Robert Trent Jones weaves some golf magic at Palmetto Dunes Resort

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - To some degree, the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort whipsaws golfers from the mundane to the magnificent.

Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes - No. 10
The signature 10th hole at the Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Resort brings you up to the Atlantic Ocean.
Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes - No. 10Palmetto Dunes Resort - Jones Course - hole 7Palmetto Dunes Resort - Jones course - hole 12Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes - hole 14

The course starts out with a warm-up - No. 1 with little trouble, long and straight. Then the second hole gives you a wake-up call, with water 100 yards from the green, you have to decide between a lay-up or going for it. Given the amount of water and a pair of bunkers in front, patience is advised.

For the next several holes, the trouble lies with get-in-your-way limbs and a quite a bit of sand along the fairway and around the green.

The golf course also sends golfers trudging along the noisy, bustling U.S. 278, the island's thoroughfare, for five holes, No. 4 through No. 8. The traffic is mostly shielded from view with vegetation, but the din comes through. The holes are long and challenging, and the noise is just another distraction added to many affronts to concentration.

Then everything changes. The course turns right at No. 9 and brings you along a dogleg right, with the sea breeze in your face. You know you're close.

Palmetto Dunes' Robert Trent Jones Course: The back is better

The 10th drives straight to the beach, just a fence separating sunbathers from duffers trying to will in their putts on the 42-yard deep undulating green. If you can block out the Atlantic Ocean less than a lob wedge away, you're likely in rarefied company.

Water will accompany or curse you for the next seven holes, many of them beneath strong, swirling ocean breezes or winds, depending on your perspective and your golf game that day. This segment of the course is a delight because each hole has a unique natural peril as the course skips toward and away from a canal system that runs through the resort. Jones did a masterful job.

No. 16 brings the drama down quite a bit, with a nice cruising, but narrow, hole with a single fairway bunker and some pesky overbearing trees.

The course comes toward an end with a beautiful par-3 No. 17 over a marsh onto an elevated green protected by no fewer than five hazards between sand, water and trees. Eh, but who's counting? That's the finishing hole one will remember.

Not that there's anything wrong with No. 18, it's just a bit of a let-down after the water wonderland that embellishes most of the back nine. It's a sharp dogleg left with sand and trees keeping you from the cutting the corner. A massive bunker guards the right side of the off-set green and a small one swallows up shots that drift left.

Lloyd Greenwald, of Atlanta, a 10 handicap, enjoys the course's doglegs. "There are enough doglegs right and left so you're not bored. The greens are big enough to take your approaches," he said. "This is my favorite course."

His favorite hole is No. 10 because of its oceanfront vantage. "I really like the back."

It was the first time for 18-handicapper Greg Bennett, of Georgia. He thought the course was pretty and narrow and the greens fast. He chose to play it because he had heard about the oceanfront hole.

Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes: The verdict

It's a long course, crossing the 7,000-yard threshold, and offers length off of all but the front tees.

There's a huge amount of variety on the course, from dry holes with enough sand to suck up any wayward shot to water hazards ranging in size from ponds to rivers. The ocean breezes add nearly impossible calculations for club selections, which is a problem only of privilege.

Finding sympathy for that is going to be tough in Ohio. It's a course that you'll play over and over in your head while you plan your return trip.

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.

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