Isle of Palms, S.C.
You wake up each morning to an extraordinary panorama of marshland, tidal creeks and inlets. Background music is provided by pelicans, seagulls, hawks and heron. In this setting, golf becomes a Southern drama and you are a character on an ever-changing stage.
Rhett Butler or Scarlett O’Hara? Hardly. They are gone, as it were, with the wind (besides, they didn’t play golf).
You are the modern man or woman, leading a life that is often too hectic and searching for a delicious escape.
This is not Scotland or Ireland or, for that matter, Kansas. This is South Carolina, where the fabled low country speaks in a soft and seductive voice.
Indeed, if you have faith in golf course ratings, only one state among 50 beats South Carolina in the number of honorees among Golfweek’s 100 best modern courses for 2002. That state is Florida, and its margin over South Carolina is a slim 10-9.
Question: What is the best way to enjoy many of these low country courses and also sample the unique coastal ambience of South Carolina?
Answer: If you really want to play the best courses and, at the same time, rub elbows and bump noggins with the South Carolina environment, try the Charlestonian, a 93-foot motorized mansion on water that answers to almost any name you call it – yacht, ship, boat, vessel, floating hotel, seaworthy bed-and-breakfast, luxury cruiser, floating clubhouse or ugly duckling.
This yacht is ugly, there is no doubt about it. It looks something like a waterborn apartment house. However, for those who have spent time aboard the Charlestonian, the ship is clearly a triumph of function over form. It was built at a cost of some $3.5 million expressly for golfers – to indulge them with fine golf, fine wine, fine food and the finest sights that South Carolina has to offer.
The Charlestonian is the dream-come-true of jewelry magnate Ted Andrae, who lives in Orangeburg, S.C., and has deep Southern roots. His business, Andrae’s Jewelers in Orangeburg, was started by his grandfather in 1888.
Andrae made a fortune after inventing the add-a-bead necklace in the 1970s. Now he has invented the add-a-golf-cruise (OK, he doesn’t call it that). His yacht travels roughly a 200-mile course, using the Intracoastal Waterway from Charleston on the north to Savannah, Ga., on the south.
“The Intracoastal Waterway is not used for tourism like it should be,” Andrae says. “It’s like a highway, and nobody’s putting buses on it.”
Nobody, that is, but Andrae. He built the Charlestonian to cater to golfers, stuffed it full of luxurious accommodations – leather furniture is everywhere. There are two full-service bars, one of them hand-crafted of mahogany. Dinner is served at a formal dining table, and a sitting room includes a surround-sound home theater.
The ship has one master suite with a king-sized bed, plus four state rooms with twin beds. All have private baths. The boat can accommodate 49 passengers for group gatherings, although the main attractions are five-day golf cruises for eight people.
Based at the Isle of Palms outside Charleston, the yacht has several other ports of call as it journeys south along the Intracoastal, including Kiawah Island, Dataw Island, Beaufort, Hilton Head Island and Savannah.
From a golf point of view, perhaps the best thing about these cruises is that the golfers themselves can determine the itinerary. “This is a charter rather than a cruise,” says Pete Wofford, who organizes the golf rounds. “It’s not formally structured like a cruise.”
Some of the courses are resort courses, and others are private. Among the choices are two Pete Dye standards, both rated among Golfweek’s top 25 modern courses – the Ocean Course at Kiawah and Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head.
Other Kiawah Island courses include the River Course (Tom Fazio) and Cassique (Tom Watson’s first solo design in the United States). Fazio’s acclaimed Wild Dunes outside Charleston is another possibility. There is the walking-only Chechessee Creek Club, a traditional hideaway designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw near Callawassie Island. Additional island beauties such as Dataw Island, Fripp Island and Seabrook Island can be played as well.
Many of these courses can serve as textbooks in the study of their architects. Oldfield, located between Beaufort and Hilton Head, is a wonderful example of the kinder, softer, gentler, highly aesthetic side of Greg Norman, course designer. Bull’s Bay, just north of Charleston, is a perfect example of why Mike Strantz is often considered the most creative architect in American golf.
Accessibility to some of the best private courses in South Carolina is aided by the Charlestonian’s leisurely routine each day. This is not a “get up at the crack of dawn and rush to the course” kind of cruise. Golf is normally played late in the morning or early in the afternoon, when the courses are often less crowded.
A light lunch is available before golf, but the main food attraction is the multi-course dinner after the round, prepared by a chef who travels with the boat. Southern coastal cuisine is a speciality on the Charlestonian, although golfers are encouraged to make requests. The crew also is careful to note special dietary needs of passengers.
How much does all this cost? About $1,000 per person per day for golf trips. This includes everything – state room, food, drink, golf, transportation, tips, taxes, fees.
“I don’t know that you can put a price on this kind of fun and relaxation,” Captain Bob Murray says.
– For more information, call 843-579-9779 or visit http://www.charlestonianyacht.com.