Camden Country Club opened during 1903 with aspirations for golf and polo grounds for residents of South Carolina’s oldest inland municipality. As polo faded from popularity, the club took its golf course much more seriously and hired Donald Ross to come in and redesign it. Although the architect is much more renowned for his work in North Carolina than South Carolina, he certainly made himself home at this location northeast of Columbia.
In fact, some might easily believe they’re among the famous pine hills of North Carolina during their round, both due to the large swathes of sandy waste and Ross’s use of the relatively rolling hills to create fairways both attractive and strategic in their approach.
Architect Kris Spence came to the site during 2011 to redesign several holes, but even after his work the final yardage only measures 6,300 yards from the back tees. A round from these tees could be described as “southern comfort”... a relaxing distance but with enough bite to snap back at those who take too big a sip.
It's hard to secure awareness about what Camden CC provides for those living outside the Palmetto State given the sheer amount of publicity garnered by locations along the Atlantic Ocean and a few courses of note in the far northwestern corner of the State.
The phrase "good member's course" clearly applies to Camden. The Ross influence has been smartly embraced and kept front and center. The greens lean towards the smallish size and there are a number with vexing crowns that mandate quality approach play.
Camden is not long given today's hi-tech clubs and balls but to score effectively one has to skillfully position your tee shots to set up the most ideal playing angles.
One of the most underappreciated aspects of the course is the fine routing plan Ross put into motion. The holes are in constant varying locations and directions.
Ross was fond in including a long par-3 hole in many of his designs and Camden showcases that side of the aisle with the demanding par-3 6th which plays 236 yards. The dog-leg right par-5 7th that follows is a splendid hole. One has to bend one's tee shot around the corner to bolster one's desire to reach the green in two shots.
Of the two sides -- the inward half is the more intense grouping of holes. The par-4 10th is quite particular in mandating a quality tee shot and then players have to be ever mindful of the pesky pond that inserts itself on the left side of the green. The array of two-shot holes one encounters at the 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th holes is anything but pedestrian in its overall qualities.
Camden has been ever vigilant in not attempting to add inane tees and mindless difficulty. The naturalness of the property has been promoted so that the golf experience works quite well with the terrain. The core of the Ross design clearly circles back to the putting surfaces and the ones found here are quick to separate those who presume to be players of note from those who actually are.
M. James Ward