Crescent Pointe Golf Club points way to upscale daily-fee golf on Hilton Head

By Joel Zuckerman, Contributor

BLUFFTON, S.C. - Hilton Head is a top 10 golf destination by almost any standard, but the plain truth is that most visitors don't set foot anywhere near the area's premiere courses. Sure, you can cough up $250 and take a spin around Harbour Town Golf Links, currently ranked 75th in the world by GOLF Magazine, but that is the exception, not the rule, in terms of public-access golf. The other elite courses in the region; Long Cove, Haig Point, Colleton River, Belfair, Secession, etc. are all private. A quartet of golf buddies on vacation from Schenectady has about as much chance of getting past the gate as they do of finding a bartender on the island pouring shots out of a liter bottle of vodka.

It just isn't going to happen.

That's why Arnold Palmer's Crescent Pointe Golf Club is such a boon to the area. It's a classy facility that is well conditioned, scenic and challenging. Best of all, access is unconditional. If you can pay, then you can play. It's a good deal that becomes an exceptional value in combination with the Davis Love III designed Eagle's Pointe Golf Club, located just a few miles further west on 278. Package rates are available and its money well spent, as Palmer and longtime collaborator Ed Seay have fashioned a pretty track amidst rolling terrain that offers two distinct personalities.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club's front nine looks similar to many area courses. There are lagoons and the occasional homes dotting the mostly wide open terrain, although there's no housing at all on the first several holes. The back nine is much more serene, although some houses come into view toward round's end. The encroaching woods bordering tighter fairways on the inward nine are somewhat reminiscent of a couple of local Nicklaus designs; Melrose Club on Daufuskie Island, one of the most underrated courses in the area, as well as the Jack and Jackie collaboration at Indigo Run.

Bill Layman is the director of golf at Crescent Pointe. He came to the Lowcountry some five years ago to open Eagle's Pointe, before moving on to Crescent a few years later. "One of the most unusual characteristics of this course are the elevated greens," Layman said. "There are some downhill shots in this area, though not many. But we have a couple of approach shots here that require an extra club to reach a crowned putting surface, above the level of the fairway."

Said greens run the gamut from large to small, some are undulating and others flat. The course is all Bermuda grass, while the greens are a Jensen-dwarf grass, similar to Tif-Eagle.

The blue tees are just less than 6,500 yards with a respectable slope rating of 130, while the Palmer tees are a shade under 6,800, with a slope of 137. The opening hole sets the tone of the golf course. It's a relatively simple par-4 of 360 yards, but with bunkers guarding the left side of the fairway, and a rock walled pond fronting the green. A well-placed wood and short iron will yield a birdie putt, but plenty of players will walk off the green shaking their head, singing the double bogey blues.

The second hole is one of the most striking par-3s in the Lowcountry, a substantial downhill carry over water, with ribbons of bunkering both front left and well right. The ninth is another one-shot wonder, better than 200 yards of carry over wetlands to a difficult green. It's a tough shot in and of itself, but with a long view of the Colleton River in the background, concentration becomes even more of an imperative.

One of Crescent Pointe Golf Club's more memorable holes on the back is the 424-yard 13th, a severe dogleg right with a Sahara expanse of sand along the right side of the fairway. A boldly struck tee shot over the corner of the bunker will result in a short iron approach to a green guarded by scalloped bunkering and a pond. The hole requires two quality shots, but it isn't often one can fire a mid- or short-iron at a flag on a hole of such length.

Speaking of sand, the presence and variety of bunkering is yet another distinctive feature of the Crescent Pointe golf experience.

"In areas where growing grass is difficult, Mr. Palmer decided to use voluminous amounts of sand, almost in an ornamental fashion, as opposed to pine straw or shrubbery," said Layman. This effect is evident on both the first and last tee shots of the day. While only the most egregiously driven ball will actually find these large waste areas, they serve to frame, beautify and define the landing areas. Another notable aspect of the sand at Crescent Pointe is the presence of beach bunkers, where the sand stretches seamlessly to lagoon's edge at holes like the second, 10th and 11th.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club: The verdict

The expansive marsh views and long looks at the wonderfully scenic Colleton River that are seen on holes like nine, 17 and 18 are rare glimpses from the private sector. These panoramic vistas normally cost six figures - the going rate to buy real estate or join the high-end private clubs surrounding Crescent Pointe Golf Club. It's a nice change to pony up a day's green fee instead, and have a similar glimpse of the Lowcountry's natural wonders that are normally the province of the privileged few.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club debuted in the spring of 2000, and quickly became a popular choice with both visitors and residents alike. Some are drawn by the consistently fine conditioning, others by the convenient location and many by the name association with The King, designer Arnold Palmer. They come for different reasons, but few will leave disappointed in the golf experience. This course is on a short list of area public-access facilities that are truly worthwhile.

Joel ZuckermanJoel Zuckerman, Contributor

Joel Zuckerman is based in Savannah, Georgia and Park City, Utah. He is the author of five books, and his golf and travel stories have appeared in more than 100 publications around the world, including Sports Illustrated, Golfweek, Travel+Leisure Golf, Continental and Golf International.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • review

    dave wrote on: Jul 18, 2009

    crescent pointe it was in terrible shape. i would not recomend this course to anyone. Greens and fairway were lousy. june 2009


    • RE: review

      darrell jones wrote on: Nov 10, 2009

      I can't comment on condition in July but it is just fine now,despite overseeding,,,the greens look lousy but putt fast & true & the fairways are just fine!!