democrat. He lives in Colombia