Contributed by Joel Zuckerman
Former USGA president Sandy Tatum is the man who coined the derisive term “cart-ball” to describe the modern game, particularly as it’s played in these United States. Where and when he came up with this epithet is lost to history, though it wouldn’t be surprising if he was visiting greater Hilton Head, South Carolina, when it popped into his head.
Yes, Hilton Head is in many ways cart-central, and buggies are as much a part of the golf landscape as ball washers, flag-sticks, and the snack-dispensing halfway house at the turn. But not every golf course in the area requires a mechanized vehicle to get from point to point. Two of nearby Bluffton’s most desirable daily-fee courses, Island West and Rose Hill, are eminently walker-friendly, and should be on the “must-play” list of any visitor or vacationer who wants to play (and walk) quality golf courses at very affordable prices.
The ever-popular Fuzzy Zoeller has the same amount of official victories as a Champions Tour Player (two) as he did in Majors on the regular Tour. (’79 Masters and ’84 U.S. Open.) But while his victory total is sparse, his resume and reputation as a course designer continues to grow. Case in point: Of the nearly 20 courses designed by Zoeller, one of the most enjoyable is the underrated, affordable, yet very pleasant Island West Golf Club in Bluffton, the mainland town directly west of Hilton Head Island. A long-time favorite of residents and Lowcountry vacationers, Island West features beautiful rolling fairways, elevated tees, carefully preserved natural marsh areas, and large live oaks. Over the last decade-and-a-half, Bluffton has developed into a full-service golf destination in its own right. So much so that an avid player can enjoy a “Hilton Head” golf vacation for nearly a week, and never peg a ball on the island itself, so prevalent are the quality choices available on the mainland. Island West is one of the major reasons why. Visit www.islandwestgolf.net to find out more.
This correspondent has been writing about golf in greater Hilton Head for more than a dozen years. If I had a sawbuck for every time I craned my neck rightward while heading east towards the island on US 278 in Bluffton, to see what was doing at Rose Hill Golf Club while passing by, I would have accumulated enough money to pay the green fees at Harbour Town every day for a month. But it wasn’t until last summer that I actually turned into Rose Hill itself, slipped into soft-spikes, and took the traditional four-hour tour. It was a pleasant revelation to find this recently-reopened layout cleverly routed, challenging and serene, but still user-friendly.
When the golf club closed its doors back in 2006, my first notion was “C’est la vie,” thinking the chance to play there had been permanently squandered. Thankfully, Rose Hill reopened under new management nearly two years ago. It’s no easy task to resurrect a long-moribund golf course, with grass growing head-high, and trees sprouting from dispossessed, hardscrabbled bunkers. But head professional Jimmy Powell, and the superintendant and his hardworking crew are doing just that. The decision was made to close down 9 of the original 27 holes, and leave intact what management considers the best 18. In terms of conditioning, there’s still a ways to go, but the course is definitely moving in the right direction. It is becoming an increasingly viable option in Bluffton’s rich stable of daily-fee golf courses. Visit www.golfrosehill.com to learn more.