Original Article by David Theoret
The Palmetto Hall Plantation Club features two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by two very recognizable names: Robert Cupp and Arthur Hills.
When it opened in 1993, the Robert Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall on Hilton Head Island had the highest slope rating from the back tees (152) of any course in the state. Although that honor has since bestowed upon Pete Dye and the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort – which comes in at the USGA max of 155 – the Cupp Course will still challenge all comers. It is a must play for all golfers who visit the Hilton Head area.
From the tips, the Cupp Course plays 7,079 yards with a course rating of 75.0 and a slope of 143. If you were skiing, the tips would be rated Double-Black Diamonds; in other words, they are for the pros. So, if your golf game has never been written about in Golf Digest, you probably shouldn’t play from back here. Several holes require carries of 225+ just to find mother earth. If you’re still debating this feat, stroll on over to the 9th tee and take a look at what you need to do with your tee shot on the 472-yard par 4. That’s right, 472-yard, par 4!
Before your round, warm up on Palmetto Plantation’s driving range where you can hit every club in the bag. Be sure to hit some putts to get an idea of what you’ll be dealing with once you get out there.
Mere mortal golfers will have all they can handle from the White Tees, which play 6,025 and carry a course rating of 70 and a slope of 128. Ladies may choose to play from either 5,605 or 5,182 yards.
Cupp created the course on a computer, something that is commonplace nowadays but not so much in the early 1990s. That’s why you will find a lot of straight lines and recognizable geometric figures, especially when it comes to the bunkers. There’s a lot of mounding too, in and around fairways and greens alike. The greens come in all sizes and shapes, several with false fronts, unfriendly slopes and a lot of subtle undulations.
One of the holes that brings back memories – not necessarily good – is the 2nd, a par 5 that plays a mere 468 yards from the White Tees. From the distance alone, it sounds like a no-brainer to go for the green in two, however the creek that makes its way across the fairway may have you thinking twice. It sits about 240 yards from the green and if you’re not on the left side of the fairway, you’ll have to lay up anyway. Up near the green, trees really crowd the right side and with all the mounding, the left is no bargain either. Even at 468 yards, par is still a good score.
Number 10 is a three-shot par 5, that plays 474 yards from the White Tees. I say three-shot because of the large pond that sits directly in front of the green. Play left of the large fairway bunker on the left and then hit a layup shot short of the water and then a short approach shot to an elevated two-tiered green.
Another favorite hole – and one that gives you about the best chance at birdie on the course – is the short par 4, Number 11, which plays 290 yards from the white tees. Hit something less than driver off the tee, short of the triangular bunker, and you’ll be left with a short pitch shot to a green where the pin is probably blocked out by a large mound. The green’s not real deep so distance control is at a premium.
A good course needs a great finishing hole and Number 18 is ready to take on anyone who dares. It’s a par 4, dogleg right around two lakes that plays 357 yards from the White Tees. Playing your tee shot down the left side of the fairway will give you the best approach angle and take the water out of play as much as possible. Any pin placements on the right side and the water is in play, no matter where you come at it from. Make your par and head to the 19th hole.
After your round, head into the clubhouse to Baird’s Pub for your favorite après-golf libation. Baird’s also has an outstanding menu with a Lowcountry theme that showcases many of Hilton Head Island’s fresh local ingredients. In fact, all of their seafood and meet dishes are prepared fresh daily.
The pro shop at Palmetto Hall is one of the best stocked in the area for men’s and women’s golf apparel and they carry several unique designers. They are more than willing to accommodate whatever you’re looking for, so if you don’t see what you want, just ask and they’ll help you find it.
Last Word: The Cupp Course is one of the most exciting layouts on the Island as it winds its way through dense oak and pine forests and large Lowcountry marshes. From an aerial view, the layout is spectacular with its geometry all over the course. From a playing perspective, it can be as tough or as gentle as you want it, just pick the right set of tees. With narrow fairways and natural impediments at both ends of the fairway, each hole offers a new start, regardless of how you did on the previous hole.
The previous course management companies didn’t do the property justice and let it slip into conditions far worse than what you see today. Brown Golf Management stepped up to the plate and took over Palmetto Hall, unfortunately a little over a week before Hurricane Matthew struck the area. You can still see remnants of the devastation as you make your way around the course. Brown Golf has been making great strides in returning the courses to their former glory including bringing over Superintendent Grant Backus from their Dolphin Head property. Backus was instrumental in turning Dolphin Head around and looks forward to doing the same thing with Palmetto Hall.
Palmetto Hall Plantation is managed by Brown Golf Management, and offers some tremendous opportunities for membership. With 7 courses in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area, members can have access to unlimited golf on all courses as well as unlimited range balls, use of the tennis facility and unlimited free golf lessons from a PGA Professional. For more information on becoming a member or playing at Palmetto Hall Plantation, visit their website at www.palmettohallcc.com.