Eagle's Pointe Golf Club puts playability on the map in Bluffton, South Carolina
BLUFFTON, S.C. -- "It's not that bad," you feel like telling John MacKenzie, Director of Project Development for Love Enterprises and Associates, the golf course design firm of PGA Tour player Davis Love III.
Sure, Eagle's Pointe Golf Club was shoe horned into a piece of reed-choked marshland more fit for a swamp buggy than a golf cart. The soil was mucky, sticky, even down right nasty at times. Heck, even the construction of the course didn't go as planned. The original ownership group put up a stink when Love brothers Davis and Mark routed a couple of holes through their home lots, halting construction for three months.
"It's okay, John, it was just your third golf course project," you want to chime in.
Besides, in the end it turned out okay. More than okay, really.
"That is a fun golf course, that is the best thing I can say," MacKenzie says. "There are some traditional elements there, the greens have some movement and there is more room and less out of bounds than you might find at your typical Lowcountry course. There are a few forced carries, but you have to hit the right part of the green to score."
For all its shortcomings, the Loves display a penchant for good golf course design at Eagle's Point Golf Club. Similar to Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III enjoys giving players plenty of room off the tee and placing the onus on approach shots. And Mark is quick to point out that everyone involved in the design of the course spent time hitting approach shots into the greens to determine shot values.
"It wasn't an extravagant golf course in terms of landscape like the one at Barefoot Resort (in North Myrtle Beach) where we had to double the budget," MacKenzie says. "It was like, 'here's the land, here's the money, let's make it happen.'"
Nor is Eagle's Point an extravagant golf course in terms of price. What you get for the money isn't as bad as MacKenzie makes out. The Jensen Bermuda greens roll slow, but true. And there are even some strong golf holes, in terms of overall design, with the par fours being the best of the lot.
"I think this is an awesome course for the daily-fee golfer," says first assistant Chris Thompson. "It is more player friendly than anything you'll find on the island, the greens are huge, and the price is right."
Fans of straight-up traditional golf courses will be pleased to find that most, if not all, of the trouble at Eagle's Pointe Golf Club is along the sides of the holes. If you are a straight hitter (a la Love III) you'll be taking dead aim at the pin from a comfortable mid to short iron distance on the approaches to almost every green. Only holes seven and 11 require forced carries of any significance, and the later is a short par three that ranks as the best one shotter on the course.
"I love that hole," Thompson says. "It has the challenge of hitting over the marsh, the beautiful landscaping, and all the makings of a great par three."
Love III grew up in the southeastern U.S., splitting time between Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta, and Sea Island, Ga. As part of the old North Carolina club pro lineage that included such names as Davis Love Jr. (his father) and legendary course designer Ellis Maples, Love III became intimately familiar with the golf courses of the Sand Hills region of the Tar Heel State. This influence is woven throughout the back nine at Eagle Pointe through the use of waste bunkers, native grasses and the natural influence of the towering pines that line the fairways.
"Holes 11 through 15 are really special, and I think you see the guys had a little more to work with there," Thompson says. "The Love's have an appreciation for the old courses and the designers that came before them."
MacKenzie and the Love brothers are keeping themselves plenty busy these days. Davis still maintains a full PGA Tour schedule, and Mark can be found either caddying or drumming up business for the firm. Lead architect Bob Spence is the "hands on" guy in the firm, making frequent visits to project sites. Love Enterprises and Associates just completed one of its most talked about golf courses, The Preserve at Jordan Lake outside of Raleigh.
The team scored a huge hit with its design at Anderson Creek outside of Fayetteville, and the course was voted "Best New Course of 2001" by the prestigious North Carolina Magazine ranking committee. A couple of new projects are also in the works: The Patriot, located 45 minutes south of Greenville, S.C., near a revolutionary war battle site; and a semiprivate course in Valdosta, Ga.
"The Patriot will be our 10th course, and we are proud of that," MacKenzie says. "We have three or four other things in various stages of negotiation. With playing professional golf being Davis' main focus in the next few years, we are limited to three to five projects per year."
August 1, 2002