TRAVELER’S REST, South Carolina – Clubs — at least the lucky ones– are sometimes able to build nice, new clubhouses even in these difficult financial times. Cherokee Valley, a 28-year old public facility 25 miles from the city of Greenville, is one of those but there’s more to the story.
Owner Matt Jennings wanted to add a premier dining experience when he and his uncle, Ted Levine, bought the club in 2017. They wanted a place where families, couples, individuals, business people and – of course – golfers could share a sense of community.
By November Cherokee Valley will have all of that, but it isn’t a case of a new clubhouse replacing an old one. The old clubhouse will revert back to its original use – as an events center. The focus of the new one will be the Core 450 Restaurant, and executive chef Todd Warden is already on board to oversee the dining operation. The current golf shop will be moved to the first floor of the new building.
Making this dramatic move, however, also will necessitate a reconfiguration of the golf course – a beautiful one already, and one of the best public venues we’ve ever visited. P.B. Dye, one of the sons of the late, great golf architecture couple of Pete and Alice Dye, was the designer.
For P.B., it’s more than just another credit on his resume. He used the par-3 eighth hole, which has a 70-foot downhill drop and Glassy Mountain as a backdrop, as the site for his wedding. P.B. and wife Jean were married on that spot shortly before Cherokee Valley opened in 1992.
With the creation of Core 450 Dye had to make changes to his original layout, one of which should stir some controversy..
The new opening hole will get players’ attention immediately. It’s a sturdy par-4, 461 yards from the back tees, with a significant forced carry over water on the opening tee shot. In the original layout it was No. 3. The par-4 second hole becomes No. 18, which enhances viewing for those on hand at Core 450. Those viewers will be able to see the action at both the Nos. 9 and 18 holes.
In the routing No. 1 is No. 17 and No. 2 was No. 18 The downhill par-4 third hole will be reverted to the first hole. The new configuration will create a tough finishing stretch featuring a par-5 and two lengthy par-4s in the last three holes. They’ll measure a combined 1,404 total yards from the back tees and include the third and fifth hardest holes on the course.
While the other changes are significant, the new No. 1 will be felt the most. Jennings says the new rotation will be a big hit with Cherokee’s players, both members and visitors alike.
“Golfers are going to love it,’’ said Jennings. “We’ve received great feedback on the configuration. Low handicappers have readily accepted the challenging of facing two of the toughest holes on the course right at the start.’’
Bottom line is that Cherokee Valley isn’t your typical golf club. It’s a family club in a tight-knit community, but it also has cottages – located just a short walk from the pro shop — that make it ideal for stay-and-play group outings. There’s a swimming pool as well as tennis and pickleball courts and its golf practice area is extraordinary.
While the golf carts are top-notch, the 20 Finn Cycles – motorized “golf scooters’’ – are a fun option for on-course transportation.
Regardless of the order of the holes Cherokee Valley has a great mix of challenges. The elevation changes are dramatic in many places but the course is no killer, either. It measures 6,728 yards from the tips with a rating of 71.4 and slope of 134. It’s enjoyable for players of all ability levels. The course has 11 lakes and 50 strategically-placed bunkers and the current No. 5, which features a waterfall, is the designated signature hole.