We played and finished literally minutes ahead of the rain that preceded the massive cold front that dumped snow throughout the south later that week and into the weekend. In fact, I think we were the last group to finish. It started sprinkling just as we left the 18th green, and the entire time we sat on the porch overlooking the 18th hole, enjoying a leisurely lunch, we did not see one person play the 18th. Talk about squeezing in under the wire!
I’m a big believer in first impressions and curb appeal. The first look forms an awful lot of your perception from that moment. That’s true with a romantic interest, with a new house you’re looking to purchase, and with a golf course you’ve never played before. Since I had never played, or even seen, Caledonia, the first impression was important.
I knew Caledonia’s reputation: Top 100 courses you can play, Top 100 public courses…just about every “Top” list has Caledonia on it. So I expected it to be a great experience. However, until you actually go on that first date, and until you tour the house, and– until you play the course, you never actually know.
Caledonia has a classic low-country look and feel. You drive in through a canopy of live oaks, turn at the 9th hole and the antebellum two-story white clubhouse is right there. I liked that. It looked like low-country South Carolina.
The cart attendants were courteous and didn’t stand there with their hand out, which I appreciated. I tip better when people aren’t obvious about expecting it. The pro shop attendant was friendly, looked at the weather for us and said he thought we could get the entire round in before the rain started and suggested getting started.
Playing as a twosome with no one in front (or behind) almost always makes a good round of golf even better. And that’s what we had.
Walking to the first tee, the first thing I noticed was that the tee markers are ducks!
The longest tees are Pintails, next set are Mallards, next are Wood Ducks and short tees are (I’m sure this is just coincidence), REDheads. We played the Mallards.
The course was in superb condition- particularly the greens. Quick but not overly so, and very true. As nice a set of greens I have ever played during the dormant months. After a few holes, I realized that it was a forgiving course, unless I just flailed or pull-hooked a drive.
Legendary architect Mike Strantz laid out the course so that you can hit a bad drive and be penalized with a difficult sight line, or a tree issue, but you can usually find your ball. I did not lose a ball the entire round (that sound you hear is me patting myself on the back). With water on most holes, that’s no small feat.
Every hole is unique. There is significant tree, water, and sand (lots of sand, with waste bunkers on most holes in addition to greenside bunkers). Any golfer needs to think his or her way around. But the course was fun, and most Top 100 courses I’ve played are not fun. They are challenging, and difficult, but not necessarily fun. This was. I could play Caledonia 50 more times and feel pretty confident I would have fun and still be challenged each time.
- As I mentioned, it’s a fun course to play and I look forward to the next time I get the opportunity.
- There is plenty of opportunity to see wildlife. We saw an alligator even though it was overcast and cool. But the definite highlight was this gal just off the 14th green —->
That white speck on the end of the log is an Anhinga, so says my wife the expert birder. She was pretty excited that I had seen it (thanks Larry for suggesting the photo- I couldn’t get too close for fear of spooking it). Here is a better photo:
#3 The 18th hole- This is probably the signature hole although every hole is pretty outstanding. It is a dogleg right with water down the right side throughout. Feeling that safety trumped risk, I drove it left, which was safe but left a long 4 iron over a lot of water, as the green juts out on a peninsula. I hit it flush, pin-high just left of the green. Which is more meaninful when a porch full of golfers having lunch are watching you play into the green.
If you want technical details and specs, go to the website, or read the reviews from Golf Magazine, Golf Digest, Matt Ginella, and others who consistently rank Caledonia as a Top 100 venue. It is all that, and it’s a fun place to play. I don’t know how to measure fun but I know it when I play it.
Looking forward to next time.