Crescent Pointe Golf Club makes those marketing slogans come true

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

BLUFFTON, S.C. — Crescent Pointe Golf Club is one of those golf courses that is as fun to play as it is challenging. There, it's said. So many courses make that promise that it's become a marketing cliché, but only a percentage actually achieve it.

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Crescent Pointe was created by Arnold Palmer's design company.
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If you go

"Just in terms of pure fun, I'd put Crescent Pointe in the top three in Hilton Head," said Glynn Payne, a Hilton Head resident who should know, since he plays a lot of area courses. "There are harder courses around, but they aren't as much fun to play."

True, there are more difficult courses around — like Harbour Town, Long Cove and Seccession — but for the average Joe who can't always get on those tracks, Crescent Pointe may be the best alternative. Those courses can also get your boxer shorts in a wad with their difficulty.

Crescent Pointe is the only public course around with Arnold Palmer's name on it — Palmer Course Designs created it — and many of Palmer's personal design characteristics are here, including his well-known penchant for sugar-white, beach bunkers.

They aren't exactly near the beach — that's a few miles west over the bridge on Hilton Head Island proper — but many of them lurk near water's edge, doubling your danger and threatening your stance.

And you don't have to tee off with the animals from the back of the bus to have your sport here; Crescent Pointe can be a puzzle from the middle tees as well because it isn't length — the course is a modest 6,673 yards from the Palmer tees — that can confound you.

There are the bunkers, for example, and for another thing, the course sports the kind of rolling terrain that simply isn't seen here in the low country. It isn't overly dramatic, but after playing a week of flat Hilton Head courses, it stands out like a 1962 Buick with a bad carburetor here at this well-to-do vacation destination.

Part of the fun on this course comes with the variety of its layout. Tees and greens are elevated, and each hole has its own distinctive peculiarity, one of the signs of an imaginatively laid-out course.

You have to think on every hole, and not just off the tee. The greens lend themselves to difficult pin placements, and on the day I played it, it seemed I constantly had to feather an iron delicately over a bunker, or water.

Those greens are challenging, too, with their classic contours and undulations. They don't knock your socks off, but you seldom get a flat stretch of grass to the hole, no matter where you are on the green.

Accuracy is paramount here, mostly on your approach shots, but off the tee occasionally as well. No. 7 for example, the No. 1 handicapped hole, requires you to threat your tee shot to a narrowing fairway.

Too far right over the palm trees and you're in the water. Too far left over the bunker and you're also in the water that dips into the left side. Then you're faced with a shot into a narrow green that drops off to another bunker and, beyond that, to yet more water.

There are also a lot of natural sand areas to contend with, along with the water and bunkers.

The verdict

Despite its perils, Crescent Pointe still manages to be very playable. I suspect that's because it requires such concentration. It forces you to focus; I shot one of my best rounds here, for example, though I thought it was one of the more difficult courses I played, certainly harder than sister course Eagle's Pointe.

Aesthetically, it's fairly typical of lowcountry courses, other than its unusual elevation changes. There are homes around it, but fewer than many area courses, and it has marsh views speckled with native spartina grass around the marshes and magnolias on higher ground. You've got your natural critters to enjoy: cormorants, egrets and alligators lolling in the sun.

What I didn't like about the course was a lack of information telling you about the holes. No GPS or hole diagrams on tee markers. There are unseen hazards that, unless you're playing with someone who knows the course — and is willing to share information with you — you can easily end up in them.

Green fees are in the $90-$125 range, which decrease as the day wears on. It isn't unusual at all to find $100 green fees on Hilton Head courses, so Crescent Pointe is a good deal.

Stay and play

The Beachwalk Hotel and Condominiums, formerly the Holiday Inn Express, is on the north side of the island, two blocks from the beach, and close to shops and restaurants, including Coligny Plaza. There is a bicycle rental shop across the street.

The hotel doesn't include a restaurant, though there is a free, continental breakfast that offers most breakfast food you would expect. The staff is particularly friendly here.

The 91-room, three-story building is surrounded by landscaping and a lagoon, with an outdoor pool, sun deck and gazebo. Free wireless Internet access is available throughout the hotel.

Dining out

Hilton Head has scads of good restaurants. For seafood, Alexander's is excellent, as is Kingfisher, Red Fish and Eugene's Waterfront Oyster Bar. Fiesta Fresh and The Studio are also recommended.

Fast Fact

The Links Club program allows Hilton Head area residents a guaranteed lowest available rate year-round.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


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