The Arthur Hills golf course at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club: A traditional gamut of trouble
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Hall Plantation Club is a steady-paced, traditional layout that does its trade in lots of little hazards.
It's a thinking man's golf course that puts small spots of trouble on every hole, and your job is to find them, hopefully before you shoot. For example, the pot bunker to the left of the second green is small, it's understated, but it's painful to extract oneself from it.
On other holes on the Hills course, all you see is trouble, like the visual din created on the right side of the par-3 No. 3. Mashed up together is a meandering waste bunker with some pappus grass springing from it next to a Narnia-like marsh on the right. The green is past all of that. Focus, you've gotta focus. It's only if your attention drifts will any of that briar patch come into play.
Noting the onslaught of hazards on the seventh hole is headache inducing. It's a dogleg right with a tree, making an attempt to cut the corner high risk. Beyond that, another tree blocks out the green also from the right, and a shot way left could find a pond. Other than all that, nothing to it. On the ninth, a field of bunkers lies directly out from the tees as the fairway swings out to the left. A bunker long and left checks your distance. It's a lot of data to take in.
Palmetto Hall Plantation's Hills course: The back nine
After the turn, the hazards come fast and furious. Ten through 12 dish out hazards like candy from start to finish, forcing you to tip-toe past them, progressing via finesse, not strength. No. 10 uses a bevy of bunkers scattered along the fairway, left and right.
The 11th hole on the Hills course is a deceptively difficult hole if not played correctly. It's the 12th-hardest hole on the course, but I beg to differ. It's way harder, given water close and right, then farther on the left. If you get stuck in the rough on the steep hill past the water, you'll remember your lie all right.
Trees stake out a large claim on the right side of the fairway and an interrupted fairway short of the green rules out a bump and run under the branches. In other words, you think your way out of one jam, only to land in another because you did just that. Grrrr. The 12th hole? More of the same, just with trees as your nemesis. (Nemesises? Nemesi?)
The trouble on 14 is on the left in the form of an extensive waste bunker that crews took the time to fluff. The edges pull in your ball, the sand doesn't let you out.
Palmetto Hall Plantation's Hills course: What a wrap
The golf course concludes with a beautiful 18th, a dogleg left arched around water for its length. It's one of those tee shots where you estimate your distance, pick a target, then hope for the best.
Too short or too left, so sad. However, a whisker too far right, and the resort bounce will put you back on the fairway. Beyond that, it's gnarly. Coming down into the green from the right is a challenging approach with mounds and a large bunker. The water on the left does its job on the other. Keep in mind that the green, of course, slopes toward the water.
"No. 18 is my favorite hole," said Mike Rotunno, a 13-handicapper who plays the course often. "Plus, you get to see the alligator."
He calls the course fair but difficult. "I like the way you have to play it. You have to think about it."
From the tips, it's a shade shorter than its sister course, the Palmetto Hall Plantation's Robert Cupp course, and a bit tamer, maxing out at a 74.1 slope and 142 rating, compared to 75.6 and 152, respectively, at Cupp.
But it's not fair to compare the courses. They are different animals.
"The Hills course is a much more traditional course," said Claude Thorn, general manger and director of golf. "Hazards are more lateral, with not as many forced carries."
Hills seemed to concentrate on the intricacies of getting the ball to the pin once the goal is in sight. Then he has a little fun. There is at least one really nasty possible pin position on each green, sometimes more. One can only hope the superintendent is in a good mood that day. A little sadism on his part can convert this course to a bear in a heartbeat.
"Of people who know all the courses on Hilton Head Island, the Hills course is their favorite," Thorn said.
Palmetto Hall Plantation's Hills course: The verdict
The Hills course at Palmetto Hall Plantation is a very strategic track in that all hazards have to be taken into consideration before one's tee shot.
On a few holes, there are so many, it would be difficult to remember them all. For that reason, it's a course best played twice. It does have a maddening, 1,251-yard gap between the forward and white tees, then squeezes three tees within 660 yards.
Overall though, the course is a delight. Even if in trouble, one can chuckle with the thought, "Yup, Arthur, I fell for it." Again and again.
January 18, 2010