History: Built on the lowlands just southeast of Charleston, the exclusive residential community and Golf Club at Briar’s Creek opened in late 2001. The Rees Jones designed course opened to great acclaim, winning Golf Digest’s “Best New Private Course of 2002.” Membership dwindled during the economic downturn of the late 2000s, and the Club was forced to file for bankruptcy in 2015. Member and NFL Owner Bob McNair saved the course and it remains one of the best in South Carolina, earning the following awards and undergoing a renovation in 2020:
#12 Best Course in South Carolina – Golf Digest (2019)
#20 Best Course in South Carolina – Golf Magazine (2020)
#25 Best Course in South Carolina – Top100golfcourse.com (2020)
Conditions: 8/10, Briar’s Creek has different grass than the The Ocean Course so it was a bit browner, but still in fantastic condition. The Bermuda greens run very quickly downhill, but rather slow uphill making for difficult putts.
Value: N/A, This is a private course.
Tee Par Yardage Rating Slope
Championship 72 7130 74.5 143
Players 72 6740 72.7 140
Players/Briars 72 6506 71.6 136
Briars 72 6302 70.6 133
Tournament 72 6003 69.3 131
Hole Descriptions: If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you probably know the “U.S. Open Doctor” Rees Jones is not one of my favorite architects. I often find his original designs far too penal tee-to-green and lacking any kind of variety or imagination up by the green. I give credit where credit’s due, however, and have to commend Rees for his work at Briar’s Creek. I enjoy everything about this Club, including the course itself, which is a relaxing, easily walkable design that lazily meanders through the South Carolina low-country. The layout features a strong variety of holes of varying lengths and directions and keeps you engaged the entire round. The forced carries here aren’t nearly as severe as Jones’ other courses, but keep you on your toes just enough with a difficulty level all forms of golfers will enjoy. The bunkering and green complexes are also fantastic. In short, this is the best Rees Jones course I’ve played to date and is surely one of his best works.
The opening hole eases you into your round as a nice, straightaway 353 yard par 4. The fairway is initially generous but narrows with bunkers down the right at about 230 yards. This approach plays uphill to a back-to-front sloped green guarded by a deep bunker and palm trees short right.
At just 123 yards, the par 3 2nd is the shortest hole at Briar’s Creek and again rather easy. Requiring a carry the entire way over water and a stream, the toughest thing about this hole is its large, undulating green that runs diagonally guarded by bunkers short and left.
The 357 yard 3rd hole is a strong dogleg right requiring an immediate 180 yard forced carry over a river to a fairway angled to the right. It’s hard to run through the fairway here and the true danger is right, as a series of bunkers and trees lines the entire right side. This approach plays slightly uphill to a shallow green guarded by deep bunkers short and long.
The 4th hole is the longest par 3 on the course at 179 yards. This flat, relatively boring hole plays over a vast bunker complex short right but is otherwise fairly straightforward.
The first par 5 of the day comes on the 519 yard 5th hole. Requiring an immediate 170 yard forced carry over marshland, this straightaway hole features bunkers down the right at 240 yards and also in the lay-up area about 130 yards short of the green. This reachable green is well-guarded by large bunkers short left and long right and features a serious left-to-right slope due to a ridge.
The par 4 6th is one of the more difficult holes on the course playing straightaway at 415 yards. A straight drive is required here, as bunkers line the left between 190 and 290 yards and water runs down the right up to 250 yards. You can’t miss this undulating green left, as three bunkers and snake-infested fescue await you.
At a prodigious 563 yards, the number 1 handicap 7th hole is the longest hole at Briar’s Creek and certainly one of the toughest. With an immediate 180 yard forced carry over marshland, this hole features a tight fairway lined by thick forest on both sides. Bunkers line the right between 240 and 320 yards and again by the lay-up area, which is even tighter. This back-to-front sloped green is long and narrow and guarded by bunkers on either side.
The 8th hole is a nice little 334 dogleg left requiring another 165 yard forced carry over marshland. Bunkers at 220 yards on either side of the dogleg are to be avoided but big hitters can cut the corner here. This approach is relatively straightforward to a large back-to-front sloped green guarded by bunkers on either side.
