With fewer golfers than in Hilton Head, the courses in the Charleston area have more prime tee times available. Even if you’re not a guest, you can arrange play at private island resorts, such as Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, and Wild Dunes. There you will find breathtaking ocean views within a pristine setting. Don't be surprised to find a white-tailed deer grazing a green or an alligator floating in a water hole. For top courses like Kiawah's Ocean Course, expect to pay in the $200 to $300 range during peak season in spring and early fall.
Municipal golf courses are a bargain, often costing less than $25 for 18 holes. Somewhere in between are well-regarded courses at Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club, west of the Ashley River, and the Links at Stono Ferry in Hollywood.
Charleston Area Golf Guide. For everything from green fees to course statistics and vacation packages in the area, contact the Charleston Area Golf Guide. SC. 800/774–4444. www.charlestongolfguide.com.
Charleston Municipal Golf Course. This walker-friendly public course isn't as gorgeous as the resort courses—a highway bisects it—but it does have a lot of shade trees, and the price is right. About 6 miles from downtown and 20 miles from the resort islands of Kiawah and Seabrook, the course has a simple snack bar serving breakfast and lunch, as well as beer and wine. 2110 Maybank Hwy., James Island, SC, 29412. 843/795–6517. www.charleston-sc.gov. $17–$24. 18 holes, 6450 yds, par 72.
Charleston National Golf Club. The best nonresort golf course in Charleston tends to be quiet on weekdays, which translates into lower prices. The setting is captivating, carved along the intracoastal waterway and traversing wetlands, lagoons, and pine and oak forests. Finishing holes are set along golden marshland. Diminutive wooden bridges and a handsome clubhouse that looks like an antebellum mirage add to the natural beauty of this well-maintained course. 1360 National Dr., Mount Pleasant, SC, 29466. 843/884–7799 or 843/884–4653. www.charlestonnationalgolf.com. $56–$66. 18 holes, 6412 yds, par 72.
Dunes West Golf & River Club. Designed by Arthur Hill, this championship course has great marsh and river views and lots of modulation on the Bermuda-covered greens shaded by centuries-old oaks. The generous fairways have greens that may be considered small by today's standards, making approach shots very important. Located about 15 miles from downtown Charleston, it's in a gated residential community with an attractive antebellum-style clubhouse. 3535 Wando Plantation Way, Mount Pleasant, SC, 29466. 843/856–9000. www.duneswestgolfclub.com. $52–$86. 18 holes, 6871 yds, par 72.
Links at Stono Ferry. Built atop a Revolutionary War battlefield, the reasonably priced Links at Stono Ferry is the closest course to Kiawah and Seabrook islands. It's 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, however. It's been ranked among the top 100 courses in the Carolinas. Set in a rural area, the course is an upscale residential community with a focus on golf and horses. Its clubhouse has Southern style. 4812 Stono Links Dr., Hollywood, SC, 29449. 843/763–1817. www.stonoferrygolf.com. $53–$89. 18 holes, 6814 yds, par 72.
Patriots Point Links. A partly covered driving range and spectacular harbor views make this golf course feel special. It's just across the spectacular Ravenel Bridge, and if you drive here you can take advantage of the free public parking. You could also take the water taxi from downtown and arrange for a staffer to pick you up. Four pros offer one-on-one instruction, as well as lessons and clinics. There's a junior camp during the summer. 1 Patriots Point Rd., Mount Pleasant, SC, 29464. 843/881–0042. www.patriotspointlinks.com. $52–$74. 18 holes, 6900 yds, par 72.
Seabrook Island Resort. On this island with acres of untamed martime forests you'll find two championship courses: Crooked Oaks, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., and Ocean Winds, by Willard Byrd. Crooked Oaks, which follows an inland path, is the more player friendly of the two. Ocean Winds is aptly named for three holes that run along the Atlantic; when the wind is up, those ocean breezes make it challenging. Both courses are run out of the same pro shop and have the same green fee. This is a private island, but guest privileges at the resort are extended to anyone who has a golf club membership. Your hometown golf pro must call for a reservation. 3772 Seabrook Island Rd., Seabrook Island, SC, 29455. 843/768–2529. www.discoverseabrook.com. $115–$170. 36 holes, 6800 yds, par 72.
Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club. This forgiving course has one of the best finishing holes in the area. It's just off Highway 61, about 17 miles from downtown and 20 miles from the resort islands of Kiawah and Seabrook. A seasoned, well-conditioned course, it meanders through the residential enclave that grew up around it. It's a good value for the money. 20 Dunvegan Dr., Charleston, SC, 29414. 843/556–8251. www.shadowmossgolf.com. $36–$55. 18 holes, 6701 yds, par 72.