Old South Golf Links in Bluffton, South Carolina: A little bit of everything
BLUFFTON, S.C. - Old South Golf Links will appeal to those with little patience for repetition. Few holes are alike, well, except for the marsh holes. Those tend to blend together, but in a good way. They are all picturesque and scenic, but similar.
The rest of the golf course has quite a few tricks up its sleeve, from narrow, tree-lined fairways to wide expanses; the 10th fairway has nothing around it, except for that large tree that will get in the way of just about any approach. Assess each hole carefully, because often driver isn't the best bet.
Head Professional Jim Uremovich said the golf course caters primarily to tourists just over the bridge on Hilton Head Island. The views and lack of houses make the course different, he said. There are also four tee stations from 4,776 yards (par 71) to 6,772 yards (par 72) and six pin placements.
"It's got holes for everybody," Uremovich said.
Old South Golf Links handles 35,000 rounds a year, and Uremovich's goal is to get groups around in four hours and 20 minutes. Thus, he has a ranger on course to keep things moving - "and be nice about it."
In the morning, groups start off both front and back, thus the need to push them through. The scorecard includes a suggested time for each hole: 14 minutes for the first hole, a par 4; 20 minutes for a par 5; just 11 for a par 3.
The golf course starts and ends well. No. 1 lays it all out in front of you. Some combination of what you see there will continue to haunt you. There's a creek all along the left side with a piece of it drifting toward the fairway on the tee side. A bunker below a sharp drop-off stands between the tee and the fairway. Along the length of the fairway on the right is a tangle of trees and grass pot bunkers. Once at the green, there are a few more mounds left and a couple sand bunkers right. Yup, that's what you're in for. The only thing missing on that hole is a marsh view. Not to worry, the course has plenty.
Old South Golf Links' second hole will stick with you because if you sort of squint while on the tee, the fairway ahead resembles, in a way, a tennis court. The white 150-yard posts stand atop the edges of a ridge the fairway goes up and over. The posts, one can imagine, could be holding up a net, which in this case is the ridge. So you should try to balance your tee shot on that spine to have a flat stance for the second shot or blast it to the 100 yard marker where the fairway flattens out again. If your distance is a little lacking or a tad over ambitious, you'll have either an uphill or downhill lie.
The only awkward part of the course is tiptoeing through the end of No. 6 through No. 8. The distance between the last green and the next tee is minuscule, so try to keep your voice down. It's a little congested to say the least. To be fair, designer Clyde Johnston carefully extended some golf holes into the marsh, and one assumes there wasn't much semi-solid ground with which to work.
Indeed, the golf course is soft. With all of the marshland, the ground is like a sponge, making the course a little sluggish. Check the ground conditions before you choose a club. You should plan on using a little more power because the ground will grab your club, and you're going to be disappointed with the little roll you get. The greens are a little slow, so the breaks aren't as severe, but you'll have to give putts more juice.
No. 12 through 15 wander through the trees, and if you're not careful, you will too. No. 13 is as tight as any golf course on Hilton Head Island proper. No. 15 is a target hole. You have to position your tee shot just so on the sharp dogleg right. Once on the green, you can see you're heading back to the marsh, and you will remain there for the rest of the round.
An interesting promotion that rotates among the par 3s is a little gambling station. Bet from $20 to $1,000 that you'll stick on the green. If you do, you double your bet in the pro shop. If you don't, you still have a $20 credit in the pro shop. So, if you were going to pluck down some cash anyway, take a chance.
Jerry Moffett, a 15 handicapper from Alliance, Ohio, hadn't played Old South before, but has played most of the golf courses in the area.
"I liked it," he said. "I thought it was going to be a lot more water," but that wasn't the case. "It's a course you want to play twice."
Moffett said, though, he would play No. 16 differently. A nearly 90-degree dogleg through the marsh that runs 355 yards, it puts the women's tee at the elbow, making it a 135-yard, par 3 from the red tees.
"I would have come at it much differently," he said. "I would have taken a driver and tried for the green."
Moffett, who called the course "challenging but fair," recommended buying a yardage book to see how the holes lay out.
No. 18, a par 5, is a cakewalk if your drive lands in the middle or left side of the fairway. If it's on the right, you're probably going to wind up the day a little frustrated. A host of trees guard the green, and it's tough getting over them. If you do clear them, a mega-bunker wraps around the right side of the green.
Tony Strazar, from Brunswick, Ohio, also played Old South Golf Links for the first time. He, too, thought the water and marshes would come into play more.
"With the water and the marshes, I thought the course would be a little intimidating, but it wasn't so bad once we got here," Strazar said.
Old South Golf Links: The verdict
Old South is a very interesting golf course with a lot of variety. It's just over the bridges to Hilton Head Island, so it's convenient and worth the short trip if you're on the island. It's a short course that moves along quickly and tests all aspects of your game, with the possible exception of fairway woods.
July 8, 2009