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  • Writer's pictureMason Reed

#35 Palmetto (Top 100 rank #99)

A week after the second-ranked course I arrived at the 99th course. Which leads to a quick detour on the topic of rankings. First, rankings are subjective and use all kinds of different criteria (from course design to history to buzz to other BS inputs). I'd say that generally speaking it groups things correctly - for example Cypress could fall at 1, 2 or even 10. But no one would think it's number 50. So debating rankings can be a fun conversation for the 19th hole and I understand why. Some courses I've played feel underrated, some feel overrated. But beyond that, the universal truth is that all top 100 courses are amazing and the best ones are the ones you get to play with with your friends and family, or to a lesser extent, a lovely stranger or interesting person. Which is to say, experience is more important than ranking. I have a feeling that when this project is all said and done my summary will go something as simple as: "Don't worry about the quality of the course or a ranking. Find a golf course - any golf course - and play with someone you love."

Palmetto is a very historic and lovely golf course tucked right into the heart of Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken is having a moment right now - The Tree Farm and Old Barnwell are both brand new clubs that are all the rage right now. They may just transform Aiken from a horse town to a golf town before too long (one can only hope - ha). Palmetto was designed by Alister Mackenzie who happened to design a murderer's row of courses including Cypress, Augusta, Pasatiempo, Kingston Heath and others. Even to an untrained architectural eye like mine you can see the similarities in style of bunkering and holes. I was on a trip to Aiken with Ryan Van Pelt and we made a very quick stop at Palmetto. We drove around on a cart, by ourselves, to play our 18. Golf carts and playing alone wasn't really the best way to experience the course but you take what you can get. The opening holes on the front 9 were lovely including their iconic par 3 7th, one of the best holes in all of golf. A tour of the clubhouse from gracious host and club pro Brooks Blackburn and we were on our way to the airport.

It occurred to me that Palmetto could drop from the top 100. Which is an interesting thing to contemplate as I make my way through the top 100. The top 100 changes every few years - some new courses get added, some others drop out. I had to choose one list and stick to it - that's the GOLF Magazine 2022-2023 best course in U.S. list. But by the time I end the Project there very well could be 20 courses I played no longer on their top 100 list! Luckily that's not the point. The list is simply there to provide a framework for the Project. I'm glad I played Palmetto no matter where it ends up over time. Where else would you get to enjoy Aiken, friendship with Ryan and a Mackenzie course?


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