Staying Active in Aiken, SC
Aiken, SC, is a unique town with a thriving local business and restaurant scene. It also offers no shortage of ways to experience – or participate in – sports and physical activity. Like the neighboring city of Augusta, GA – home to the Augusta National Golf Club and the preeminent Masters Tournament – Aiken is closely associated with golfing. If you are looking for an opportunity to dust off your clubs, there are a number of public and private golf courses in the Aiken area. Area golf clubs – or clubs offering golf courses – include Cedar Creek Golf Club, The Reserve Club, Woodside Plantation, Aiken Golf Club, Houndslake Country Club and Palmetto Golf Club. Palmetto Golf Club has an especially interesting history. Established in 1892, records suggest it to be the oldest continually operated golf course in the Southeast and argued by some to be the second oldest in the United States. But, as previously mentioned, if given the chance, be sure to attend the Masters Tournament, which happens every April in neighboring Augusta. (Augusta is approximately 20 miles from Aiken and a short 30-minute drive.) As any local will tell you, it’s usually challenging – if not impossible – to secure tickets to the tournament. However, many residents of Aiken and Augusta (and neighboring areas) work in a variety of temporary positions, allowing them on the course during the exciting week of activities.
Golf is certainly popular in Aiken, but Aiken is uniquely associated with equestrian sports. Drawing on its equine history dating back to the 19th century, Aiken offers a variety of accessible activities for horse lovers. Aiken is home to two major horse racing events – Imperial Cup in March and the Holiday Cup in October. Both of these events are hosted by the Aiken Steeplechase Association. There are also approximately 40 polo fields located in the Aiken area, and you might be surprised to know that a large number of competitive polo players call Aiken home. Though polo is a year-round sport, major tournaments are typically held in the spring or summer. There are also dressage events hosted in the Aiken area. If you’re interested in horseback riding for leisure instead of competition, consider visiting Hitchcock Woods. Located in Aiken, Hitchcock Woods is one of the largest urban forests in the nation, with more than 2000 acres and more than 70 miles of trails. In addition to use by runners, walkers and hikers, horses and their riders are welcome in the woods. (Horses also have the right of way on downtown Aiken streets!)
For canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding or other water-friendly activities, Aiken is within short driving distance of both a major river – Savannah River – as well as two lakes – Clarks Hill Lake (Lake Thurmond) and Lake Murray. Get your kayak, canoe, boat or inner tube in the water, and enjoy a relaxing day outdoors, without spending a lot of your time in the car to get there.
If you’re interested in playing a team sport, Citizens Park, located in Aiken, offers 14 multi-purpose athletic fields that are used for a number of recreational leagues along with tournaments throughout the year. Aiken also offers several recreational league programs for adults: softball, flag football, and basketball. If you have a child interested in trying out a sport – or more than one – the city of Aiken offers leagues for basketball, baseball, softball, flag football, soccer, cheerleading, volleyball, and buddy sports.