The Nicklaus course at Colleton River Plantation made its debut in 1993, six years before the longer, tougher Pete Dye layout was unveiled, with both 18-hole layouts set out on a peninsula that separates the Colleton and Chechessee rivers. The Nicklaus course offers the usual Lowcountry mix of wooded and swamp-laden holes, as well as featuring a closing stretch of holes that occupy a more open landscape.
It may be shorter than its sibling but the course can still be stretched to just over 7,100 yards, with only a couple of the par fours measuring less than 400 yards from the tips. The 166-yard 4th is a very photogenic short par three, playing to an island green out in the marshes which is completely surrounded by water at high tide. Golfers should also bring their driver across the bridge to the green as the tee boxes for the 5th hole are also located on the island.
On the inward half, the links-style final five holes are very impressive, starting with the short par five 14th, which emerges from the woods then doglegs sharply to the right, over a very large fairway bunker to the green. The 189-yard 17th is a lovely par three, its green perched on the river, whilst the 454-yard closing hole flirts with marshland all along the right side as it bends towards the home green.
Colleton River is blessed with two courses, two designers and two clubhouses, few clubs can say that. Disclaimer: I live there, and IMHO the Dye is the better course. I was introduced to the Nicklaus as a kinder, gentler “New” Nicklaus by a friend working at Links Magazine when the course first opened The Dye was added nearly ten years after.
The Nicklaus course with Jack and Jim Lipe designers on site opened in 1990 and has been the center of the Colleton River Universe for many reasons. As one expects in a housing community, there is housing but well set back it rarely makes an impression. The routing is peculiar in that the course begins at the halfway house some distance from the Nicklaus Clubhouse but 9green & 10 tee are both very near. Three looks are seen throughout the routing of CRC Nick – treed homesites, marsh front and dunes. The original Wendy’s ThreeTour event was held here with the dunes on 16 tee confusing Paul Azinger – confused but hardly his first time confused. The 2 handicap hole appears to dog-leg right, but it actually goes left.
The Par 3 holes are well-spaced and varying on the compass as well. The 4th is over Spartina marshland to an Island green attached to the 5th tee approached on foot by a bridge. Many will tell you that this green is more daunting to hit than the 17th at Sawgrass and it probably is, but there are never thousands in the stands. The marsh is tidal and is sometimes easily traversed on foot while other times the water is over 3-4 feet deep.
The eighth is very stout and both four and eight present a narrow front making the carry even more exacting. Twelve is also over marsh but with a long bailout. 17 is extremely scenic parallel to the Colleton River with views to several other courses on this river.
I find Par 5 holes the most difficult for an architect to construct well, but these are stimulating. Nicklaus and Lipe liked the third so well, they used the footprint at nearby May River (Hole 8) as the angles created are quite good. Ten is a hell’s-half-acre design stretching to well over 600 yards. The fourteenth is the introduction to the dunes portion of the routing with a drop off of about ten feet affecting the considered layup shot.
The pick of the litter eighth hole is blessed with a choice of a double of routes with a rare early centerline Nicklaus hazard (Much more consistently seen after collaborating with Doak at Sebonack). The right side must negotiate a tree and yet remain short enough to avoid woodlands to give a straight shot up the green avoiding the water left.
The Par four holes don’t rise to the same heights as the threes and fives. Hole 7 is notable for a true dogleg corner and a deep swale green that is a bit Biarritz. A true Cape 9th includes the tee shot and also the green surrounded by hazards. Eleven requires a strategic tee shot left, but no flexibility, left or else. Eighteen, usually into wind is a stout finish.
Compared with the sister Dye (ten years newer), Nick is about 2 a side easier with fairly simple greens leading to lower scores proven by the most recent winter intercollegiate birdie fest held on Nick for the first time. 72 hole scores were indeed about 10 lower with sub 64 rounds produced with the Dye not yet yielding that number.
As a member reviewing and criticizing these courses, the Nick is much more user-friendly, but not glaringly so – it just requires a little less precise golfing the ball despite more water penalty areas. It is the guest’s as well as the membership’s preferred course most of the time, garnering about 60% of the rounds. Most clubs would be very happy to have a course this good as their only or stronger course, yet here – to the student of golf course architecture and strategy – the Dye is greater challenge and more satisfying.
Colleton has a very strong connection to the stable of RBC – sponsored players in the professional ranks (And RBC is currently Heritage Classic Title Sponsor). Some Pro-Am tournaments are held here tournament time.
The one – two punch of courses at Colleton River Club (Plantation P.C. – jettisoned a few years ago as most coastal Carolina and Georgia clubs have done) is quite a varied pair that stimulates the golfer.
