Beyond the gates of Augusta National, private-club golf is booming

Old Barnwell in Aiken, S.C.

A view of the sprawling Old Barnwell in Aiken, S.C.

Ran Morrissett

As the golf world focuses on the Masters this week, let’s expand our lens and take stock of the sporting landscape beyond Augusta National Golf Club.

In recent years, a cluster of noteworthy clubs has cropped up in the surrounding region, bringing a constellation of courses — and courses in the making — to a Sandbelt that stretches across parts of the Carolinas and Georgia. 

Here’s a look at six of these notable newbies, all of which lie within a 200-mile radius of the gated entrance of Magnolia Lane.

The Tree Farm

Location: Batesburg-Leesville, S.C.

In his nearly 10 years on the PGA Tour, Zac Blair has never broken into the winner’s circle. But he has made a name in architecture circles as the rare touring pro with a passion for course design. After pursuing a project for several years in his home state of Utah, Blair pivoted to the site of a former pine nursery in Aiken, S.C., where Tom Doak drew up a routing and Kye Goalby did the rest. The result is a nuanced lay-of-the-land course that marries elements of Pinehurst and Pine Valley.

Old Barnwell

Location: Aiken, S.C.

An elite club with a social conscience, Old Barnwell is the brainchild of the software entrepreneur Nick Schreiber, who has put golf into play as a force for greater good. With a melting-pot membership of just under 300, the club has cultivated ties beyond its boundaries, partnering with HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) to host practice rounds and tournaments, while sponsoring women’s and junior golf initiatives. The course itself is broad-minded, too. Designed by first-time lead architects Blake Conant and longtime Doak associate Brian Schneider, it plays to an unconventional par 73, with an inventive routing that bucks and rolls through the heart and around the edges of a large sandy bowl.

Old Barnwell in Aiken, S.C.
Old Barnwell is an unconventional par 73. Ran Morrissett


Location: Rembert, S.C.

To say that Mike Koprowski is invested in this project is an understatement. The up-and-coming architect not only found the site, he purchased the land himself — convinced of its potential — before bringing on other partners. In collaboration with Kyle Franz, whose praised work includes the restoration of Southern Pines, Mid Pines and Pine Needles, Koprowski is now busy shaping a course on a rollicking canvas that has been likened to the terrain of esteemed Old Town Club, in Winston-Salem. Among its many refreshing features, Broomsedge will have holes that might switch in par from day and day, as well as 20 green sites for 18 holes, allowing for alternative and shared putting surfaces. The club will also operate on the British model, with a membership that gets priority but tee times made available for outside play. 

Fall Line Golf Club

Location: Butler, Ga.

With enrollment expected to be capped at around 100, Fall Line will have a membership half the size of Augusta’s but double the number of 18-hole courses. Both are being designed by the Australian firm of Ogilvie, Cocking and Mead, who have drawn inspiration in their work from English heathland and Aussie Sandbelt layouts. Along with a 12-hole short course and a Himalayas-style putting complex, this self-proclaimed “sporting” club will also have a clay-bird shooting facility and a robust offering of hunting programs.

21 Golf Club

Location: the Sand Hills between Aiken S.C and Augusta, Ga.

An invitation-only private membership club, this exclusive redoubt is slated to have two courses. The first will be the Hammer Course (as in the gambling game), a match-play layout by Sweetens Cove designers Tad King and Rob Collins that will feature various alternate routings and an extra three-hole loop for settling bets. When the Hammer is completed (the projected opening date is in 2025), the club will get to work on the Mackenzie Course, a recreation of El Boquerón, a daring, never-built design that the famed architect dreamed up for a wealthy family in Argentina more than a century ago.

Cypress Shoals

Location: North Augusta, S.C. 

Less than five miles down the road from where he won two green jackets, Tom Watson has been tapped to design the first of two courses at Cypress Shoals, a 1,742-acre planned community that bills itself as “Augusta, Reimagined.” Word of the development first made headlines last year, in the weeks leading up to the Masters, and while many details of the project remain unclear (including the opening date), the same promises endure on the Cypress Shoals website, which, in addition to golf, calls for 200 residential lots, 60 “club condominiums,” 40 “luxury cabins,” plus a fishing preserve, expansive hunting grounds and an equestrian facility, on acreage that borders the Savannah River.

Josh Sens Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.