Savannah, Georgia (1999, Bob Cupp and Sam Snead)
The sweet southern city of Savannah, Georgia, claims fame for its ghosts and its gardens, not its golf. But just across the river on Hutchinson Island, in the shadow of a towering hotel and conference center, Troon-managed Savannah Harbor warrants a little diversion from the haunted houses and trolley tours.
The carefully tended 18-hole golf course -- where women are still referred to as ladies -- falls under the purview of the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa and attracts the Champions Tour each spring for the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. It is well designed, well respected and no doubt well feared from those back tees of more than 7,200 yards.
But the most forward of the five sets of tees weighs in at a woman-welcoming 5,261 yards that owe their charm to military references, native grasses, and views of Savannah’s historic downtown and glittering City Hall dome of gold just across the river. Home to eagles, hawks and ospreys, and fertile ground for trees bearing flowers and fruit, Savannah Harbor serves as an urban wildlife refuge, just a few minutes from downtown.
The flat and walkable Cupp-Snead design opens gently with the easiest hole on the front nine, the par-4 1st measuring only 229 yards from the jade tees. Yet, a bunker guards the front of the green and a hazard lurks not too far back.
And so it goes throughout, demanding thinking woman’s golf and tactics that might have served the city well in Civil War days. The famous hole is No. 7, Big Dog, at 477 yards from the front; really memorable was eerie and marsh-lined Alligator Alley, the 247-yard 14th hole, which demanded straight shooting at the risk of encountering some of the indigenous creatures otherwise. Tomo Chi Chi, the 12th hole, gets its name from a large Indian chief -- justification perhaps for the sprawling 17,000 square foot green.
If Sam Snead’s ghost feels compelled to roam his courses, it could do much worse. The staff is so hospitable, the starter offered me a few gently used golf balls to fill the bag of my rental clubs.
Perhaps because the golf course and spa require a ride from the main resort center, the restaurant is small, very much a 19th hole rather than a destination in itself, and a bit pricey. Have a cocktail and then hit one of the dining spots on the other side of the river. One gripe: An on-course ladies room didn’t have toilet paper.
Prime times on the website booking system were running $115, all inclusive, with later times at the very good value of $80. The Westin’s golf package, including room and golf for two, was going for $339 this spring. Tip: Watch out for Mondays, because the area’s private golf courses are closed and Savannah Harbor gets busy.
With its tour-worthy conditions and varied, strategically thought-provoking design, Savannah Harbor rates a Fab for Women with an asterisk: With five sets of tees, it would be nice to have two sets under 5,500 yards.
This article first appeared in the June 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.