The Nicklaus design at Colleton River is a first-rate design in the Palmetto State. Challenging but never overbearing. There's also an array of shots that draw your interest and a clever routing that provides a range of settings that keeps you fully engaged throughout.
Curiously, for whatever reason, Nicklaus has a hard time in creating a superior par-4 less than 350 yards and you won't such a hole here.
Given the desire to sell real estate -- one might rightly believe housing can be a nuisance -- as it often can be because of bottom line bean counters. Quite the contrary here -- the housing is tucked far enough away where the golf takes rightful center stage in a number of instances.
Fergal outlined a number of the holes, and I will add a few comments that left a clear impression with me. The inward half does not get the attention that you receive from the outward half., There's a good combination of holes and you have two stellar results at the par-3 4th and the par-4 cape-hole 9th respectively.
The back nine starts the crescendo with a strong par--5 -- really like the position of the cross bunkers which play a major role especially when tee shot is not placed accordingly.
The par-4 11th gets little attention, but the key is attaining a left side position to open up the approach, which is beautifully situated and strenuously defended,
However, there's a bit of a letdown with holes 13-15. Players get the opportunity to take advantage of scoring opportunities before you reach the final stretch.
The ending can make a solid argument in being among the best closing run of holes in SC. The 16th is riveting -- you stand on the tee and the sound you hear is your knees banging against one another. The hole swings left and the intersection with the lowlands is done well by Nicklaus. The hole fits the space provided and fortunately there isn't the heavy-handed artifice that would rob the hole of the majesty it richly demonstrates.
The penultimate hole is wonderfully positioned -- a diagonal green protected by water and sand. Place the pin in the deep right corner and you had best have a vintage high Nicklaus fade in your shotmaking repertoire.
The closer rates among the best 18th holes that Jack has created. The drive is rigorously challenged, and the intimidation factor is alive and well because the deeper you go off the tee the higher the accuracy quotient is called upon. There's also a lengthy sand bunker along the right side that is well-crafted and fits naturally.
The green hugs that same right side and it takes a supremely gifted player to fit an approach when the pin is located anywhere in the back third of the green.
In my experience it's very hard to find an exceptionally designed course where housing is involved to such a large degree. Often times, the compromises that occur place has the golf taking it on the chin. That did not happen here.
The Nicklaus course at Colleton is ever close to a five-golf ball assessment for me but the stretch of holes I previously mentioned on the back nine and a few on the front cause just enough of an anchor to weigh it down.
Nonetheless, a very strong case can be made that the Nicklaus course merits placement among the top ten in the Palmetto State. Given the hurdles that one faces, both from a business side in selling real estate and the environmental requirements encountered the net result is a layout that is well worth checking out if the opportunity presents itself.
The Nicklaus is definitely one of his softer designs, its clear that the course was meant to be a more member friendly course as compared to the Dye. Its still a solid and testing course, with a decent number of quality holes. The finish through the dunes is exceptional, with the double dogleg par 5 14th taking the cake. 16 is another awesome hole with a teebox placed almost on the porch of the clubhouse, making it a nerve-racking shot through the dunes. I definitely prefer the Dye, as its definitely the better course. However, the Nicklaus is a solid second option. Also, if you have a few minutes before or after playing, I highly recommend the 6 hole par three course next to the range.
Throughout the back nine, the holes that interact with the marsh or the ocean are on the highlight reel. The par 3 12th over the marsh measures 200 yards from the back tees and it’s no easy task to hit the green. An important feature to compliment Jack on is the bunkering on this course. The par 5s have impressive cross bunkers and the par 3s have carefully placed bunkers to give “perspective” in the line of sight across the horizon. The climax, and most celebrated aspect, of this course are holes 14 to 18 which play through attractive sand dunes and waste areas that bring you out to the ocean. The topology and surrounding landscape completely changes on the turn of a dime, which really keeps your interest in the evolving property. Previously you were playing in tree lined areas, or hitting over marsh-land, and now the course takes on a third personality along the ocean’s edge. The par 3 17th along the water is very special and really shows how impressive the routing is to take advantage of such natural features. It’s worth noting that the 9th hole is a wonderful Cape style par 4, and from this green, you get a glimpse of the final stretch on the back nine along the ocean. This panoramic view certainly whets your appetite by letting you know that there’s something special ahead. It’s an enjoyable course with lots of fun shots, and a wonderful contrast to the Dye course, which only adds to the overall top notch experience at the Colleton River Club. Those visiting the Hilton Head area should jump at the opportunity to play both courses.
I'm a member here and I think your review is right there. Yes, it's easier on the golfer than the Dye and is a favourite amongst visitors, one former Euro Tour Pro telling me that it is lovely to play three different looks holes, pine woods, marshland and (faux) dunes. Scenic, challenging and fun in three words.