We found peace, harmony and natural wonders at The Reserve on Lake Keowee. Just one of 3 lakes created by and for Duke Energy and the people of Oconee County, South Carolina and beyond, the 18,500-acre Keowee, is the one lake guaranteed to maintain high water levels for boating, floating and cooling folks in the summer. This is due to its real job of cooling Duke’s reactors, a process which also creates a hot hole for scuba divers in the winter. It’s a hotspot in loveable terms for all, never falling below 80 feet depth. Along with the rest of Oconee County, it draws halfbacks – northerners who flee to Florida to escape the long freeze and find the heat overbearing and the flat terrain monotonous, so they go half back to this breath taking year-round mountain lake region of South Carolina that is Oconee County.
Matt Kuchar and Stewart Cink both own homes on Lake Keowee where Jack Nicklaus saw the potential of a golf course on the shores and through the foothills forest below the Blue Ridge Mountains. He designed The Reserve course for a very elite, private community in the woods with 30 miles of shoreline challenging golfers with elevation and 3 holes along the lake’s edge.
Golf director Tim Boeve shared a story about an elk who was kicked out of his “reintroduction herd” to the north and wandered through. Elk are not so kind to courses, so he was relocated back to the herd which hadn’t changed its mind about his membership. Elk sightings were the big daily news until his forced retirement to the Charlotte Zoo. Bears on the other hand are indigenous, course compatible and help themselves to the apples in the community orchard. Turkeys and deer are the most prevalent wildlife at The Reserve.
Members may participate in a four-club interplay with The Cliffs at Keowee Springs, Cross Creek Plantation and Currahee Club. 12 players from each club compete in Stableford format, counting 9 of the 12 scores. Visitors are welcome to check out the property’s potential with stay and play offers. The waterside Village centralizes the fitness center, a market and post office for convenience since the community is a bit secluded (20 minutes from Seneca).
A sign on the wall of the sales office touts, “When this is home, the rest of the world disappears.” Founders Hall in the Village holds Sunday Services for Reserve members and concerts open to the public to raise funds by the Community Foundation. In their tenth year they have raised $690k including revenues from the annual golf event which benefits ten member vetted charities. One of the 2018 charities is Safe Harbor which aids battered women. We met Catharine Washburn, the Executive Director for Reserve at Lake Keowee Charitable & Community Foundations promoting this cause at the “Walk in My Shoes” fundraiser during “Jazz on the Alley” in downtown Seneca. This is not just jazz but street grazing and dancing to the beat of popular bands while mostly men are offered high heeled shoes to symbolically wear and parade through the crowd. Police officers, Inspector Major and Detective Marzolf, in questionably fashionable pumps noted how important it is to make victims feel comfortable and unashamed of reporting their issues. A sense of community and good times extends to make tourists feel like family. We savored a low country boil at Capones (upstairs, downstairs and outside fun) while watching the parade. When the band concluded and the party pontoon in the street was trailered away (where else?), the party continued at the Spot on the Alley.
Back at The Reserve, the marina offers pontoons and other boat rentals or tours of Lake Keowee. The lake tour feels much like one on Thousand Islands as there are many little isles, including Blue Heron Island with mammoth nests in tall trees, the targeted landings of elegant big birds. And like Thousand Islands there is a castle viewed from South Cove County Park which offers 86 campsites. Pull in with the RV or pop up the tent for $30/ night, limit of 30 days through an online reservation system. From camping to hotels, B&Bs and the guest house at The Reserve, there are loads of lodging options for travelers who thirst for this super natural experience. The many unique gushing waterfalls, the wild Chattooga River where Deliverance was actually filmed, and the infinite shades of green foliage below the horizon painted with the Blue Ridge Mountains haunt our dreams in a good way since our return home, ensuring we will return there to explore more territory.