Accuracy and strategy are the keys to success at Crescent Pointe Golf Club in Bluffton

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

BLUFFTON, S.C. -- Just a little off Hilton Head Island, Crescent Pointe Golf Club, an Arnold Palmer signature course, is one of the most creative layouts around. It's fraught with bunkers and quirky holes that toss aside the typical plan of a driver and a short iron.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club - No. 2
The par-3 second hole at Crescent Pointe Golf Club requires a lot of carry to avoid water and sand.
Crescent Pointe Golf Club - No. 2Crescent Pointe Golf Club - No. 3Crescent Pointe Golf Club - No. 9

Although it measures 6,773 yards from the tips, shy of the holy grail of 7,000 yards, it's a tough golf course that pits players against themselves. This isn't about the usual. It's all about creating a combination that will get you close to the pin in regulation. You'll use every club in your bag and like it.

"There are undulations out there like none other," Crescent Pointe Assistant Professional AJ Sturm said.

But it's more than that. It's the task of trying to parcel out each hole in segments that fit your game. That's the best part of the course. Long hitter or short, you're all on the same playing field. How well you manage the course -- that's what chips away at your score.

Palmer courses are rare in South Carolina, and Crescent Pointe is his only public signature course in the Hilton Head Island area. (He recently signed on to update Willard Byrd's work at the private Wexford Plantation Club on Hilton Head Island.)

Not only does Crescent Pointe Golf Club have the prestige of being a Palmer design, but it also earned Lowcountry Golf Course of the Year honors in 2010. Now under the Sequoia golf management group, the clubhouse was recently refurbished and the club boosted the number of rounds played, despite a tough economy.

The first hole gives you a dose of what you're in for. Off the tee, you can't see the green, so aim for the 150-yard marker. Once there, you see the hole swings left to a downhill green bordered on two sides by a tabby-like wall holding off water.

The next hole is a par 3 that requires a nearly 165-yard carry from the white tees to avoid water and sand in front of the hole. Don't drift right or you'll be visiting the drop zone. That's another attribute to the course. It does what it can to speed up play, which involves friendly drop zones over water hazards. Why revisit those little nightmares?

As your round proceeds, you'll find yourself steering your way down narrow elevated fairways with all kinds of woes to the right. The fourth and fifth holes have drop-offs that await shots that were just a little too long, a little too pure, for their own good. The sixth hole, a par 5, requires excellent distance to set up a nice little short iron to the water-fronted green on the hole that's only 465 yards from the whites. Then slam on the brakes for the seventh hole, a par 4 that severely punishes long drives with a roll-off into water.

You get a tiny breather on No. 8, but then you're back for a magnificent par-3 ninth hole into the marsh. With scenery like that, it's hard to concentrate. But concentrate you must with a long, thin green that rejects anything that doesn't stop on it. Prepare for an uphill chip shot every spot except from a waste bunker on the left.

The 10th lets you relax a little with an open landing area that really only punishes gorilla shots that will run through the fairway into water.

The 11th closes it in again with a mound on the right side that will flip errant shots into heavy foliage, making it difficult to set up for a water carry followed by a mess of bunkers for the last third of the par 5.

The 13th is a slicer's nightmare, a par 4 that bends its entire length around water with waste bunkers laid between the fairway and the wet stuff.

No. 17 and 18 let the scenery steal the show, with grand views of South Carolina sea marshes. Two of the most undulating greens are on those holes, too.

Crescent Pointe Golf Club: The verdict

The course requires you to lay out your plan from each tee, and driver often isn't in the mix. Crescent Pointe Golf Club is all about rewarding accuracy and strategy.

"It's very different from all the other courses you'll play in the Lowcountry," said Bill Layman, director of golf for both Crescent Pointe G.C. and its sister course, the Davis Love III-designed Eagle's Pointe Golf Club. "There are so many elevation changes that you just don't see in this area. Every shot makes you think."

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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