New owners have Daufuskie Island Club back on the Carolinas golf map

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

DAUFUSKIE ISLAND, S.C. - It's all about new ownership in the Carolinas these days: a new owner of a new NBA team in Charlotte and a new owner of one the region's most unique golf properties, the Daufuskie Island Club and Resort.

Strangely enough, the histories of the NBA in Charlotte and of golf on Daufuskie Island are not all that different. Both broke onto the scene in the late 1980s to much fanfare and were embraced by the locals like long lost relatives. Both enjoyed wildly successful runs in the 1990s, and both eventually wilted under the strains of economic hardship.

But endless potential rarely goes unrealized, and the NBA and golf markets of Charlotte and Daufuskie Island are poised to make historic comebacks under the tutelage of savvy, determined owners. Charlotte will be led by recently anointed NBA owner Robert Johnson of Black Entertainment Channel fame, and the Daufuskie Island Club and Resort by Tiburon Hospitality.

Tiburon purchased the barrier island resort property from The Pinehurst Co. on June 3 for $23 million. For this princely sum, Tiburon inherits two of the Lowcountry's best resort golf courses, an antebellum style inn, a slew of cozy cabins, an equestrian center, a beach club and enough history to fill the Calibogue Sound.

"Tiburon has a three-year vision for this property to turn it into a private facility for members and guests of the resort," says John Ferrebee, head golf professional. "They jumped at the opportunity to get involved with one of the most unique golf resorts in the world. There aren't many places with this location and the background that we have here."

And getting there is half the charm.

The Daufuskie Island Club and Resort is accessible only by boat. Most guests, residents and employees, hop the ferry that embarks from the tip of Hilton Head and travels across the sound to a small dock on Daufuskie Island. A courtesy bus whisks you off to the Inn or one of the cottages and guest transportation is limited to club cars (golf carts) bicycles and horses.

"If you are looking for rest and relaxation, this is where you will find it," Ferrebee says. "The island has stood the test of time. Most of it is federally protected and will never be developed beyond what you see now."

From Melrose to Modernity

For an island that measures five miles long and two miles wide, Daufuskie possess a history that rivals any mainland, Low Country settlement. King George II deeded what was then "D'awfoskee" island to Captain John Mongin in the early 18th century for fending off Spanish pirates.

Two generations later, Mongin's daughter, Mary, married a local gentleman, John Stoddard. The couple set out to build one of the South's stateliest sea island estates and ended up with one of the Low Country's grandest plantation homes. The Stoddards named the palatial estate "Melrose" after the surrounding rose gardens.

Union troops occupied the island during the Civil War, but they spared the Melrose mansion from destruction. A niche cotton industry eventually emerged and thrived behind a group of hardy planters until a group of disenchanted bollweevis pillaged the crops and the mansion burnt to the ground in 1912. The Stoddards survived and moved into what was once the gardener's cottage.

The seed to the island's silky cotton plant did not, however, and Daufuskie Island's population dwindled to fewer than 100 and families fled the island in hopes of finding new work. The remaining residents were primarily descendants of former slaves who spoke the Gullah dialect and the island was all but forgotten by the local gentry. Best selling author and Low Country native Pat Conroy brought some much needed attention back to Daufuskie Island in his novel The Water is Wide, which chronicled his days as a teacher at the island's Mary Fields Elementary school.

Daufuskie Island golf: Melrose Club and Bloody Point

History and beauty alone weren't enough to secure a vibrant economic future for Daufuskie Island. On Easter Sunday, 1984, a membership group purchased a 722-acre tract that would become the Melrose development. Jack Nicklaus designed the development's centerpiece course, and in 1997 the Melrose Club golf course merged with the Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish designed Bloody Point course to form today's 36-hole resort.

The Melrose Course remains the Daufuskie Island Club and Resort's pride and joy and is the most popular play among guests. Many of the course's holes ooze Pete Dye - the Golden Bear's mentor at nearby Harbour Town Golf Links - but are forgiving enough to be deemed "resort" golf. The final three holes play right along the Atlantic Ocean. The par-5 18th, with the ocean in play along the right side of the fairway, is widely considered the most scenic finishing hole in the state.

"I think you can see Pete Dye's influence all over Melrose," says Ferrebee. "There are bulkheads around some of the greens, there are nuances in the middle of the fairways designed to make players choose a route off the tee, and there are small greens and shallow bunkers. The premium at Melrose is on shotmaking."

The Bloody Point Course, on the island's south end, was originally crafted as a walking course fit for caddies and other hoofers. The trek takes golfers along the banks of the Mungen River and the course is considered the more difficult of the two layouts. Bloody Point is currently closed while Tiburon readies it for the peak spring season, but Ferrebee says it should reopen in March 2003.

"Once it reopens guests are going to find an awesome course that is totally different than Melrose," he says. "Bloody Point's fairways run parallel to each other and the greens and tee boxes are never more than a few yards apart. It was designed as a walking course, but not necessarily a traditional course. There are some modern elements to the layout that golfers will appreciate as well, like the large greens and deep greenside bunkering."

With daytime temperatures in the low 60's, the winter months make for an enjoyable golf experience at the Daufuskie Island Club and Resort. Since the island is only accessible via 40-minute ferry ride, annual rounds on both the Melrose and Bloody Point courses rarely reach the 10,000 plateau. Ferrebee says it's not uncommon for golfers to have the courses to themselves during the week or on weekend afternoons.

"You can always rest assured that there are only going to be X-number of golfers out here," he says. "There's only so much room on that boat and it's only arriving every couple of hours."

The resort also recently added a state-of-the art spa equipped with eight treatment rooms offering massage, facials, body wraps, and nail treatments. The spa is located at Bloody Point and is available for use by guests. Stay and play golf packages are also available, including golf, lodging, and meals.

Getting There

From I-95, take the highway 278 exit and go east towards Hilton Head. Take the bridge across to the island and make a left on Squire Pope Road. The resort's headquarters and ferry disembarkation point are two miles down on the left. Ferries depart every two hours beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 10:45 p.m.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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