How Can I Play Congaree?

The South Carolina course only opened in 2018, but it's already built a strong reputation

The 12th hole at Congaree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tom Fazio designed Congaree with a view to making full use of its natural surroundings. Considering it’s located in an 18th century estate surrounded by lakes and longleaf pine forests, its easy to see why.

The most prominent feature of the course is undoubtedly its sand, though. Because of this, the course resembles a links, with huge bunkers and natural sandy waste areas drawing comparisons with the famous Sandbelt courses of the Melbourne region in Australia. 

Congaree plays firm and fast, too, meaning players need to be mindful of apparently solid tee shots running off towards the sand traps, while the course is also relatively flat, with only around 30 feet separating its lowest and highest points. That's not all - there are also strategically placed oaks and doglegs to consider, making Congaree a course offering huge variety and challenge. 

Holes to look out for include the par 3 fifth, with a pond in front of the green, while the par 5 eighth has an elevated green guarded by a yawning area of sand. Meanwhile, the 18th demands players navigate an approach over both water and sand to its narrow green. Even the teeing areas are unusual at Congaree, with discs on the tee boxes denoting the distance in yards from there to the hole, rather than markers. 

Image showing the prominence of sand on the 15th hole at Congaree

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Considering Congaree's glowing reputation as a one-of-a-kind course, its incredible how new it is, with the course only opening in 2018. It didn't take long for the PGA Tour to take notice and, three years later, it hosted the Palmetto Championship. However, while that was a one-off tournament, Congaree was again selected as a PGA Tour venue for the 2022 CJ Cup after the tournament had been held in Las Vegas for the previous two years.

The impressive course isn't the only unique element of Congaree. It was also set up as the world’s first philanthropic club, aimed at offering educational and vocational opportunities to youngsters worldwide via the game. But what exactly does it entail? Well, rather than members, there are around 250 ambassadors of Congaree, who help promote the club and its mission. Meanwhile, the Congaree Global Golf Initiative allows young underprivileged players to receive top-quality coaching and education each summer. 

The club technically does still have one member – entrepreneur Dan Friedkin. The businessman held the status with fellow co-founder Bob McNair. However, McNair passed away shortly after the club opened, leaving Friedkin as the sole member.

The club is private, and, anyone wishing to become an ambassador can only do so by referral. Meanwhile, there is no initiation fee, with those accepted instead encouraged to provide a contribution to the Congaree Foundation and become involved in assisting the latest intake of young players to the initiative. Perhaps because of this, some ambassadors have included professional players, including Tom Watson, Nick Price and Mark O'Meara. 

The students Congaree invites to its summer camp are given expert tuition from the Congaree Global Golf Initiative team, including PGA professionals. So, unless you can become an ambassador or join the team, perhaps the best opportunities to experience the course are afforded to the talented youngsters given the chance of a lifetime each summer.

Is Congaree Golf Club Private Or Public?

Congaree is a private course, but, unlike many others, it only has one member (co-founder Dan Friedkin) and around 250 ambassadors. People wishing to become an ambassador need a referral. 

Who Are Members At Congaree?

Friedkin is the club's only member, but among its 250 ambassadors are Mark O'Meara, Tom Watson and Nick Price. Ambassadors are encouraged to make a donation to the charitable Congaree Foundation and help the latest intake of young players in the club's Congaree Global Golf Initiative. 

Mike Hall
News Writer

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.