Brandon Mumaw is on Hilton Head Island this week. He played the Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes yesterday, 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 – Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio, and Arthur Hills. The Robert Trent Jones course is a par-72 championship course that is known for being the oldest course on Hilton Head Island. I was greatly looking forward to playing this course as it’s known for a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Luckily, I was able to get a morning tee-time, so I was able to begin playing while it was still in the 80s, before temperatures reached the mid-90s by the back 9. I was also privileged to be paired up with Dave and Rick from the Philly area, who were down for a week of golf.
The beginning holes on the Robert Trent Jones course featured large fairway and greenside bunkers. Each fairway was lined with large tropical trees, which was a beautiful sight, but not so beautiful if you missed the fairway. I found myself having to punch out and flop over some trees early on. Hole #2 was one of the rare holes where a water hazard came into play off the tee, so I elected to hit 3 wood to keep it short of the hazard. According to the scorecard, hole #6 played as the #3 handicap hole and hole #7 played as the #1 handicap hole. Hole #6, a 422 yarder, featured a narrow fairway with an elevated green, while hole #7 played at 410 yards with bunkers all along the left side. I honestly thought holes #8 and #9 played much tougher, but their handicaps didn’t reflect that, as they were rated the #13 and #11 handicap holes.
Hole #8 was a long par 3, playing over 220 yards, mostly over water. The green was very shallow with a ridge splitting it in half. The pin was tucked in the back-left corner, with a larger bunker sitting just behind it. I needed to get my distance just right to hit this shallow green. The large bunker behind the green scared me enough to club down and I also knew I had a little bit of room to carry the water and miss short of the green. My 5-iron landed a couple feet short of the green, which left me with an uphill chip to a back pin, not a bad spot to be on a 220 yard par 3.
Hole #9 was the first hole of a stretch of absolutely BEAUTIFUL holes. Hole #9 was a par 5 which headed back towards the Atlantic Ocean, and you could start to feel the breeze coming off the Atlantic as the hole featured a wider fairway with less trees. The main reason I believe this hole is deserving of a lower handicap is because of the overhanging tree just 100 yards in front of the tee box. Even with teeing my ball to the far right side of the tee box, I had to start my aim over the bunkers running up the right side of the fairway and move the ball right to left around the tree to catch the fairway. If your ball doesn’t move back to the left, you’ll find yourself in one of the many fairway bunkers on the right. If you want to aim towards the green on your next shot, you’ll have to carry it over the lagoon, which is not an easy shot coming out of the fairway bunker. As you can see, this hole can be real trouble to end your front 9.
Hole #10, the signature hole at Robert Trent Jones, is a dead straight par 5 heading due east to the Atlantic Ocean. If you hit a good drive down the wide and forgiving fairway, you have the option of going for the green in two, but what you don’t want to do is miss the green long, as you have only a few yards to work with before you end up hitting one of the beach-goers. That’s right, just a few yards past the green you’ll see the mothers and fathers tanning their cheeks while their kids splash in the water. So, don’t be surprised if you hear some chatter while you’re standing over your putt, which could very well be an eagle putt!
As you move through holes #11-15, you’ll notice the course is totally different from the front 9. Each of these holes on the back zigzags left and right around the lagoons. It’s a stunning view and makes for some holes where you need to hit less than driver off the tee. You’ll pass by some huge vacation homes and you’ll spot people fishing in their boats (Dave nearly knocked a guy off his boat with a wayward tee shot). Make sure to take it all in as you play back inland and towards the clubhouse. After your round, be sure to grab a bite to eat at Big Jim’s. They have a colossal pulled pork sandwich and some of the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had. You can enjoy eating indoors in the AC or sit on the back patio which overlooks the driving range, #1 tee box and #18 green.
I could see why the Robert Trent Jones course has received numerous #1 ratings over the years. The combination of wide and forgiving fairways, with large and well-protected greens, and the challenge of playing through the lagoons and estimating the wind gusts coming off the Atlantic Ocean, creates a perfect combination for golfers of all levels. Be sure to add this course to your list of “must play” in Hilton Head Island, SC.