Hidden Cypress is a hidden gem golf course in Bluffton

By Joel Zuckerman, Contributor

BLUFFTON, S.C. - One of the increasingly pervasive trends about the golf life on Hilton Head is that much of the finest resort and public access golf isn't necessarily found on the island itself. The US 278 corridor approaching the island has seen a proliferation of fine courses in the last decade, with designs authored by the likes of Davis Love III, Arnold Palmer, and Clyde Johnson.

Another worthwhile venue was conceived by 10-time Tour winner Mark McCumber, who is the architect of record at the surprisingly good Hidden Cypress golf course. It sounds like a cheesy advertising slogan, but in this case it's truly appropriate. If you haven't golfed at Sun City lately, you haven't golfed at Sun City.

"We estimate that only about 30 percent of our residents were golfers prior to moving here," states Director of Golf Bob Pfeffer. Consequently their original course, Okatie Creek, is an extremely straightforward track designed with beginners in mind. This is in direct contrast to Hidden Cypress, the second Sun City course which opened several years later.

Hidden Cypress, featuring several forced carries over marshland, omnipresent bunkering and some truly innovative greens complexes, is a challenging and rewarding golf experience.

"Okatie Creek was designed to allow players of all levels to enjoy a round of golf, while our newer course requires some true shot-making ability," states Pfeffer. "Okatie opened in 1995, and is challenging without being overbearing. This fun layout offers five sets of tees allowing players to "pick their poison".

"The par-5s, all of which are slight doglegs, will require some thought as players navigate their way through and around the bunker laden fairways. At Hidden Cypress, there are collection areas around the greens that attract wayward approach shots, and creative bunkering that forces players to think carefully about their strategic options," continues Pfeffer.

Stretching just shy of 7,000 yards from the tips, most decent players will have all they can handle from the middle men's markers at almost 6,500 yards, with a respectable slope rating of 129. The McCumber routing affords players a nice rhythm, as simpler holes often follow difficult holes, allowing the golfer to catch their breath.

No hole is harder than the fourth, a 430-yard dogleg that requires two powerfully placed shots to reach the green. The ninth hole is shorter by 60 yards, but any drive drifting right will catch a slope and kick down into a lateral hazard, making bogey the best one can hope for.

Construction at Sun City is a fact of life, as the community is growing continuously. At some point Hidden Cypress will resemble the majority of area real estate courses, with housing lining the fairways, but such is not the case currently. Several of the front side holes have no homes encroaching, while the back nine, framed by magnificent stands of hardwood on most every fairway, is still something of a tranquil delight.

Hidden Cypress' inward nine

The inward nine has a pair of notable one-shot holes. The 12th is 165 yards over a lagoon framed by lovely Baja grass, while the 17th checks in at 216 yards, with a pair of fountains and a babbling brook adding distraction on the left. Call me a traditionalist, but I feel the only place for a fountain on the golf course is between the soda machine and the restroom.

The waterspout adds some pizzazz though, and more importantly, isn't serving to mask a weak hole.

The 17th is long, strong and worthwhile, with or without a fountain. Sandwiched in between the one-shot holes are a couple of fine par-5s. The first is No. 13, with a tough third shot to a well bunkered green that slopes away from the player. No. 15 is a visually striking hole from the tee that offers long hitters the chance to reach in two. Accuracy is just as important as power though, because those dreaming of an eagle putt must be wary of a green guarded by bunkers left and water right. While the penultimate hole is a doozy, the last is a bit more subtle.

It's a short par-4 menaced by an imposing tree fronting the green, water intruding from the right and a putting surface ringed by bunkers. It's a pleasing finish to an enjoyable golf course. The course conditions at Hidden Cypress are normally well above average. Generally you'll find fairways that are close-cropped and lush, while the generous and uniquely sloped greens are well maintained and true.

Avoid the sand at Hidden Cypress

While there's at least incidental water on 14 holes, the real menace is the bunkering. On the par-4s especially, placement off of the tee is paramount. Stay out of the sandbox and you'll often make a routine par with a chance at a birdie, but playing out of the bunkers too often here will result in round-ruining bogeys on the three-shot holes. With its quietude, challenge, shot making opportunities and conditioning, a trip to Sun City comes highly recommended.

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.

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