Shipyard Golf Club offers three nine-hole course for mix or match

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Now that Shipyard Golf Club converted its 27 greens to the resilient, smooth Diamond Zoysia turf, it seems any worry over green conditions is over.

Shipyard Golf Club - Galleon course - hole 1
The first hole of Shipyard Golf Club's Galleon course includes a mess of bunkers on the right side of the fairway.
Shipyard Golf Club - Galleon course - hole 1Shipyard Golf ClubShipyard Golf Club in Hilton Head

It's been a brutal winter in South Carolina, with 25 inches of rain since Dec. 1 alternating with sub-freezing temperatures. You'd never know it at Shipyard. The year-round Zoysia greens on all three nines were smooth, consistent and quick. The turf, with its intertwined mesh of blades accepts balls well, but doesn't leave ball marks. It almost appears plastic, it's so perfect. It's a great choice for a resort golf course with a lot of play.

I'll remember those greens first and the deep, fluffy bunkers second, especially after the brutal winter aforementioned.

A third aspect is the level of service. Shipyard Golf Club is a well oiled machine, with staff waiting to unload your bags to a welcoming staff in a super-sharp clubhouse geared toward resort players. At some golf courses, it feels like you are entering a club of which you are not a member. Not at Shipyard. You feel from the start like you belong. I liked the dining area setup. Love those medieval-looking chairs in a cozy setting.

The golf course also works hard to make families and beginner golfers welcome. You'll notice junior tees dot each hole.

"We have separate junior scorecards and those tees are a big hit in the summer," said Ken McNerney, general manager and director of golf. "Between 4 and 6 p.m. we have one nine blocked off just for families. We call it 'Family Fun' where we have reduced fees for adults and juniors, including junior rental clubs. We allow only families with juniors on this nine so that pace of play is expected to be slower."

Having 27 holes also is a dream for the maintenance staff, enabling them to close a nine if needed for extra care without cutting into play.

Shipyard Golf Club's Clipper and Galleon courses

Both Shipyard Golf Club's Clipper and Galleon nines were designed about 40 years ago by George W. Cobb. You can tell because they fit together. The Brigantine nine arrived about a dozen years later, designed by Willard C. Byrd, indeed with its own feathers. More on that later.

The Galleon and Clipper rely on trees, bunkers and doglegs to challenge you. Galleon starts with a par 4 boasting a daunting bunker complex on the right, followed by water. Gee, I think one should stay to the left on this hole. You'll discover that one should stay left on a lot of these holes. Another common theme for Cobb are greens with two front bunkers, left and right, with a narrow rollup right up the middle. Rarely are there bunkers behind the greens.

If you were still a little groggy on Galleon, the second hole jolts you awake with an abrupt hard left into the green - over water. Positioning your second shot on this par 5 is critical. It's a fun, knee-knocking approach.

The par 5 sixth hole has a palm tree one can choose to shoot over to land on the green. It's a quirky, intimidating approach with lots of bunkers across the front. Get to this green from the left, if you can.

I also enjoyed the par 3s because they aren't cakewalks. No. 5 on Galleon has trees right next to the forward tees, so a high approach to the green might clip a branch and change your plans. The fourth hole on Clipper has a water carry and a lot of bunkers short. Go long.

On Clipper, the par 4 number 3 is ranked about mid-difficulty, but I disagree. Chances are, your approach is going to be over water from the right that have nasty tentacles that swallow your ball and a big alligator to keep you from looking for it. It's pretty intimidating, especially since this a hole with a rare bunker in back.

Upon reflection, I didn't play Clipper, it played me.

David Croad and his father Jack, both from northern Michigan, played Hilton Head for the first time.

"I liked the alligator," David said. "The course was in great shape."

"The greens are nice and true. Fast, but true," Jack said.

What both will remember is the rough - dormant bermuda. "The rough is different from what we're used to (in Michigan)," David said. "It just grabs your club."

A personality change at Shipyard Golf Club

The Brigantine course at Shipyard Golf Club is a scenic nine with less of a residential presence. It's also an emotional roller coaster. Number 1 is a nice little warm up par 4. Number 2 is water all the way, then more to cross to get to the green. The stress increases for that shot. The green is offset, sandwiched between two bunkers. There is more water on three, but it's an enormous fairway, a bit of a reprieve after number 2. On the fourth hole, if you clear that mammoth bunker on the right, you'll roll down the right side for a nice little chip to the green. The par-3 fifth hole gives no ground. You're on the green or you're wet, but to be fair, it's a big ole green. Number 6 has a tight, tight tee shot with water and sand on the left and more sand on the right. Good thing these are nice, fluffy bunkers because chance are high you'll visit them on this hole.

Trees on no. 7 and 9 can put you in jail, so think the holes through first. Byrd created a nine with a lot of personality, with holes to remember.

Shipyard Golf Club: The verdict

No matter which of the three nines you play, you'll enjoy them. Clipper and Brigantine are the bad cops, Galleon the nice, benevolent cop, so mix them up if you want, or go easy on yourself.

Depending on the two nines played, lengths differ by 143 yards from the tips, 6,878 to 6,735. The front tees are more diverse, with a 264 yard gap if one includes Galleon, the shortest at 2,469 yards. It's a beautiful course, in great shape year round, thanks to the new greens, and an attentive staff. Try all three nines. You'll like all of them, for different reasons.

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