Brandon Mumaw is on Hilton Head Island this week. He played the Arthur HIlls course at Palmetto Dunes on Thursday, and sent this collection of photos. His write-up will be featured soon, in this space.
Hilton Head Island, SC is recognized for its biking paths, seafood, and golf. You’ll find more than 20 championship golf courses on the island, which is just 42 square miles in size. The Island is located on the very southeastern part of South Carolina, which makes it an easy destination whether driving or flying into Savannah, GA or Charleston, SC.
Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is home to three championship golf courses – Arthur Hills, George Fazio, and Robert Trent Jones. The Arthur Hills course is a par-72 championship course that is known for being one of the most challenging tracks on Hilton Head Island. This was going to be my third and final round at the Palmetto Dunes courses, so I was fully warmed up and prepped for my final 18 holes.
As soon as I arrived at Arthur Hills, I could tell their facilities had more of a country club feel compared to the Fazio and RTJ courses. Arthur Hills had by far the best practice area of the Palmetto Dunes courses. With a full grass (not turf – like RTJ) driving range and separate putting and chipping greens, this was the place to be for individual lessons, or just to spend time fine tuning your game. This course sat deeper into the residential area of Palmetto Dunes, and when I say residential, I’m talking 1 – 2 million-dollar homes (yes, I did look them up on Zillow).
The par-72 Arthur Hills course plays under 6,700 yards from the tips, which was much shorter than its sister courses, but I found out early on this wasn’t going to be a stroll through the park. Holes #1 and #2 had some of the shallowest greens I’ve ever seen. Not to mention, right off the bat on hole #1, your approach shot is into a green protected by a 10-15 foot tall mound of rough. I suggest shooting the distance to the top of the mound and adding about 2 yards, as that’s all that is needed to find the green. Hole #2 (#1 handicap hole) requires less than driver off the tee, as it’s only 250 to the water. Your approach shot will play into a green that’s only 15 foot deep, but about 25 yards wide. If you miss short, you find the water you were playing short of on your tee shot; if you miss long, you’re in the backyard of some millionaire’s home. Just try to not walk away with a big number on this one.
Hole #5 is the signature hole at Arthur Hills. From the tee, you can tell the fairway gets narrow as the hole doglegs to the left, but it’s not until you get to your approach shot that you notice just how much the trees overhang and block your approach to the green. There’s a large tree about 20 yards before the green on the left, which has overhanging branches that requires almost a punch shot into the green. Just behind the green is the famous Hilton Head Rear Range Lighthouse, the island’s one and only true lighthouse. It’s a picturesque shot into the green but be sure to play it low under the branches. The front 9 ends with a dead straight par 5 leading back to the clubhouse, but what you don’t see from the tee is the rolling fairway which will cause stress on your next two shots. These rolling fairways continue for most of the back 9, so don’t be surprised if you need to add an extra club on your approach shots to compensate for your uneven lies.
As I mentioned before, the 6,700 yard course is the shortest of the Palmetto Dunes courses, but I would have to rank it #1 in difficulty. The back 9 at Arthur Hills is just a beast! Every single part of your game will be tested. From the uneven lies because of the rolling fairways, to the precision needed from long irons/hybrids off the tee, to the firm and fast greens, you really need to play well to keep the back 9 from ruining your round. Holes #16 and #17 are definitely my two favorite holes on the course but are also two of the most difficult holes on the course. Both require long irons/hybrids off the tee and feature water along the left side. Hole #16 is fairly straight, but with water coming into play 250 yards from the tee box, you have to keep the driver in the bag. Be sure to check the pin location before hitting your approach shot as the green is about 25 yards deep. Also, a ridge runs through the center of the green, so you also want to make sure you land your ball on the correct tier. Hole #17 is unlike any hole I’ve ever played. If you look at the layout of the hole you notice the hole makes more than a 90 degree turn to the left. This extremely undulated fairway will likely leave you with an uneven lie as you try to hit yet another green that is only 15 or so feet in depth. There is really no good miss on your approach shot, the green is guarded by water in front, out of bounds to the left and woods to the rear. You can try to bailout to the right, but your next shot will be straight downhill, which is not ideal with firm and fast greens. So, if you’re looking to make birdie on one of the final holes, it’s going to have to come on the par 5 #18.
I could see why the Arthur Hills course was recently named among the “Top 30 Best Courses You Can Play in South Carolina.” Of the courses at Palmetto Dunes, the Arthur Hills course takes my #1 overall ranking. In all aspects this course was in better shape, featured the firmest and fastest greens, and challenged your game in ways the Fazio and RTJ courses didn’t. Be sure to add this course to your list of “must play” in Hilton Head Island, SC.