The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort in Hilton Head: Think man, think!

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort seems to be one of those tracks that's always mentioned when the subject of favorite Hilton Head golf courses comes up. It's not everyone's cup of tea - big boomers might not like the fact the driver is wrestled out of their hands on many holes - but the more pensive golfers seem to seek it out.

Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes resort - Hole 2
The par-4 second hole over water is the number one handicap hole on the front nine of the Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.
Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes resort - Hole 2Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes resort - Hole 6Arthur Hills golf course at Palmetto Dunes resort
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"It's got some interesting holes, especially on the back nine," said Chuck Cha, a mid-handicapper from Atlanta playing the course for the first time. "It's a good layout. I think it would be better if you played it more than once. I'd play it again."

That's the appeal, agreed Head Pro Clark Sinclair. "That's why the members like it," he said. "It never gets old, playing this course. I play it over and over and never get tired of it."

The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is only 6,651 yards, a midget by the standards of some of today's more modern, long courses. But, its lack of length is made up for in other ways, such as holes that test your ability to conjure options, to shape shots around trees and over creeks, lagoons and wetlands. There's enough risk-reward chances here to make you rich or poor.

"It's a shot-makers course," Sinclair said. "When I go out there I'm just trying to get it inside the 150-yard marker. So the driver isn't necessary all the time. The fun part is your approach shots. It's 'position' golf."

The course follows the natural dune lines of this part of the low country, stuck between a bay and an ocean. There are thick stands of palmetto and other island growth and, curiously, hardly any fairway bunkers or rough. With a slope rating of 132, it takes some work to get around the course absent any big numbers.

The obstacles start early: No. 2 is a fairly short par 4, but has a narrow fairway and the water dead ahead will keep the driver in your bag, if you decide you want to play smart. The second shot is also over water to a small, undulating green.

The ninth hole on the Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is a 518-yard par 5 that has thick brush both sides. There's unseen water starting left of the green that makes its way into the fairway, which narrows and picks up movement as it reaches the green.

No. 12, a dogleg right, requires a substantial carry over water - you can try as much as you like - onto a narrow landing area that leaves little margin for error. The small green slopes to the water.

The par-5 13th is another water carry, with the creek bedeviling you again on your second shot. On your approach, hit to the back left of the green and let the mound feed your ball toward the hole. Anything right and the ball will trail away.

But, the most interesting hole may be No. 17, a 380-yard par 4 with two water carries, off the tee and on your approach shot. Go as far left as you can on the narrow fairway without hitting the trees. It's a different-looking hole. In any case, you'll still be hitting over water again.

The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort: The verdict

The Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort opened in 1986 and they re-built the greens in 1993. It's matured nicely. The fairways have good movement, curving and rolling with quite a few uneven lies. Some of the fairways run away from you - like on No. 6, 12 and 13 - and the greens are undulating and sloping enough to make for some tricky putts. Beware, it isn't cheap, though: green fees are $145 during peak season, though this is one of the better plays on the island. It's a mixed bag for women, since the forward tees cut off the forced carries off the tees, but not to the greens.

Places to stay

In addition to Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, there are a number of lodging options in and around Hilton Head, including the Crowne Plaza Hilton Head Island Beach Resort, which is on the south side of the island, with easy access to the area's golf courses. The resort is located on 11 acres inside Shipyard Plantation.

Hilton Head dining

Hilton Head Island has a wide array of restaurants, more than 250, in just about every conceivable style, from French, German and Italian, to Caribbean, Thai and Mexican.

Crown Plaza has Brella's Café, with inside dining or its outside terrace, and serves salads, sandwiches and fresh seafood. It has a Sunday brunch.

Portz specializes in Mediterranean food. The resort also has Docker's, a poolside bar and Signal's Lounge, with a large dance floor.

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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