Morgan River layout at Dataw Island Golf Course is quiet - but not easy

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

BEAUFORT, S.C. - If one is looking for a relaxing day on the golf course, Morgan River at Dataw Island is the perfect place.

Dataw Island Golf Course - Morgan River - Hole 8
The sun rises over the marsh, as seen from the eighth tee at Morgan River at Dataw Island Golf Course.
Dataw Island Golf Course - Morgan River - Hole 8Dataw Island Golf Course - Morgan River - Hole 10

That's not to say the Arthur Hills-designed golf is easy or mundane, but it's simply understated. The hazards are still there - the water where you wish it wasn't, the gaping bunker awaiting your drive - but they are couched by massive live oaks draped in Spanish moss and well-landscaped areas all around the course.

Morgan River is the newer of the two golf courses at Dataw Island, built in the early 1990s, likely after several houses were already there. The course sprawls over the north side of the 890-acre island, requiring a bit of cart time between holes.

Whereas its sister golf course, Cotton Dike, offers a half dozen holes dramatically balanced on the edges of marshes and rivers, Morgan River is more serene and peaceful with visually quiet perils of interrupted or divided fairways and wave after wave of swales and mounds.

A sign off the par-3 sixth hole explains that the pond and its surrounding vegetation serves as a bird habitat and chemical-cleansing retention area. Of course, you have to shoot over that lovely little pond.

Pam Berg, a 17-handicap, enjoys Morgan River because it doesn't have as much trouble as Cotton Dike. Her favorite hole (besides No. 8, because her house overlooks it) is the 13th.

"It tempts you to do things you can't do," Berg said. Like try to cut the corner over large live oaks, one imagines.

Pam's husband, Ed Berg, a 13-handicap player, agreed about 13.

"That's a tough hole," Ed said. "That tree is always in your way."

Ed also had mixed feelings about Nos. 16 and 17.

"I have a love-hate relationship with those holes," he said. "You've got to love them because they're tough. But I hate them because they're tough."

The 17th ranks as the golf course's hardest. It's a long par 5 (473 to 562 yards) with an interrupted fairway about 145 yards from the green and a dug-out portion of the fairway that lurks just beyond that. For extra adrenalin, there is a pond snuggled up to the right side of the green and a string of bunkers on the left. Yeah, it's tough.

Other holes of note at Morgan River

The fourth hole, a par 5, has a pond just past the tee and stretching out along the right side. Shortly after it leaves off, a pond on the left starts up, just before the green. It's a very appealing approach, with sand right of the green.

The fifth hole has a bunker nearly in the middle of the fairway and a pond to the right. On this hole, leave your driver in the bag because you have some sewing to do, as in threading your shot through a needle.

No. 9, a par 5, is the only dogleg on the front. Its fairway is a jumble of rough mounds and swales. Really, where your ball ends up is based primarily on luck. To say the green is well-guarded is an understatement, using water and sand to its best advantage. It rates the second handicap for the forward tees.

In an unusual configuration, 15 and 16 are both par 3s. No. 15, long to start with (132 to 199 yards), is longer than it looks and stays soft, so don't count on any roll. No. 16, also a hefty length of 142 to 217, has a pond right and a bunker smack dab in front of the green.

The finishing hole isn't a stunner visually, but it is a great golf hole. Straight and long with swales and mounds trying to drag your ball into trouble from a very narrow fairway, it also adds a bunker the size of Ohio on the right. The green is elevated with twin bunkers in the front. It suits the rest of the course - understated and, well, classy.

Morgan River golf course at Dataw Island: The verdict

It's a sophisticated course that doesn't go for flash and gimmicky golf.

You won't see any windmills or absurd obstacles here. This is Arthur Hills at his subtle best.

Relax, enjoy the trees, birds and flowers and play some golf.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Morgan Creek review

    Catherine wrote on: May 16, 2011

    Thanks for the write-up and the photo gallery info...I am scheduled to play a tournament there and I feel a little more prepared now!