The unique 9th is fantastic and one of the most memorable holes I’ve ever played. Officially 370 yards, the green here is only about 280 yards from the teebox but the direct line is obscured by trees and would require a heroic carry over marshland. The ideal drive here plays straightaway between 200 and 250 yards with a hazard down the right and large bunker on the left at 210 yards. The fairway curves around the right towards the green, but those going for the green in two will need to carry the marshland the entire way to an undulating green that juts out into the hazard. Those who miss short will find a huge bunker.
By most accounts, the back nine is the superior side at Briar’s Creek beginning with the excellent par 5 10th. At 517 yards, this beautiful hole features an immediate 130 yard forced carry to a fairway angled to the right. This is a very difficult driving hole in addition to the carry with a tight fairway lined by bunkers on either side and trees down the right. If you can’t hit the ball left-to-right, you’ll need to play conservatively here to avoid running through. From here, the hole plays straightaway towards a slightly elevated green guarded by bunkers and slopes on either side.
The shortest par 4 at Briar’s Creek is also one of its best in the 298 yard 11th. Jones requires you to continually shape your ballflight throughout the round, with this hole playing as a sharp dogleg left over more marshland. Certainly reachable for the longest hitters, this hole gives the golfer options off the tee, and the danger increases as you near this green. Bunkers guard short on either side of the fairway as it leads up to a rare false front and elevated green.
The 410 yard 12th hole is the weakest hole on the back nine playing dead straight and too similarly to the 6th. While not a bad hole, there’s not much here besides an undulating fairway lined by bunkers and mounds down either side. This green is also guarded by bunkers on either side with an open front.
Running parallel to the 12th, the 402 yard 13th is another long, difficult par 4. This hole plays as a slight dogleg left with mounds and and a snake-like bunker running down the left between 210 and 280 yards. A similar 140 yard-long bunker then runs down the right side until you reach the green.
The 14th hole is another lovely par 4 at 385 yards. This is a tough driving hole with another 150 yard forced carry to a tight dogleg left lined by bunkers on the right and trees down the left. This approach narrows even further as trees encroach upon both sides. A large bunker guards short right of this back-to-front sloped green.
The 15th is the first of two absolutely stellar par threes on the back nine. Playing 175 yards over marshland the entire way, this beautiful and intimidating hole features a shallow, undulating green surrounded by deep bunkers short, left, and right.
At 424 yards, the 16th hole is the longest par 4 at Briar’s Creek and also one of its best. With tremendous views of the Kiawah River marshland to your left, this teeshot plays over yet another brief forced carry to a tight fairway lined by trees on the left and water and a bunker down the right at 220 yards. Trees tighten the fairway even further on the approach/lay-up to a green that feels inspired by Pete Dye with railroad ties lining the left marshland. A narrow string-like bunker also guards the left while a small one can be found on the right. Par is a great score here.
The 158 yard par 3 17th is another spectacular and memorable hole playing over a river the entire way. Short is absolutely dead here, as is left, where you’ll find a giant bunker complex. This green is very shallow and is divided by a ridge running through the middle.
The closing hole at Briar’s Creek is as epic as expected as a marathon 524 yard par 5. This is a tight driving hole with a small forced carry over a pond to a fairway lined by forest and bunkers down the left starting at 230 yards and mound of rough down the right. The second shot gives golfers numerous options as you can continue down the fairway or try to make a heroic shot over marshland to an island green on the left. You really need to execute whatever choice you make, as there’s a tall tree on the left side of the fairway about 100 yards short of the green that blocks out a bad lay-up. For the majority of golfers unable to reach in 2, this approach plays about 100 yards over marshland to a large back-to-front sloped green guarded by a giant set of bunkers on the left.
There’s an extra 19th hole that we did not play, but I was able to snap a picture of the teebox from the clubhouse patio. This hole plays directly on the marshland.
General Comments: The amenities and facilities at Briar’s Creek are truly first-class beginning with the long, winding road towards the secluded clubhouse. There’s a residential community on the property as well, but houses are rarely in view on the course. The clubhouse is spectacular, with a beautiful patio overlooking the Kiawah River and a locker room home to numerous PGA pros and famous members like Dan Marino.
The practice facilities are simply as good as it gets with a giant PGA-caliber range always stocked with balls and a short game area and practice green too. Pace of play was fantastic and there are no tee-times needed on this exclusive track.
Verdict: Featuring world-class facilities and amenities, the exclusive and tranquil Golf Club at Briar’s Creek also possesses a fantastic low-country golf course that just might be Rees Jones’ best original work. If you’re able to access it, this is definitely a course to play for all those traveling to Kiawah/Charleston.