Crowfield Golf Club: An Exception In More Ways Than One
By John Sherrill
Bunkers on 15
13 green at Crowfield
Many city-owned golf courses around the country do not have good reputations. In golf circles the term “muni” may bring to mind courses that have rock hard fairways, greens that are beat up by a lack of water and lots of rounds, and a club house that could double as a construction trailer. In the Charleston area, specifically Goose Creek, the opposite is true. Located in the middle of Crowfield Plantation is the city owned and operated Crowfield Golf Club, a challenging layout regardless of the skill level of the player.
Opened in 1990, this Bob Spence design (who also designed Pine Forest in Summerville) takes you through the quintessential low country golf experience. Measuring in at just less than 7,000 yards from the tips one would think that it is a power hitter’s course. However, with the many doglegs, bunkering both in the fairway and around the greens, and frequent out of bounds stakes, it is essential that brains as well as brawn are utilized throughout the round. Only with those two things, and a bit of luck, can Crowfield be enjoyed to its fullest.
Rob Brock, the head PGA professional at Crowfield feels that the course is in great shape despite the massive quantities of rain recently. He attributes that success to his Superintendent Todd Biegger and his team of 12 professionals that handle the grounds. “For as lean of a staff as they [the grounds crew] are, they do a great job. I’d say that we are one of the better conditioned golf courses in the area,” he said.
Although it is a daily-fee city run golf course, Crowfield does boast a rather large membership base as well. They have many different options to choose from as well as payment plans available to make it conducive and easy to join. Although membership does not include cart fees, they are one of the few semi-private clubs in the area that will allow you to purchase unlimited cart usage at the time of joining. Of course members can walk anytime during the week and after 10:00 am on weekends. The membership is active on the course and has many competitive tournaments and events throughout the year to keep things exciting. “We have approximately 130 very active members,” Brock stated. “They have blitz and leagues that range from Monday through Sunday.” The thing that draws them in might be the fellowship, but the only reason they stay is the course.
The atmosphere is competitive and yet family friendly. On any given weekend you might find Troy Sanders, the Director of Golf Operations at Crowfield, on the range with his children. With a thriving junior program and a hugely popular Ladies Clinic the focus for the course and staff is fun for everyone. Brock also doubles as the president of the Charleston area Junior Interclub which brings juniors from around the state to learn about the game of golf and compete among one another. “We have approximately 70-80 kids a week ranging in age for 5 to 18,” he stated, “It keeps them involved at a low cost of $6.00 a week, which includes their round of golf and lunch after.”
After spending some quality time on Crowfield’s range, stop by the massive practice putting green. According to Brock, they are trying a new grass to enhance the play even more on their wickedly good putting surfaces. “We are putting new grass in to see how it grows and holds,” he stated. “Hopefully within the next two to three years we can replace our greens.” Not that they are in bad shape at all; Crowfield’s greens tend to roll true with convenient valleys to even more convenient pin placements. The surfaces are rolling fast at the moment and an offline or off speed putt could end up well off the putting surface. The good news is that Crowfield has a great support staff that manages not only the greens well, but the course overall too.
Teeing off from the mid set of tees on the first hole will give the average golfer, a 12-26 handicap according to the scorecard, approximately 6,200 yards to play with until the 18th green. With out of bounds located on the left and trees lining the right this dogleg right hole is no warm up. If one has the power, the corner can easily be cut; however, that is risky due to a ditch area that separates the end of the driving range and the first fairway. Once in the fairway the approach shot to the raised green is pretty straight forward, unless the pin is tucked back in the left corner on the upper tier. If that is the case, crossing a massive bunker complex is in order, and the best bet might be to aim for the middle of the green and then test the putting skills.
For all the tightness of the first hole, the second is the exact opposite. A good pilot could park his plane between the fairway bunkers on this 535 yard par five. Birdie could be an opportunity here as the bunkers surrounding the green serve like gutters in a bowling alley, once you get in them its nearly impossible to get out. But, just like the gutters, they guide good shots right down the pipe to the flag and typically, a fairly unchallenging putt.
From there you move on to the short par four third hole that doglegs right almost at a ninety degree angle. Again, one could fly the corner, but the out of bounds stakes down the right side and the bunker that is between the trees and the fairway make that a hard decision. There are mounds toward the end of the landing area that will keep your ball in play if cutting the corner isn’t an option. A fairly accurate short iron is required after that as the green slopes from back to front and is also fronted by a bunker and backed by out of bounds. Just like the first two greens, the ball should funnel to the hole on a good shot. These three holes are typical Crowfield; they make you think, reward good shots, and challenge every aspect of your game.
As you make the turn from the ninth green make sure to stop by the clubhouse for a quick bite to eat or stock up on cooling beverages. Crowfield carries a wide assortment of snacks and the like, has both hotdogs and cold sandwiches available, and a fully stocked bar. The staff behind the pine knows that pace is important so customers are in and, more importantly, back out on the golf course in no time. They also know that price is important, and with only $2.00 drinks and dogs, they meet that point as well. They strive to treat every guest as a member and succeed at every turn.
After re-fueling ease on into the back side with number ten, a longer par four that plays downhill to a large green. Although there isn’t as much trouble on this hole as others, a straight tee shot is demanded as there are bunkers on the right and trees on the left. The putting surface is rather large compared to the others on the course and again, slopes to the front where bunkers that frame the green on the left and right will catch any balls that don’t like to stay put. Although, short is better than long as the hole has out of bounds on the left and behind.
Hopefully, after playing the par five 11th and tricky par four 12th fairly quickly, and upon reaching the par three 13th, there is a bit of extra time. After hitting onto this bunker fronted curvy green with water at the back and right, there is an additional hazard on the far left that is worth a glance. It is the remains of the course’s namesake standing proud after 280 years. According to the historical marker that is alongside it, Crowfield Hall was built in 1730. All that remains of the house is what is standing now because it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1886.
As the second nine continues, there is a slight change to the fairways starting on the 14th and building to the crescendo on the 18th as they tighten and more undulation becomes present daring the golfer to find a flat spot. It seems that Spence had in mind that the fairways should play a more active role in the last five holes pushing the golf ball left and right as the course sees fit. And although there are bunkers after, the largest bunker on the course is on the right hand side of the par four 15th, blind from the tee box and almost half the length of the fairway.
Crowfield got it right, its closing hole being the most challenging and memorable. On this par five there is a dramatic turn to the left that is not perceptible from the tee box. It is lined with massive trees on the left that at one time served as the driveway to the Crowfield Plantation. The landing area has more humps in it than a herd of camels all while slowly headed downward until it valleys out to a marsh area. From there it goes dramatically upward and turns back to the right to a green that is, to put it mildly, elevated and yet again surrounded by sand, like an oasis in a desert. Although par is a great score here, birdie is achievable with the right amount of luck and skill.
Playing Crowfield is both physically and mentally draining. As the saying goes, you have to think your way around the golf course. Its members, staff, and city take great pride in what they have accomplished there making it an enjoyable experience every time, both on and off the course. That is truly why Crowfield Golf and Country Club is the exception to the rule.