Thursday

Golf Travel: Onward from Augusta, A Masters Golf Road Trip - Part 1

The Singular Beauty of The Masters

The Masters is a singular experience. For golfers and golf fans it's always going to be a top-of-bucket-list event, but even for those with little or no interest in the game, a day at The Masters will bring with it a rare sense of wonder.  My first experience... all four days of the tournament in 2011... was so sublime, so transcendent, that I promised myself I'd go again, and that this time I'd bring along the man I share my golf cart... and my life... with.

Once a world class globetrotter, Nicholas has, over the years, developed a perplexing aversion to planes, trains and automobiles. However, in the spring of 2015 I managed to strongarm gently coax him into hitting the road with me. Our first stop was Augusta and a Tuesday practice round at The Masters.  As I suspected, Nick was as susceptible as anyone to the otherworldly aura inside the gates of Augusta National and spent the day smiling through the dreamy haze of verdant civility. He sipped pink lemonade, admired azaleas and had his first ever pimento cheese sandwich. And at the end of the day called the experience tout a fait inoubliable. He's French, BTW.


Admiring Amen Corner... In Real Life 


His euphoria was fortuitous, because Augusta was just the beginning. We had our clubs and a rental car, and I (sort of) had a plan: we'd use this opportunity to discover a bit of what makes golf in the Southern US such a singular experience.  So we left Augusta in the late afternoon and headed on up I20 into South Carolina, driving through a sudden thunderstorm that ended, fittingly, with a rainbow.

Out of Augusta, I22 Rainbow


The only small problem was that unbeknownst to my less-than-adventurous partner, I didn't actually have reservations anywhere till Charlotte, two nights later. I just figured I'd find something along the way that would work for us.  The thing is though, Masters Week means very few vacant hotel rooms anywhere within 100 miles of Augusta. I sort of knew this, but chose to ignore it, and after stopping at several motels in Columbia and finding nothing, Nick began to panic. Night was descending, and the once welcoming highway was starting to seem somewhat sinister. 

Fortunately, my many years of solo travel in some of the world's most far flung outposts (thank you Timbuktu) had me more than ready for this type of thing. So while Nick nervously drove on I was able to remain calm, and with a bit of research... plus a healthy dose of creative licence... suggested Chester, SC as the quintessential Southern town, just an hour away, and a perfect place to stay for the next couple of nights. Nick looked skeptical, but chilled a bit when I told him I'd just secured tomorrow's tee time at Chester Golf Club (thank you on-line booking).  


70's Statuary at Chester Golf Club, Chester, SC


We pushed on up I77 towards the Chester area and eventually came upon a section, just off the interstate, that boasted a couple of humble strip malls, the ubiquitous gas and fast food purveyors and a few generic motels. Whereupon, Nick made a beeline for the homogeneous familiarity of a clean, well-lighted Quality Inn. Exhausted... and overly cautious by nature... he was not about to venture to the rural darkness in search of an unvetted country auberge.

A simple Southern Shack Houses An Interesting Array of Oddities 



So we checked in at the standard check-in desk, had a standard good night's sleep with waffles for breakfast and drove 15 minutes to the golf course.

Chester Golf Club was something of a time warp. We found the course to be refreshingly rural... not a house or condo to be seen. The layout is open and forgiving, with wide fairways that allow average players (us) to entertain the possibility of numerous pars and perhaps a few birdies. 
The clubhouse is modest, but welcoming, and for the space of 18 holes we felt transported to a simpler time... circa 1975... before everything became so ostentatious

After our round we ventured into the city of Chester which did, in fact, seem quintessentially quaint and utterly Southern, at least to our New England eyes. Set on a hill, the former mill town features a confederate monument, and a Civil War cannon. The historic district has been restored and the surrounding neighborhoods are lined with stately victorian homes. Were I to make this trip again I'd plan ahead and stay at one of the grand old inns. An Inn on York Street, which actually offers a selection of golf packages, and the Inn Upon Moon River Plantation, where accommodations are inspired by legendary blues, jazz and gospel artists are two we heard good things about.
On the road again, with something to look forward to 



As the sun set we meandered back to our humble highway hideaway for one more night. 
Our next stop... just an hour north, in Charlotte, NC... would be The Ballantyne Hotel with its exceptional championship golf course, and we were definitely looking forward to it.

Follow our Masters Golf Road Trip series here over the next couple of weeks, and if you're looking to attend The Masters this year, our sponsor Ticket City will help you find the perfect tickets --> TICKET CITY GOLF TICKETS