Boom it in Bluffton: Long hitters can let 'er rip at Pete Dye-designed Hampton Hall golf course
BLUFFTON, S.C. - The Pete Dye-designed Hampton Hall might draw in a few golfers with its star power, but it brings them back with its first-class amenities, service and attention to detail. Case in point: The ball washers aren't plastic, they are metal and painted a gilded gold. A pair of towels are carefully folded and tucked into the dash of the cart.
On the golf course, the attention to detail is there, also. The monochromatic course is extremely well groomed, with well delineated fairways flanked by clipped rough, next to waist-high Bermuda grass. There appears to be only three colors on the course: green grass, lots of white sand, and blue water.
One color - white - emerges where you least want it. There isn't a fairway shot where sand isn't lurking. Most holes punish a slice with strategically placed bunkers or employ a bit of overkill with waste bunkers along half the length of the fairway. Very few trees come into play, but errant shots could wind up in the fields of uncut grass that pepper the golf course.
Hard fairways let balls roll into traps, which welcome them in, but don't let them out. Virtually every one has a mound between the golfer and his target, whether it be farther down the fairway or onto the green.
"We're not particularly good golfers, so we liked that the course is generous off the tee. It's the second shot that matters," said Alan Ford, a 17-handicap golfer who played Hampton Hall for the first time. "All the holes were interesting. The greens were great - (Pete Dye) always makes them tricky."
Greg MacKeen, a 6-handicap, also playing the course for the first time, said he loves Hampton Hall.
"After playing down here on Hilton Head with all of the little narrow shoots, it was nice to be generous off the tee. But Dye didn't overdo it. It was just pure golf."
Each hole is straight forward, but somewhat repetitious. On most holes, one can boom a drive with quite a bit of latitude and anticipate a long iron for a second shot. That makes the greens that much more interesting when coming in from a distance. You have to stick your approach shot because each enormous green will slope toward a collection area. Sand bunkers around the green await the wrong club selection.
Most - well virtually all - of the trouble on the golf course consists of fairway and green-side bunkers. It becomes a little tedious. A couple of exceptions include number 10, where the fairway curves to the left around a pond and all shots left of center fairway will roll into it. Number 11 has water on both sides and a mid-fairway ditch which requires one to think through the hole before hitting a tee shot. After that, it's back to grass and sand.
Hampton Hall's most memorable hole is number 18, one of the finest closing holes anywhere. A mid-fairway ditch requires you to commit to a strategy before getting out of the cart. One surprise is that the ditch juts out toward to green, so there is more to carry than one can see. Once at the green, it slopes in all directions, but none toward the hole.
Hampton Hall golf course in Bluffton: The verdict
There is no doubt the course was designed by Pete Dye. It has his fingerprints throughout, with bunker placement, huge greens and undulating fairways and greens.
But one suspects Dye's heart wasn't in this endeavor. The course is immaculate, service is top-notch, but your golf experience leaves you unfulfilled, left without specific holes to remember, with the exception of the last one. Maybe that's the point. Perhaps the memories of full-muscled drives and the last hole are enough to bring you back.
Practice and warm-up at Hampton Hall
Hampton Hall's practice area is most impressive, with dozens of stations on the driving range, all well-fanned to keep the heat down and the bugs off. There are chipping and sand areas and very representative putting greens.
May 15, 2009