PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. -- The story of just how one of the most awarded golf courses in South Carolina came to be is nothing short of comical.
A group of land owners hoping to get a return on their investment and stave off growing property taxes decided an 18-hole golf course would be a way to get something back. It would allow them to keep their own weekly meetings for dinner and drinks alive amid one of the more beautiful settings in this part of the state.
The group hired then-first-time architect Mike Strantz to do his thing, and in 1994 Caledonia Golf & Fish Golf Club opened. Now as Caledonia wraps up its second full decade of existence, it hasn't just survived, it has thrived, continuing to earn one national award after award.
That is no surprise for Head Professional Marc Guertin, now in his 13th year at the course and his first in his current role.
"I think how well it was received early was more a shock," Guertin said. "The stockholders, they absolutely love the property. Whether it was a golf course or not, they would always invest in it."
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club: The course
The land -- once a prominent indigo and rice plantation -- still shows signs of its former life. Rice fields are prevalent a chip-shot away from the Antebellum clubhouse (and 18th green). The tabby rock/shell combinations are still used in the walkway and steps throughout the property.
And then there's the drive to the golf course from the main road. That in itself is worthy of photographs galore.
"The entrance, the clubhouse, right from the get-go, it's one of those things that people still talk about," Guertin said. "They call it the Augusta of South Carolina. They've never been down Magnolia Lane, so they assume this is what it's got to be like. They love that whole aspect of it."
In the middle of the picturesque setting sits a golf course that alone would draw rave reviews. Even from the tips, Caledonia's 18 holes combined measure at a less-than-threatening 6,526 yards. But while the course itself shouldn't be considered easy by any stretch of the imagination, the lack of housing units on the property provides a wide-open, as cliche as it sounds, experience with nature.
"The whole atmosphere, we work hard on caring for it throughout the golf course," Guertin said. "We try to preserve every single one of those live oaks that are on the golf course. They're an integral part of several holes."
Depending on which of the four tees are being utilized, those moss-covered oaks are in play on roughly half the holes at Caledonia. Some, as on the par-4 seventh, directly block the path to the hole and force players to reconsider their approach to the green.
Others, such as the monster hovering off the left side of the no. 2 green, toy with depth perception. Still, more can be used as targets off the tee, such as no. 16, where anywhere but down the middle -- between two oaks -- will add strokes.
Oddly enough, about the only non-par 3 where those centuries-old behemoths aren't factoring into shot selection is on 18. There, players must hit into a wide landing area while preparing for a long jaunt to the green over one of the property's most influential ponds -- the one supplying water to the remaining rice crop.
Caledonia Golf & Fish Club: Facilities and instruction
Home to the Steve Dresser Golf Academy, instruction is not lacking at Caledonia or its sister course, True Blue Golf Plantation. Dresser and a number of teaching professionals offer lessons for players of all skill levels.
The golf shop carries various product lines for just about every need of the game, from ball markers to apparel to club fitting.
Just down the hall in the Old South-style clubhouse, the owners -- who not too long ago decided to build the now-famous course -- still gather for their regular dinners.
"They keep the menu in the restaurant huge," Guertin said. "This place is standing-room only on Saturdays and Sundays just because they love to have people come out and see the place."