Hilton Head National golf course in Bluffton: 27 holes of war and peace
BLUFFTON, S.C. -- For more than 20 years at Hilton Head National, golfers have tried to master the 18 holes designed by Gary Player, the National and the Player, and the nine designed by Bobby Weed, appropriately named the Weed Nine.
No matter the combination of play, you'll face huge greens that are lightning fast, lush fairways that don't offer an even stance, some water and some sand. It's a formidable stew that requires accuracy and strategy. No sense in just bombing it down the middle, since it's not always the best play.
But the golf course isn't impossible. From the back tees, the longest combination is the Weed-National at 6,718 yards. It shrinks to 6,655 yards for Hilton Head National's Player-Weed combo.
Three other tees exist from which to choose, but there's a bit of a gap -- about 1,000 yards -- between the reds in front and the whites. And the whites aren't rated for women.
Hilton Head National's Weed nine
Hilton Head National's Weed nine is the most subtle. It opts for strategic bunkers, undulated fairways and elevated, well-guarded greens, but usually only on one side. Holes of note include the par-5 third, which is narrow with strategic bunkers left and right. Off the tee, anything far right disappears into a pond, rolls into a bunker or lands behind trees. Of course, there's a huge bunker on the left, too. It's a knee-knocking hole. The Weed's No. 6 ranks, a short par 4, ranks as one of my favorite among the entire 27. It presents all kinds of trouble. Water runs the length of the right side, into which the fairway feeds, and a steep hill to the left of the green turns anything far left into a blind shot to the green. Other design markers include shaved sides on elevated greens, offset greens, and on a pesky little pot bunker in front of the ninth green.
Hilton Head National's National nine
To properly understand the impact of the many sloped fairways, think left to right as well as front to back. Many of the greens are huge, so pay attention to the pin position and the size of the putting surface. You might add a club if the pin's back. Once on the green, many also slope, with a few undulations, so putting will be your nemesis. A few greens are even crowned.
Holes of note include the lengthy par-3 No. 4, with its ring of pot bunkers. I found myself playing ping pong from the bunker on the right the the bunker of the left and nearly back again. No. 4, a par 4, is a hole of strategy. Stay left, or the waste bunker to the right will snag your ball. The green sits below, offset and way to the right. It's a nicely designed hole that demands creative play. Bow to it; don't fight it.
Stay left on the relatively short ninth hole. The fairway runs above a drop-off on the right side, up to an elevated green with a wall-like false front. So try to arrive to the green by air.
Hilton Head National's Player nine
From the start, the Player nine at Hilton Head National is different. No. 1 starts with a hard dogleg right and a trio of bunkers on the left. From there, it's a sharp rise to a crowned green. The first chore: Get the ball up there and stay on the putting surface. Next, get the ball into the hole. And it's a challenge, given the green's sharp contours. This hole, for certain, provides a wake-up call. The second hole features a ridge of a fairway with a waste bunker along the length on the left side and trees to the right. It's a short hole but no cakewalk. The third hole includes two tees, with the back set transforming the hole into a dogleg left of nearly 90 degrees. The front tees, meanwhile, offer a straight shot at the hole. No. 8, the signature hole, forces a water carry to a par 3. The Player Nine concludes with a tricky par 5. You'll find trouble on the left. But visually, it's the natural play. Aim for the trees. You won't regret it.
Hilton Head National: The verdict
Hilton Head National's service is top-notch. Golfers are greeted immediately, and the friendly starter directs traffic well to the three nines, all of which start from the same area. It's a nice golf course, a rarity, so enjoy it. Occasionally, the distance between the green and tee gets a little close, so keep your voice down. Even with so many holes, many stand out. What also stands out is the staff, which appear to really want you to enjoy yourself and come back. And with the golf course always in fabulous shape, you'll want to return. Don't fight the feeling.
[EDITOR'S UPDATE: In late summer 2010, Hilton Head National closed nine holes. It is now an 18-hole facility.]
June 21, 2010