Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club: Wide open for play

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - The Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club is a cruising course, with wide open fairways - not a lot of length at 6,543 yards from the tips, 5,183 from the front - but it's a course with two personalities. The front is the warm up; the back is the brain teaser.

Port Royal Golf Club - Barony Course
A lone palm in the middle of the 11th fairway of the Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club could block out a perfect approach angle.
Port Royal Golf Club - Barony CoursePort Royal Golf Club - practicePort Royal Golf Club - Barony Course - hole 1Barony at Port Royal Golf Club: clubhouse

The Barony was designed by George W. Cobb in 1963 and is the most popular of the three at Port Royal Golf Club courses - Robber's Row, Planter's Row and Barony - said Director of Golf Ken McNerney.

"Its generous fairways inspire confidence to the higher handicap player, and risk-reward approaches to the green will challenge the better golfer," McNerney said.

Before you pull a club from your bag, it's a scenic trek to the tee, a winding path past the parking lot, through a tunnel, then up around across the bridge to the tee. It's a little roller coaster ride, gratis.

The Barony Course's first hole gives you a fun approach to the green over water on the left and between two fronting bunkers to the large green. If you're too long, there's another bunker in back, too. Remember your lessons because number 5 is a similar hole, with an offset green with water on the left.

Well-guarded greens are a given on this course, with nary a turf-ringed green in the lot. Odds are such that you'll get to practice some sand saves. That's okay, though, because the sand is nice and fluffy.

Water comes into play on several holes, and most of the par 4s and 5s are doglegs, providing a lot of risk-reward options. Bunkers on those holes tend to be on the far side of the elbow, making the right club selection imperative. On Barony, trickling off the fairway is punishing when you try to extract your shot from a snarl of Bermuda.

The Barony Course's back nine

The Barony Courses's back nine travels near the Atlantic Ocean, adding a variable of ocean breezes. It also plays a few tricks.

For example, No. 11 has a ditch across the fairway that you can't see until you're up there looking for your ball in it and a large tree right in the middle of the fairway. Random? Yes. Annoying? Could be.

No. 13 has a 90-degree turn at the end of the fairway to the green with huge bunkers in front of it, one with a back lip nearly tall enough to serve as a shooting range backstop. Those bunker are longer than they appear, so the green is further than it looks. Trust the GPS unit, not your eyeballs. Oh, mind those overhanging branches, too. It took me a few holes to stop grumbling about that score.

Barony comes to a close with a long par 4 on No. 18. It's 350 yards from the front and 408 from the tips, but there's plenty of room for tired drives that might not be right on the mark. However, don't stray too far, because there are two bunkers on far left and another farther up on the right. The green resides among a ring of bunkers, and there's plenty of room on the dance floor for two, maybe even three, putts, so try to nestle your shot close to the pin.

Sue and Bill Knowles, of Virginia, play the course each year when they visit their nearby time share. "It's narrower than the one we play at home," Bill said, but he added that the greens aren't as fast. The course, he said, "is above average of the ones down here," because of the conditions and aesthetics.

But he summed up golf. "All of them are the same once you get it on the green."

Port Royal Golf Club offers room for improvement

Port Royal Golf Club's three courses share an elaborate practice facility, with several putting areas and at least two bunker areas and a dozen driving range stations. The golf club just added a short-game area for shots up to 80 yards - the score-trimming shots.

Instruction is through the PGA Tour Academy, one of six Tour Academies in the country, according to McNerney. There are two full-time teaching professionals on site who offer multi-day golf schools, private lessons or through clinics three days a week.

After your round or lesson, relax in the clubhouse. It will enfold you with its dark-wood pillars and ceramic floors. Class all the way.

Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club: The verdict

Port Royal Golf Club's Barony Course isn't a back-breaker, but there's plenty of trouble there if you get lazy.

It's a creative golf course, with a few holes that will stick with you, like the first with a shot over the water or up the skinny right side, and No. 13 with an interrupted fairway to a right angle to the well-guarded green.

It's from that hole that one can get a glimpse of the ocean. The combination of cruising holes and those requiring strategy sessions will keep you entertained.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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