Wade Hampton Golf Club was named after the respected Confederate cavalry leader, General Wade Hampton III, who was also Governor of South Carolina and later US Senator during the 19th century. Surprisingly, the Wade Hampton Golf Club is a totally modern and thoroughly exciting affair. You’ll need an invite from one of the members to play this “Tom Fazio Masterpiece” as it is lovingly named and it opened for play in 1987.
The course caters for golfers of all levels, measuring a manageable 5,120 yards from the forward “Chimney Top” tees, named after the Blue Ridge Mountain peak which provides a dramatic backdrop, exemplified on the short par four 12th. Gigantic pine trees that are simply dwarfed by the sheer white rock face of Chimney Top Rock surround the green and the approach on 12. However, going back to tees, you’ll need your game intact to tackle the tips, better known as the “Fazio” tees, Wade Hampton stretches out to a whopping 7,109 yards from here.
Categorised as a mountain course, Wade Hampton has slick, undulating greens and tight fairways. Despite its mountain setting, the elevation changes are relatively modest but be prepared tackle plenty of water hazards.
Wade Hampton is probably Tom Fazio’s greatest design achievement; it’s certainly the best mountain course in the USA. In his book entitled Golf Course Designs, Fazio discusses Wade Hampton more than any other of his many excellent courses, including Shadow Creek, Butler National, Galloway National and the Quarry at La Quinta. In the section where Fazio discusses green settings he commented, “the third green at Wade Hampton in Cashiers, North Carolina, is set into the base of a tall hill, and behind it is a waterfall that has been there for centuries. In this mountain setting, the green rests near the valley floor surrounded by steep elevations with mature evergreens and oaks marching up the slopes whose scale is brought into sharp focus by the cascading water. This is as good an example of a natural green setting as any.”
The course reopened in the summer of 2018 after a year-long renovation by Fazio Design. All of the putting surfaces were reconstructed to USGA specification, with underground drainage replaced and re-connected to the existing SubAir infrastructure. Putting surfaces were reseeded with Pure Distinction bentgrass, green surrounds replaced with Crystal BlueLinks bentgrass, and greenside bunkers rebuilt with a Capillary Concrete bunker lining.
Wade Hampton sits at 3,650 feet in elevation. The course begins on the highest point on the property with a 534-yard par five that plays down into a big valley. The course is essentially built into the mountain and has a lot of elevation change. The major characteristics of the course are its brilliant use of the elevation, its lushness and the creative routing through the large and omnipresent trees.
The par threes at Wade Hampton, as with most Fazio courses, are all very good. The sixth hole is a good example. It plays 152 yards downhill. In a very interesting design feature, the water in front of the green flows over a large granite slab that slopes down the hill. I came up short and my ball bounced off the rock onto the green. Apparently, there has been a hole in one recorded on this hole from a ricochet off the rock. The 172-yard par three eleventh is another downhill beauty that uses the trees and bunkers to perfectly frame this verdant hole.
At least twelve holes at Wade Hampton play from an elevated tee box and the thirteenth is the most dramatic of them all. The 406-yard hole plays from an elevated tee and the second shot is also down a hill to the green.
The eighteenth is a really good short par five finishing hole that gets progressively narrower from tee to green. Down its entire left hand side there is a stream and the fairway slopes right to left. It is equally as magnificent viewed from either the tee or the green. The intoxicating clubhouse provides a welcome distraction as you approach the green. It has a series of cascading porches, verandas and patios and exudes understated Southern elegance. The boys put some serious money into this exclusive mountain hideaway.
John Sabino is the author of How to Play the World’s Most Exclusive Golf Clubs
Wade Hampton is set up in two very different mountain valleys. The holes had generous landing areas, but plenty of trouble around the greens. As my host drew his approach shot towards the pin on Number 1, he announced in his Southern drawl, “That ball had good towards, which is better than havin’ yonders.” The par 3s are wonderful: Number 6 is a short downhill over a stream surrounded by water, Number 17 is very interesting with two steward trees that look like goalposts in front of what looks like an average-size flat green until you get up there and see that it’s gigantic and far from flat. It’s one of the most challenging greens on the course. After the turn I heard that Tom Fazio – a man I would love to meet – had come to pick up his wife. I’d just missed him. Larry Berle