The Dye golf course at Colleton River Plantation in Bluffton: It just might be one of Pete's best
BLUFFTON, S.C. -- There is nothing mundane about the links-style Dye course at Colleton River Plantation, located a few miles from Hilton Head Island.
How can there be when you can see the Atlantic Ocean from 11 holes, there are bunkers in places one has never seen them before and there are back tees that elicit gasps?
The clubhouse presides from on high over the course and serves as a focal point throughout your round. From its second-story veranda, one can drink in ocean views and the course with its many bunkers, mounds and pristine fairways. The vista is pretty enough to be in a movie, and it was. "The Legend of Bagger Vance," set in 1931, was filmed there.
From the start, you can see the palette Dye used for what he calls his favorite golf course.
The first fairway is straight as an arrow nearly to the green, accompanied on the left by a waste bunker and on the right by a constant eruption of sprig-covered mounds sprinkled with bunkers of all sizes, shapes and depth. At the last minute, the hole executes a slight evasive maneuver by sliding the green to the right. The fairway crashes into a bunker-clad mound.
Those elements of bunkers and mounds, along with massive live oaks, serve as the course's canvas, with Dye brushing in splashes of undulating greens, marsh, cliffs and peek-a-boo greens.
In true Dye fashion, Colleton River is a chess game. For every move you make, Dye has one waiting. Take the par-3 third hole, for example. Flub your tee shot and you can land in one of a dozen bunkers short, left or right. Just a shade too short? Your ball will stall at the base of a sharp front. A bit too far? You might need rappelling gear to descend the cliff off the fringeless back. Note the tiny pot bunker halfway down the drop-off to add insult to injury. That's a Dye hole. Beige just isn't a color he paints with.
When building the par-4 ninth hole, Dye figured 400 yards into the wind wasn't quite enough, so he erected a platform in the marsh 80 yards farther from the green.
The tips stretch the golf course to 7,365 yards, more than enough to attract qualifiers each year for the U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur.
Colleton River Plantation member Leslie Kreuzer said the course is stunning and purely Dye.
"There are no even lies," she said. "The greens are crazy. We can all get to the greens, we just can't two-putt."
But the appeal is much more than the course.
"There is no prettier place on the planet," Kreuzer said.
That's certainly evident on the closely threaded holes that bump up against the marsh, Nos. 12-15. The 12th requires a well-placed drive so you can launch your approach over marsh to the green. A little short or right and you face a six-foot drop into an oft-visited hazard area.
The 14th is a nearly drivable par 4, but there's that little problem of a huge mound right in the middle that blocks any glimpse of the plateau green. You might clear the mound, but end up in the valley of par-death.
The 18th, in comparison, is a relatively straightforward dogleg left around water. Well, except for the nearly constant wind that can push your ball into a generous bunker assortment on either side of the fairway.
"You never cross a road, it's one hole after another," said Brett Heisler, assistant professional at Colleton River Plantation. "There is not another course in South Carolina that has as much oceanfront property. You can see the ocean from 11 holes."
As evidence of the attention to detail at the course, grounds crews maintain four types of grass: Bermuda 419 on the fairways, tifdwarf on the greens, centepede on the knolls and zoysia around some bunkers.
Colleton River Plantation member Don Shassian says every hole is "distinctly different and the wind can make it interesting."
The course is demanding, but fair, he said. "If you make a bad, bad shot, you're going to be penalized, but not if you make a slight error."
Dye course at Colleton River Plantation: The verdict
Colleton River Plantation, with twin billing of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus courses, puts golf on a gilded pedestal. It pulled together elements that cannot be duplicated: gorgeous oceanside real estate, gifted designers and a staff relentless about maintenance and service. Member or guest, playing here really is a privilege.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The golf courses at Colleton River Plantation Club are private, offering reciprocity with select private clubs in the Hilton Head Island area during the summer.]