How to card some birdies on the Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- If you like Spanish moss-draped live oaks that line tight fairways covered in lush turf and smooth, reasonably sloped greens, the Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club is the place.
Around since 1963, the George W. Cobb course is a classic, featuring doglegs, strategically placed bunkers, plenty of risk-reward and great tempo.
If you're looking to turn in a card with several birdies on it, here's the strategy.
Fast start is key
Barony is an early-opportunity course. Right off the bat, it starts with a string of birdie chances, with the first hole a short par 4 with a visually intimidating pond that juts out from the left in front of the green. But if you have a well-placed drive, it's a short iron over the water onto the large green. The green is sloped, but not undulating, so holing a putt doesn't require complex geometry.
The second hole is a par 3 with another large green, so go for the pin to try for birdie. The third hole is a dogleg left par 5 that reads 523 yards from the tips, but a nice draw will add some distance to your drive. All of the sand is at the green, so keep the ball on the putting surface. Stay away from the left, though, because overhanging branches could rule out a full swing.
"The front nine is a little easier than the back, so get your game going early," said Jeremy Cadorette, golf operations manager for Port Royal Golf Club, which includes three courses: Barony, Planter's Row and Robber's Row.
"This is a left-hander's course," Cadorette said, given the number of left doglegs (six). "Accuracy is better than length."
The fourth and fifth holes are challenging par 4s, the first because it's uphill to the green and the second because the fairway near the green is squeezed between a pond and a bunker. Well-thought-out and executed plans are necessary.
The seventh and eighth holes, both par 4s, are less than 400 yards from the tips and bend left. Both have bunkers at the outside elbows, but if you avoid those, you're in like Flynn. Just make sure you clear the trees on the left with your drive. And, like nearly every green on Barony, they are ringed with bunkers, so nail the green. Pay attention to whether the pin is front or back on No. 8 because the green is pretty deep.
The par-5 ninth hole is rated as the toughest, but that appears to be mainly because of distance. The dogleg left is closer to the green, so your second shot has to be placed just so.
Opportunities on the back
"Numbers 10 and 11 are crucial driving holes," said Robert Wagner, assistant golf pro.
The 10th requires you to think before you swing. It isn't a long par 4, and if you're brave, you can take some distance off by going over the water on the left. But it's a tricky green -- tiered, sloped and undulating. A short putt is the best chance at birdie.
The 11th is a par 5, but getting birdie might take a couple rounds to perfect. There is a ditch across the fairway about 150 yards out at an angle that might catch a shot if you try to cut the right corner. More bunkers are closer in on the right, and the green falls off in three directions. Par is a realistic goal.
Next is No. 12, a par 4 that plays longer than it reads because of prevailing winds. It's a straight hole that favors long, straight drives.
The hole you'll always remember, though, is No. 13, one of the toughest holes out there, but the handicap doesn't reflect that. This sharp dogleg left requires a short drive that lands precisely where planned, but that alone isn't enough to score well on this hole. It's just sets up a wicked shot to a small green with a dense tree canopy and a mine field of huge bunkers in front of the green. Don't be deceived thinking the bunkers are right at the green, because they aren't. This is a brilliant hole and a par will cause you to puff out your chest.
The 14th hole is a par 3 over water, but it's a hefty green that slopes back to front. Go long rather than short on this one because the water will suck in shots left wanting.
Another birdie opportunity arises at No. 15, a long par 5 with a lone tree in the middle of the fairway that can cause havoc. The well-guarded green is deep, so pin placement matters in regard to club selection.
The ending trio are straight-forward holes, with a long par 3 to start and two par 4s that drift left toward trouble, either water left of the green on No. 17 or two bunkers mid-fairway on No. 18. Not a lot of risk-reward chances on these holes.
Barony Course at Port Royal Golf Club: The simple strategy
The golf course has a great tempo, alternating tough holes with easier ones, long ones next to short ones. It rewards all types of players and shots and punishes only miscues. Players will score well if they hit straight shots off the tee and seek placement, not distance. At the green, the course favors both short-iron players and those who prefer running the ball up, because nearly all the greens have access in the front for a ground game.
Go for the gusto on the front and try to hang onto those gains on the back.