The Ocean Course

The Ocean Course on Kiawah Island was ranked No. 1 in the biennial S.C. Golf Course Ratings Panel’s Top 50 in 2018.

The panelists got mad when we asked them to come up with a list of South Carolina's top 10 sports venues.

“Too hard.”

“Can I give you 30? Or more?”

We settled on a Top 25 compilation. All 25 were tucked into the various top 10 lists, some more than others.

Venue criteria: A must-see for South Carolinians or visitors? Nationally recognized within its sport? Renowned throughout the state? A sure hit if new?

That means what happens inside and around the facility is part of the draw. For instance, Wrigley Field carries itself very well without the Cubs winning but would Notre Dame Stadium smell as sweet if the Fighting Irish had all the tradition of Iowa State?

The consultants: Jamie Bradford, Charleston Sports Radio; David Caraviello, LowcountryEditorial.com; Tony Ciuffo, MUSC; Aaron Cheslock, FOX Carolina; Scott Eisberg, WCIV-TV; Bob Gillespie, discoversouthcarolina.com; Bill Hamilton, S.C. State; Bobby Hartin, Charleston Sports Radio; Rick Henry, WIS-TV; Pete Iacobelli, Associated Press; Phil Kornblut, South Carolina Sports Radio; Ron Morris, former columnist at The State; Warren Peper, longtime sportscaster/anchorman; Andy Solomon, The Citadel; The Post and Courier staff.

The list:

1. The Ocean Course (Kiawah Island)

Pete Dye’s links masterpiece burst onto the world golf scene with the 1991 Ryder Cup. Rory McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship on “one of the toughest golf courses in America” and the PGA Championship returns in 2021. You don’t have to love golf to appreciate seascapes, dunes and coastal marsh.

“A wonderful layout on an amazing piece of land.” — Pete Iacobelli

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2012 PGA Championship on the Ocean Course

Rory McIlroy hits out of the bunker at No. 17 on his way to winning the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course. File/Mic Smith/Special to The Post and Courier

2. Death Valley (Clemson)

The Hill and The Rock and the campus backdrop are nice Memorial Stadium extras. Tradition, including national championship runs in 1981 and 2016, and one of the best tailgate settings, keeps it consistently on “Best College Football Stadium” lists.

“So many great teams, so many big moments.” — Phil Kornblut

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Conway’s Edwards withdraws USC commitment, will visit Clemson

Death Valley has become the place where championship dreams die for visiting football teams. File/Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

3. Founders Park (Columbia)

If not the best major college baseball stadium, it’s right up there. Old enough to have vaulted South Carolina to College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011. Off campus and parking issues, but minor league baseball frills mixed with college baseball fever and a downtown Columbia skyline view are eye-catching icing.

“It didn’t take long to establish a special home-field advantage for the USC baseball team at this stadium.” — Rick Henry

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Founders Park

Founders Park, home of University of South Carolina Gamecocks, is one of the top college baseball facilities in the country. Allen Sharpe/Spurs & Feathers

4. Volvo Car Stadium (Daniel Island)

Home of the Volvo Car Open (formerly Family Circle Cup) since 2001, the longest continual major women’s tennis event aside from the Grand Slam tournaments. The only green clay surface on the WTA Tour. Satellite courts, great food and drink options and shopping boutiques add to the fun.

“A premier tennis facility on anyone’s scale.” — Andy Solomon

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Volvo Car Stadium

Pera Bernarda and Madison Keys play in a 2018 match at the Volvo Car Open at Volvo Car Stadium. Andrew Whitaker/Staff

Harbour Town Golf Links (Hilton Head) 

Two golf venues in the top five? This is why we have "First in Golf" license plates. Views force channel surfers to wonder, “Where is that?” Lighthouse and boats, pines and gators. Completed in 1969, the Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus-designed course has hosted South Carolina’s only annual PGA Tour event for 50 years.

“PGA Tour players voted Harbour Town as their No. 2 regular tournament venue, behind only Augusta National Golf Club.” — Bob Gillespie, S.C. Golf Insider

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Harbour Town

The par-4 18th hole at Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island consistently ranks as the No. 1 hole South Carolina. Photo provided  

6. Darlington Raceway (Darlington)

So legendary it has two nicknames, “The Track Too Tough To Tame” and “The Lady In Black.” NASCAR’s first superspeedway was built over cotton and peanut fields. Winners range from Fireball Roberts and Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon.

“The oldest and most famous track in NASCAR; Too Tough To Not Be Listed.” — Bobby Hartin

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NASCAR Darlington

Darlington Raceway, The Track Too Tough to Tame. File/AP

7. Fluor Field (Greenville)

A jewel of a minor league ballpark, home of the Class A South Atlantic League’s Greenville Drive. A Fenway Park-style Green Monster in left field gets Red Sox farmhands ready. Shoeless Joe Jackson's relocated childhood home is across the street.  

