The Palmetto Hall Plantation Club in Bluffton, SC features 36 holes of pristine championship golf from two of the game’s top designers: Robert Cupp and Arthur Hills and is a must-play for every golfer. Palmetto Hall Plantation Club is now a part of the Brown Golf portfolio which has expanded to a total of 6 facilities in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area.
The Arthur Hills Course opened in 1991 to rave reviews and was almost instantly named to Golf Digest’s list as one of America’s Top 10 New Courses. In 2008-09, the magazine awarded the course 4-stars as one of “Best Places to Play.” The Arthur Hills course plays 6,918 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 73.8 and a slope of 139. At 6,257 yards (70.6/128), the White Tees will prove to be a formidable foe for most golfers, while ladies will find the course enjoyable from the Red Tees (5,006/70.3/119).
Hills’ signature style is fully on display here –undulated fairways with lots of mounding wind through heavily wooded forests of moss-draped oaks and towering pines, that frame the fairways of many holes. Lush fairways and crystalline lakes give way to large greens, with bunkers butted up against the sides, providing golfers with several challenges. Fortunately, most of the hazards are lateral and sit off to the sides of the fairways and only a handful of holes require an aerial approach on to the green.
There are plenty of demanding holes on this Arthur Hill masterpiece, and Number 4 (par 4, 375 yards from the White Tees) definitely fits that bill. It’s a narrow driving hole, up a tree-lined chute to a small landing area, preferably short of the water on the right. From there, it’s a mid-iron approach shot to a small, narrow green protected on the left with sand.
On many of his course, Hills like to challenge players, especially longball hitters, with risk/reward opportunities. Such is the case on the short dogleg right par 5, 5th hole which plays 461 yards from the White Tees. If you’re long off the tee, you should play your tee shot up the right side just left of the water. Now the choice is yours, go for broke or play it safe. It’s all carry over water, although if you’re getting queasy, you can always bail out to the left. Otherwise, play both your tee shot and layup down the left and take the water out of play. It’s a great chance to gain a stroke; or not!
Number 9, the other par 5 on the front side, plays 501 yards from the White Tees and can prove to be quite the challenge, unless you hit it straight, three times in a row! Trees and sand need to be avoided off the tee as do more bunkers on your layup and approach shots. The green is small, narrow and not easy to hold on long shots unless you come in really high. Par is a good score here.
The most interesting par 3 is Number 13, which plays 133 yards from the White Tees. It’s pretty wide open but what makes it interesting is the pot bunker in front of the green. It’s going to take a carry of about 150. A short but trying par 3.
The finishing hole is rated the toughest on the inward nine; it’s a long, dogleg left par 4 that plays 389 yards from the White Tees. There’s trouble from tee to green: push it right and you’re either in the trees or out of bounds; hook it left and you’re in the water. Hit it straight and you get to hit it again! Your tee shot is simple: pick a line, aim down that line, hope your ball stays on that line. Water guards the entire left side of the green and there’s sand short and right, so you’re going to have to fly it on the green if you want to finish strong. Speaking of the green, it’s two-tiered and well-sloped; par is a great way to end the round.
Add up your scores and see how much you’ve won while enjoying your favorite beverage in Baird’s Pub. They have great food too; I tried the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. It was as if they had taken a piece of steak, sliced it up and cooked it with peppers, onions, mushrooms and cheese. It tasted as good as it looked. Other entrees are featured with a Lowcountry theme, showcasing many of the fresh local ingredients found on Hilton Head Island.
Last Word: Over the years, Arthur Hills has created several courses that are difficult and Palmetto Halls is no different. His two designs on Hilton Head – this and the Arthur Hills at Palmetto Dunes course – are among the most highly regarded courses in the Southeast.
You have to think your way around this Arthur Hills masterpiece if you want to do well and have fun; it will take both accuracy off the tees and well thought out approach shots. You’ll find lots of mounding in fairways as well as grass bunkers and swales around the greens; both can wreak havoc and create that dreaded uneven lie. Fairways are tight, hazards are everywhere, many times unseen, and putts roll straight and true. This is by all means a challenging course, yet of you play it from the right set of tees, you can score well and have fun.
Brown Golf Management has done a great job of restoring Palmetto Plantation since acquiring it a week before Hurricane Matthew hit the area. Digging out from under Matthew was one thing, but Brown has made great strides in bringing these two courses back to what they once were. Superintendent Grant Backus was plucked from their Dolphin Head property and given that task after the wonderful transformation he performed over there. Given a little bit of time, Backus and his crew will have the two Palmetto Hall Plantation tracks back in championship condition.
A lot of local golfers shy away from joining a local club because they don’t want to be locked in to playing at just one facility. Brown Golf’s answer to that is simple: give members 6 local courses to play. In fact, your Brown Golf membership includes unlimited golf at not only 7 local facilities, but also ALL Brown-managed courses in PA, NC, SC and FL, unlimited use of the practice facilities including free range balls and unlimited golf lessons with a PGA professional, all for one low, monthly price. That last part alone makes it worth your while, in fact you could get so much better that the money you make off your friends, pays for your membership!
For more information on Palmetto Hall Plantation or to check out a membership, visit them online at www.palmettoplantationcc.com.