South Carolina's Flagship University

Regulatory Pathfinder
for Coastal Development in South Carolina

Golf Courses

Golf courses that are built in or involve discharge to traditionally navigable waters or waters of the United States may require a federal permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In certain situations, those wishing to construct a golf course may be able to proceed under a Nationwide Permits (NWP). Basic information regarding NWPs can be found here. As with all NWPs, applicable General Conditions and Regional Conditions must be taken into account in order to proceed with the proposed undertaking. If an activity does not fall within this streamlined permit, an individual permit application may be required.

NWP #42- This permit is for recreational facilities. Recreational facilities are defined "as a recreational activity that is integrated into the natural landscape and does not substantially change preconstruction grades or deviate from natural landscape contours. For the purpose of this permit, the primary function of recreational facilities does not include the use of motor vehicles, buildings or impervious surfaces. Examples of recreational facilities that may be authorized by this NWP include hiking trails, bike paths, horse paths, nature centers, and campgrounds (excluding trailer parks)." Golf courses can be included if they do not differ substantially from the natural landscape contours.

The State has added the following restrictions on the building of golf courses:

  1. Golf courses will be allowed seaward of the baseline because they adjust to the changing shoreline more readily than other land uses;
  2. Sandscraping or sandbagging is not allowed as protection for golf courses;
  3. The leveling or damaging of dunes or dune fields is not allowed;
  4. To minimize encroachment into the setback area each golf course must be located as far landward as possible;
  5. Any lighting located seaward of the setback line must be low intensity and adequately shielded to prevent any impacts on sea turtle nesting;
  6. The primary oceanfront sand dune must be protected from foot traffic. Possible measures include:
    1. designing the course in such a way as to minimize adverse impacts to sand dunes;
    2. erecting physical barriers such as sand fencing at the landward trough of the dune;
    3. planting or encouraging certain types of vegetation that discourage pedestrian traffic;
    4. or any other measures OCRM deems necessary.

S.C. Code Regs. 30-13(Q).

If your activity does not fit into the NWP requirements or doesn't comply with the general or regional conditions it is likely you will need to apply for an individual permit. Information on this process can be found here.

Last Updated October 29, 2010


This project was supported through a generous grant from the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. The principal investigator is Professor Kim Diana Connolly at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Two law students, Keith Bartlett and Valerie Cochran, provided invaluable work toward project completion. Technical assistance with web design was provided by USC School of Law webmaster Tobias Brasier. Broken links should be reported to lawweb@law.sc.edu. This website is NOT intended as legal advice, and particularized analysis by professionals should be sought wherever appropriate.