“The updates done around the ballpark make this a feature of downtown Greenville. Plus, it mixes the past with the present as much as any park I have been to.” — Jamie Bradford

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Fluor Field

The Greenville Drive, the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, play their home games at Fluor Field, which includes its own Green Monster. Photo provided

8. Williams-Brice Stadium (Columbia)

When it’s rocking, few college football stadiums are crazier. The “2001” intro, an exceptionally engaged student section, a design that makes the place look like a giant bear trap and vastly improved exterior features add up.

“Tough to beat an October night with a harvest moon.” — Warren Peper

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Clemson vs. South Carolina: Head-to-Head

More than 80,000 Gamecock fans can make Williams-Brice Stadium a tough place to play for opposing teams. File/Travis Bell/Sideline Carolina

 9. Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium (Spartanburg)

Wofford’s brand new state-of-the-art basketball facility is a 3,400-seat showcase.

“The arena might only hold a few thousand, but it feels as big-time as any you’ll find at a college the size of Wofford.” — Aaron Cheslock

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Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium

Wofford played South Carolina in the first game at Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium. Photo provided

10. MUSC Health Stadium (Daniel Island)

U.S. minor league soccer facilities don’t get much better. The Charleston Battery home pitch hosts Major League Soccer and Premier League teams. The 5,000-square foot Three Lions Pub is a museum of international soccer memorabilia.

“Outstanding facility, terrific playing surface.” — Warren Peper

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MUSC Health Stadium

MUSC Health Stadium on Daniel Island is the home of the Charleston Battery soccer team. File/Staff

11. Springs Brooks Stadium (Conway) 

The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers opened this baseball gem (5,400 capacity) in 2015 and won the College World Series in 2016. Baseball America this year ranked it No. 8 nationally among college ballparks.

“It highlights the atmosphere of nearby Myrtle Beach, with a concourse that evokes the boardwalk and deck chairs lining the berms.” — Teddy Cahill, Baseball America

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Springs Brooks Stadium

Coastal Carolina's Springs Brooks Stadium is becoming a popular pick among those who rate the nation's best college ballparks. Coastal Carolina University Photography

12. Joseph P. Riley Park (Charleston)

Unlike newer Class A minor league ballparks in Greenville, North Augusta, Columbia and Myrtle Beach, fans can’t see game action from the concourse. But this beauty has Ashley River and marsh views and Bill Murray sightings, plus acclaimed food.

“A nod to the stadium that started the modern boom of top-notch minor league parks in South Carolina.” — Pete Iacobelli

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Riley Park

The audience had the game and a sunset to watch at Riley Park on Wednesday, September 6, 2017 as the Charleston RiverDogs took on the Greenville Drive. Wade Spees/Staff

13. Cavalier Stadium (Spartanburg)

Dorman High School looks more like a small college campus, complete with a football stadium for 15,000-plus fans.

“No. 1 in the state for the combination of quality high school facility, tradition and overall Friday night scene.” — David Shelton

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Cavalier Stadium

Cavalier Stadium at Dorman High School. Photo by Edward Overstreet

14. Doug Kingsmore Stadium (Clemson)

A three-story clubhouse building on the first-base side is the latest renovation to one of college baseball’s best ballpark experiences. Sixteen regionals or super regionals on site since 1994.

“The new players’ facility is incredible and the smoke from the Cajun Café, in addition to a hungry and rowdy fan base, makes this place special on gameday.” — Jamie Bradford

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Doug Kingsmore Stadium

Clemson's Doug Kingsmore Stadium. Grace Raynor/The Post and Courier

15. Colonial Life Arena (Columbia)

The biggest basketball facility in the state is slightly off the USC campus but rattles library shelves when packed for a women’s or men’s basketball game. Coming: a 2019 men’s NCAA Tournament regional.

“The way South Carolina’s men’s and women’s basketball programs have excelled recently gives CLA the edge with fan support.”  Aaron Cheslock

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Colonial Life Arnea

South Carolina's women's basketball team is a national attendance leader at Colonial Life Arena. File photo

16. SRP Park (North Augusta)

The new home of the Class A Augusta Greenjackets’ (5,000 capacity) hosted a Clemson-Georgia game in April on the banks of the Savannah River (a McCovey Cove feel for San Francisco Giants prospects).

