Destination Guide: Santee, South Carolina
Santee, S.C., began as a farm community, but its landscape changed when nearby areas were submerged forever as part of a New Deal hydroelectric project that created Lakes Marion and Moultrie and the Santee Cooper electric cooperative.
Next came I-95 in the late 1960s, funneling East Coast travelers right past its door, the midpoint between New York City and Florida.
Fast forward to another rearrangement, this one caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 that destroyed a just-about-to-open golf course and damaged others.
Those events defined what Santee is today: a determined tourist destination with top-shelf golf courses at draft-beer prices and a state park and national wildlife refuge that draw fishermen and birder watchers from around the country.
The town draws 150,000 visitors to golf on 17 area courses, fish and boat, or hike and bike along the Palmetto Trail. Stop off in Santee on your trek along I-95. Bring your golf clubs.
Top golf courses in Santee
In a town of 800, area courses average about 40,000 rounds per year, thanks to a healthy influx of visitors from the Midwest, East Coast and Canada drawn by a hearty tourism effort by area businesses and the town itself.
Lake Marion Golf Course was one of the first courses in the area but was refreshed in 2005 with new miniverde greens. It has GPS on its carts, plenty of doglegs to attack, and lots of water to avoid.
The fairways have gentle slopes to them, so it keeps things interesting. From the tips, it measures 6,474 yards with a 70.9 rating and 120 slope. The 6,122-yard white tees come in at 69.1/118; the golds are 5,618 yards and 67/114. The front tees are 5,109 yards.
Santee Cooper Country Club is the sister course to Lake Marion. Its four tees range from 6,512 yards at the tips with a 71.1 rating and 124 slope to a still lengthy 5,326 yards from the reds.
It wanders to the shore of Lake Marion on a few holes, winding up lakeside. Water will be your bugaboo on the first hole, which bends around a pond, and the seventh green has water against its right front side. Expect a quick pace of just more than four hours.
Santee National Golf Club at Chapel Creek Plantation earned a four-star rating from Golf Digest. It was the only golf course in the area to earn that ranking. Spanish moss-covered trees line the rolling course seeded in Champion Bermuda.
There are plenty of water hazards on the course, including a pond to cross to get to the 10th green and a good mix of left and right doglegs. It has a 72.9 rating and 128 slope from the 6,858-yard tips. There are three other tees, the shortest being 4,748 yards.
The Players Course at Wyboo Golf Course, a few minutes away in Manning, wraps around a finger of Lake Marion and is one of the most player friendly courses in the area.
It runs from 6,429 yards at the tips with a 70 rating and 115 slope to 5,375 yards from the front tees with two other tees in between. Water gets in your way on several holes, including crossing the eighth fairway.
Shannon Greens Golf Club in Manning is a more casual course with wide fairways and a signature island green on the par-3 16th hole that stretches only 132 yards from the white tees. There is enough water on the course to give you pause. Four tees range from 6,488 yards at the tips with a 71.9 rating and 122 slope down to 4,968 yards at the front.
The Links at Lakewood in Sumter features an island green and a respectable 3.5-star rating from Golf Digest. The course uses trees, many bunkers and water on more than half the holes to entice you to favor the fairway.
At 6,826 yards, it's one of the longest in the area and has a 71.8 rating from the tips at 131 slope. The whites run 6,120 yards and the reds 4,732 yards.
Where to eat in Santee
From Thai to Italian food and lots of Southern seafood and barbecue in between, your palate will be surprised.
Santee boasts the South Carolina institution Maurice's Gourmet Barbecue, still family owned after 75 years, Lone Star Barbecue and Mercantile, Clark's Inn and Restaurant for American fare, Theo's Italian Restaurant, Thai House 2 and the seafood twins Captain Kirk's and Captain's Quarters.
Where to stay in Santee
From local inns to camping and cabins at Santee State Park, there is something for everyone. In between are national hotels like Quality Inn and a host of villas next to golf courses or Lake Marion.
Clark's Inn and Restaurant opened in 1941, just when the rivers were flooded and Lakes Marion and Moultrie formed. NorthShore Villas & Marina and Ballard Pointe Condos are on the lake, Chapel Creek Plantation Villas are next to Santee National and Lake Marion Golf Villas overlook Lake Marion Golf Club.
Things to do in Santee
Slice off a nice, easy, 11-mile piece of the 425-mile Palmetto bicycle and hiking trail. The Santee Passage starts in town, runs along the south shore of Lake Marion and ends in Eutawville. Or take a boat tour on Lake Marion and see the submerged cypress forest up close.
Fishing is good, too, with a smorgasbord of bass species including striped bass, catfish and other sports fish. Santee State Park occupies 2,500 acres on the shores of Lake Marion. It recently renovated its park office and store and added wi-fi. The park has rondette cabins, including 10 on piers overlooking the lake and camping and biking and hiking trails.
The 18-mile-long Santee National Wildlife Refuge on the north end of Lake Marion is known for its array of bird species, with nearly 300 kinds spotted.
Several spots in town offer live music on the weekend and friendly places to relax throughout the week. Check out two new spots, Martini's and Key Largo, as well as LT's Restaurant & Lounge, Coasters Bar & Grille or The Oasis Lounge.
"It's a small town that has big things going on," said Rosetta Gooden, Santee's tourism director.
"We are what we," said Todd Miller, general manager of Santee Cooper Resort, which owns Lake Marion, Santee Cooper Country Club and Lake Marion Villas. "We don't try to fool anyone. If you want to get real good golf courses for a real good price, come visit."