When you step onto Willbrook Plantation, you step onto historic ground. The plantation was created 220 years ago as a thriving rice plantation. In 1988, Willbrook Plantation Golf Club was built on that land, but not until after extensive study on its rich coastal history.
The Dan Maples course has wide fairways winding around lakes and over wetlands. Two-hundred-year-old moss-draped live oaks still stand, framing several holes throughout the course. Golfers are often surprised by the abundance of wildlife that live on this historic land, including herons, fox, deer, osprey, and alligators. Applauded as both fun and challenging, the course is consistently awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars in Golf Digest’s “Places To Play” listing.
Willbrook Plantation was established in 1798 as one of several plantations that contributed to Georgetown County, S.C.’s rise as the rice growing capital of the world. Cultivating rice required careful planning and expertise to build the dams and channels needed to flood the fields and produce high yields of the crop. That critical knowledge was brought to Georgetown County by African slaves who already had the knowledge of the complexities of growing rice. Rice plantations can only be created in places with significant tidal ranges, with fresh water layering the salt water. Along the Waccamaw River in Georgetown County was the perfect place for it. As a result, from the late 1700s into the 1830s, Georgetown County was the wealthiest area along the Atlantic coast.
But the Civil War weakened the economy and many plantation owners moved inland. Some of the land was sold. And finally, the hurricanes of 1889, 1893, 1898, 1906, 1910, and 1911 wrecked the dike system and ended rice production along the Waccamaw River.
“The history of this land is fascinating,” said Kevin McGuire, the head golf professional at Willbrook Plantation Golf Club for 17 years. “I’ve been here for almost two decades and I’m still in awe of the historic oaks and artifacts that were found on the property. We invite you to come down and experience it yourself.”
You can read more about Willbrook’s history on six historical markers placed around the course. There’s a chimney that still stands at the site of the plantation house, a sign marking the slaves cemetery, and a sign that lists some of the artifacts found in the archaeological dig, among others.
Any number of holes on the course could be considered signature worthy, based on the variety from one hole to the next, helping elevate Willbrook Plantation into the realm of the area’s best.
Interesting Historical Facts About Willbrook Plantation Golf Club:
- Willbrook Plantation was established in 1798.
- Georgetown County plantations produced 98 percent of the rice crop by 1850.
- The 1865 blockade and occupation of Georgetown threatened the plantation system and many families moved inland.
- 1865-67 crop failures lead to bankruptcies.
- The plantation house burned down in June 1895 and was replaced with a new building that year. The replacement fireplace stands on the property today.
- In the late 1800s, Northern investors bought many of the plantations and turned them into game preserves for sport hunting.
- Hurricanes in 1889, 1893, 1898, 1906, 1910, and 1911 wrecked the dike system and ended rice production along the Waccamaw River.
- In 1985, archaeologist Larry Lepionka conducted an excavation that uncovered artifacts that date back to the eighteenth century and include lead glazed slipwear, white salt glazed stonewear, and a brass grommet.
- In September 1987, the Chicora Research Foundation performed an archaeological study of Willbrook, Oatland, and Turkey Hill Plantations documenting much of its history.
- Willbrook Plantation Golf Club was built in 1988
- Willbrook is one of 11 courses that make up the Waccamaw Golf Trail, which stretches along from Murrells Inlet to Pawleys Island.
- In the 1990s, Golf For Women added it to a prestigious list of the Top 50 Courses in America enjoyed by women golfers.
- It is consistently awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars in Golf Digest’s Places To Play listing.