Go ahead and play the Country Club of Hilton Head, it's okay (really!)

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - One feels privileged to play the Country Club of Hilton Head, thinking that someday someone is going to realize they've let the public use this fine golf course and put a stop to it.

Country Club of Hilton Head - Fairway
Trees line fairways on some holes at Country Club of Hilton Head.
Country Club of Hilton Head - FairwayCountry Club of Hilton Head - Traps

Designed by Rees Jones, the course has twice hosted a U.S. Open qualifier, Head Professional Gary Otto said. It deserves the honor.

What's memorable about the course, which opened in 1988, is the quantity of sand near greens and the perfectly placed bunkers that await any tee shot slightly off course. The greens, thankfully, are not brutal, they're fair. It isn't the longest golf course, clocking in at less than 7,000 yards from the tips. Forward tees come in at 5,373 yards.

But you'll remember a lot of that yardage.

"A lot of courses have holes that run parallel, ours don't, and the houses don't crowd the course," Otto said. "The greens are not real severe, and people like the layout and the continuity of the course."

Country Club of Hilton Head has memorable holes galore

No. 2 has a gully awaiting a flubbed second shot that will escort your ball into the pond on the left.

No. 5, a par 4, is another hole in which one must land on the green, given Brumgart's Pond that snakes around to the front of the hole with a shaved bank that will deposit any short shots into the drink. One member said a diver collects 5,000 balls from the pond each year.

A series of a half dozen bunkers escort you up to the No. 8 green. Chances are outstanding that you'll visit one of them. Or you could risk a shot over the pond on the right to the green. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

The club's signature hole is No. 12, which has two remarkable features. One is the green, which is bordered by live oaks in the rear, a marsh up front and a few bunkers on the sides. The second claim to fame is a plaque near the red tees that claims the spot to be the highest point on Hilton Head Island at 28.24 feet. (No worry of altitude sickness.)

One of the best par-3 holes I've played is No. 14, which is amid a marsh with three intimidating bunkers across the front. Landing the ball on the green and stopping it is the only way to score well.

"It took me a long time to learn how to play that hole," said Mary Jo Happley, a high-handicap player. "You have to hit an arched shot, otherwise, you'll end up in a bunker."

"I love that hole," said Larry Meyers, a 26-handicap. "It's scenic, and you have to hit a pretty perfect shot."

Jim Walsh, with a 6 handicap, prefers holes No. 2, 5 - both water-risk par-4s - 10 and 16 for their challenge. "You can get into trouble in a hurry."

Yep, right from the tee. Some of the ways Walsh thinks the golf course can be improved is to speed up the greens by cutting them shorter and rolling them and reworking the sandtraps to loosen up the sand below the surface.

No. 8 gives you a sea of bunkers between you and a shortcut on the right. It's not worth it. Take the long way.

The finishing hole is a long, long par 5 with a narrow window for your tee shot. "Eighteen is a killer," Happley said. "You're tired by then." If you hit a bunker off your tee shot, you'll be exhausted - but happy.

Country Club of Hilton Head: The verdict

Country Club of Hilton Head is a wonderful golf course with many holes you'll remember for a long time.

It's the right length, and it has a myriad of challenges, from water and sand to trees and sheer length on a couple of par 5s.

It has the ambiance and exclusivity of an old-fashioned private country club. Put it atop your list of island courses to play.

The golf course has a director of instruction to keep track of its many programs, from junior camps and clinics to the four- and six-tee programs to help adults learn the game through graduated instruction.

The practice facility leaves nothing out, and one can tell the importance of bringing new players to the game with the two sets of beginner tees in the middle of each fairway.

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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