“They’ve done a great job creating a ballpark that fits seamlessly into the riverfront area while creating a more intimate ballpark that the fans can pack each and every night.” — Matt Dean, Charleston RiverDogs broadcaster

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SRP Park

Opening night in April at SRP Park in North Augusta, new home of the Augusta Greenjackets of the Class A South Atlantic League. Photo provided. 

17. Paladin Stadium (Greenville)

Furman plays amid one of the prettiest settings in college football. The Paladins’ home since 1981.

“A timeless small-college football stadium that boasts a scenic view of Paris Mountain, which sparkles with gold and orange leaves in the fall.” — David Caraviello

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Paladin Stadium

Furman's Paladin Stadium. Furman University photo

18. Spirit Communications Park (Columbia)

New York Mets minor leaguer Tim Tebow drew large crowds to the Class A Columbia Fireflies’ two-year-old ballpark in 2017. Will move up various lists as the neighborhood catches up.

“The Fireflies ownership got everything right in the design of Columbia's new minor-league ballpark. An intimate setting for an enjoyable day or night at the old ballyard.” — Ron Morris

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Spirit Communications Park

Spirit Communications Park is the home of the Columbia Fireflies, the Class A club for the New York Mets. Photo provided

19. The Reservation (Gaffney)

Home of the Gaffney High School Indians (and also Limestone College football), an 8,250-seat stadium opened in 2008 with a team room overlooking an end zone and on-field seating for the band.

“I once wrote that I’d feel safe robbing a bank in Gaffney on a football Friday night since the entire city – and every police officer – was at the game.” — Andy Solomon

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Gaffney Reservation

The Reservation at Gaffney High School. Gaffney High School photo

20. Oliver C. Dawson Stadium (Orangeburg)

Frequently tweaked home of S.C. State football since 1955, which means Deacon Jones, Harry Carson, Donnie Shell and Charlie Brown played here.

“Like Williams-Brice Stadium and Death Valley, S.C. State has some legendary tailgating. The Bulldogs also have some of the nation’s best halftime shows featuring the Marching 101.” — Rick Henry

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Oliver C. Dawson Stadium

Oliver C. Dawson Stadium is home of the S.C. State Bulldogs and graduations. In 2017, Joe Thomas Sr., the oldest Division I football player, received his diploma on the field where he played as a running back. Michael Pronzato/Staff

21. Littlejohn Coliseum (Clemson)

The new version, opened in 2016, offers vast improvements - including curved, hanging scoreboards – while maintaining that college look.

“I’ve visited a lot of basketball arenas but something about Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum awed me – the crowd, the ambience.” — Bill Hamilton

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Littlejohn Coliseum

Clemson's Littlejohn Coliseum. Photo by Daniel Green, Clemson University athletics

22. McAlister Field House (Charleston)

Throwback decor, even better when The Citadel is playing well and/or hosting the likes of College of Charleston, South Carolina, Clemson, Duke or Michigan State.

“I love the feel of buildings that have a bit of Palestra and Hinkle Fieldhouse in them and this one does. During the Ed Conroy years the place was rocking, the cadets were screaming and it was a wonderful and historic environment.” — Scott Eisberg

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McAlister Field House

Venerable, yes. The Citadel's McAlister Field House was built in 1939. Evangelist Billy Graham preached there in January of 1957. File/Staff

23. TD Arena (Charleston)

The House That John Kresse Built (5,100) and its Meeting Street location makes for an ideal dinner/College of Charleston basketball game combo.

“Perfect Size for a mid-major program in the heart of downtown Charleston.” — Bobby Hartin

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TD Arema

TD Arena fills up for a 2018 game between College of Charleston and Northeastern . Andrew Whitaker/Staff

24. Bon Secours Wellness Arena (Greenville)

Mostly for concerts and ice shows. But basketball fans know it as a postseason destination. South Carolina’s 2017 Final Four team beat Marquette and Duke here; an NCAA Tournament regional returns in 2022.

“With a seating capacity of around 17,000 for basketball and its luxury boxes and club level seats, it offers a big-time college basketball atmosphere.” — Tony Ciuffo

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NCAA Tournament Greenville

The first and second rounds of the 2017 men's NCAA Tournament were played at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. File/Staff

25. John McKissick Field (Summerville)

There are newer, nicer high school football facilities at River Bluff, Brookland-Cayce, Lexington and elsewhere. But this one is named for the winningest coach in high school football history.

“Everything high school Friday nights are supposed to be: It’s got history, John McKissick’s name on it, the best tradition around, the beautiful oak tree hanging over and most importantly it’s a stadium and not an aluminum-bleacher, mass-produced field with no charm.” — Scott Eisberg

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John McKissick Field

Coach John McKissick at John McKissick Field in Summerville in 2015. File photo 

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff