Haig Point lies to the north end of Daufuskie Island, across the Calibogue Sound from Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island. Whilst both spots are beautiful and scenic, the isolation of Haig Point adds privacy to its allure. Rees Jones set out a course here for a private residential community in 1987, returning to completely renovate the layout twenty years later when he reconstructed all the tees, greens and bunkers.
Interestingly, the tight tree-lined, creek-laden course can be played in two different configurations: the “Calibogue” tees require forced carry shots to be played over wetland and coastal marsh areas, whilst the “Haig Point” tees use the same holes but do not demand the same difficult carries.
There are also a couple of extra holes, one on each nine, which are used in conjunction with these two different sets of tees. The longer version at the par three 8th plays to an island green across the salt marshes, with its 17th hole equivalent playing to a green adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
Stand out holes include the long par five 4th, with its fabulous oak tree backdrop, and the par five 14th, which is the architect’s favourite: “[It has] been ranked as one of the top 99 holes in America,” said Rees Jones, “[and] we had to get an environmental okay on that because there's a little high piece of ground between two wetlands, where the green is placed.”
My playing partner convinced me to accompany him to play the Calibogue course at Haig Point as he is nearing the completion of playing the “ever” list of every course ever listed on Golf Magazine’s World top 100. This list is currently comprised of 242 courses. However, I keep reminding him that there are other courses on previous lists that take the number of courses to nearly 400. Still, it would be a remarkable accomplishment that he will complete sometime next year when Congressional Blue re-opens. It was due to my friend that I played Wild Dunes Links earlier in the day, followed by a two-hour drive and then a 30 minute ferry ride to Daufuskie Island where we had lunch before playing. For him, it was the rare day when he could check off two “ever” courses in one day. I am not trying to replicate his feat despite his encouragement, although I have played 163 of the 242 courses with plans to play at least fifteen more.
The Calibogue course at Haig Point was designed by Rees Jones and for many years was on Golf Magazine’s top 100 list. It is par 72 and the Red tees play 7380 yards, rated 76.6/143, the Black tees at 6900 yards rated 74.4/138, followed by the White tees at 6560 rated 72.5/132. There are three sets of shorter tees as well. We played the White tees following lunch. I felt the ratings to be about right, perhaps a bit heavy from the Red tees.
The course is somewhat vanilla in its design features and routing. It is immaculately maintained. There are two bonuses holes on #8 and #17, both par 3’s with the first option offering an easier par 3 without a forced carry while the second option offers a forced carry over marsh and a much more interesting green complex. The first option presented both times is an average par 3 while the second option are both very good and certainly elevate both the difficulty and visual attractiveness of the entire golf course. It is the feature I liked most about the course. As would be expected in the Lowcountry the terrain is flat and unmemorable. You do see houses from many holes although unlike the condos/houses at Wild Dunes Links, these houses are attractive and do not detract from the golf course as they are also set back from the course.
The bunkers are what one would expect, all beautifully shaped and basically consistent in depth with the exception of a few greenside bunkers. Most of them are large. However, there is a sameness to their placement at the greens which diminish the uniqueness of the greensite.
The most interesting feature of the course are the holes that offer a peak at the water surrounding the island. The second most interesting aspect are several holes with trees being either in the fairway or certainly encroaching on the fairway. Once would be enough, but I counted four times when this occurred which I consider to be a design flaw. The greens are good here, but not overly undulated. It is a golf course that is not overly challenging despite the ratings as the fairways are generous, the bunkers are visible and the greens are fairly easy to read. It is a golf course that does not offer up much in terms of decisions or strategy. It is obvious where to hit the tee shot and second shots on the par 5’s. Over time, when one has learned the greens, I am certain it is obvious where to land the ball.
1 – par 4 410/384/360. The course begins with a straightforward par 4 with two fairway bunkers left. Trees line both sides of the fairway. The green has flanking bunkers on the side and is angled left to right. The green is not overly sloped.
2 – par 4 430/418/390. The second hole is nearly a mirror image of the first except for three trees placed on the far left of the fairway. Similar to the first hole is the fairway bunker on the left and flanking bunkers at the green that are akin in shape to the ones at the first hole. The difference in the hole is in the length, the three trees and a green that is configured differently. However, the look is the same.
3 – par 4 420/392/375. The third is a sharp dogleg right with no bunkers and a much more interesting green than the first two holes as it has fall-offs on all sides. On the fairway, trees are placed nearly on the fairway on the left side.
4 – par 5 615/570/510. Other than 8B and 17B, I find the par 5’s to be the most memorable holes at Haig Point. They are typically long and dogleg with the most interesting green complexes on the course. The fourth has long sand down the right side and a inner fairway bunker on the right corner of the right turn. From there in one has to consider the two large staggered bunkers on the left side and one on the right that splits the difference in yardage. The green is nearly surrounded by three large, irregular shaped and deeper bunkers. These bunkers create a heart shaped green. This is a nice hole where par is a good score.
5 – par 3 195/175/165. Playing towards the water and a view of Harbour Town, one notices the houses truly for the first time on either side of the hole. There is a very long, sinewy bunker on the left that starts about 35 yards before the green and eats into the green creating a back left pin position that is hard to get to up a tier in the green. On the right front is another crescent shaped bunker. It is a nice par 3 and one can imagine sitting on the deck of one of the houses watching players tackle the challenge of the hole with its excellent green.
6 – par 4 450/425/415. The sixth is a dogleg left that requires a longish drive through houses to get to the tee box. There are two large bunkers on the outward right of the turn followed by a sinewy shaped bunker front right and one mid-center left. The green has a slight false front. Trees come into play a bit too much on the left turn.
7 – par 4 402/378/350. My favorite par 4 on the front nine is the seventh which is a dogleg left with a long inner bunker at the turn and two large bunkers flanking the front of the green. I really liked the green which is narrow at the front and then widens to higher mounding. Trees do not seem to play as important a role on this hole.
8B – par 3 200/172/165. While 8A is a standard par 3 with not a lot going on, 8B requires a carry over marsh to basically an island green as the marsh/hazard comes right to the edge of the green. There is a fronting bunker as well as one in the rear but the view of the hole gives the appearance of more room. You can only miss long or short in the bunker. This is an excellent par 3 for the visual as well as the optical illusion one feels on the tee.
9 – par 5 538/506/499. There is a force carry over the same marsh hazard to reach the fairway on this dogleg left. The hole is to be played down the right side for the best view of the green and to avoid the trees and second hazard. You need to cross the hazard to a raised green that has two deep bunkers at the front of the green. The green is large and has fine slopes to it from back to front. There are small depressions in the green. It is a good hole and another fine par 5.
10 - par 4 454/450/440. A long, forced carry over a pond is required to shorten the hole as the hole is a dogleg right. Two bunkers are placed farther down the other side of the pond to catch those trying to shorten the hole but do not quite hit it far enough. The fairway ripples to the green where there are two bunkers waiting on the right and one on the left front. It is a very good hole requiring confidence and decision-making. The holes have been very good from five through ten.
11 – par 4 440/410/398. The eleventh seemed too similar to the first and second with the only difference being there are flanking fairway bunkers. At the green once again are placed two flanking bunkers at the front as well as another tree on the left side of the fairway which comes into play too much.
12 – par 4 435/394/360. A sharp dogleg right follows and Rees Jones ups the use of trees in play on the hole by placing trees in the large bunker on the front left of the green. For that reason I did not like the hole.
13 – par 4 465/430/395. Playing over a pond, the thirteenth offers bunkers down the right side of the fairway ending with two bunkers once again flanking the green. However, there is a second bunker added on the right pinching into the green making the back of the green narrower and angled left to right. I liked the hole due to the shape and contouring of the green.
14 – par 5 625/570/545. We come to the longest par 5 and it is a terrific hole that ultimately doglegs to the right ending at the water. There is a long bunker on the left and then the turn in the fairway comes late where there are two bunkers on the left. A tree comes into play on the right side of the fairway. The green is surrounded by marsh and one must hit it or incur a penalty stroke. The green is sloped back to front. It is a well designed hole.
15 – par 3 205/200/195. There is another forced carry over the wetlands as well as perhaps the longest and widest bunker on the course to reach a green that is angled left to right with a bunker left center. The green has tiers in it and is raised. This hole requires one to hit the green or to miss well right of the bunker. I like the hole as it is visually attractive and clever.
16 – par 4 390/365/355. The final par 4 requires a decision if you do not hit the tee shot more than 200 yards as there is wetlands to carry about 25 yards short of the green. The green has fronting bunkers and is raised. The hole looks much longer than it actually plays and I give credit to Mr. Jones for that illusion.
17B – par 3 196/176/168. While 17A is a fine par 3 and much better than 8A, 17B is very good with a long carry over marsh to a green that is surrounded by bunkers with an open view of the water behind. The green is tilted back to front with a spine in it. I think 8B is a better hole, but this one is also visually attractive and fun to play.
18 – par 5 510/485/475. As mentioned, the par 5’s are good. We played this hole from the back tee which required a forced carry followed by flanking bunkers that squeeze the fairway. The other option makes the hole play as a dogleg left with no forced carry over the hazard. There is a second marsh that is about 20 yards wide but 50-60 yards short of the elevated green with flanking, deep bunkers and a false front. It is an excellent finish.
After playing the course, I thought it to be very bland and lacking in holes with views of the water. Yet as I rode on the ferry and thought about Haig Point Calibogue I changed my opinion. The par 5’s are very good, the par 3’s are very good, and three of the par 4’s are very good with a few others better than average. The course is hurt by the flatness of the course and relatively uninteresting greens on the par 4’s. It also should think about removing the trees that are placed into the fairway on three of the holes where they come into play. Once, maybe twice, to have that design feature is enough. The bunkering on the par 4’s are also too similar and the greens could use more interesting contours. I would not change anything about the par 3’s and par 5’s.
One can see why this course was once ranked in the top 100 in the world by Golf Magazine given the uniqueness of the course after it was first built as well as the sublime setting of tranquility. If one can get a game here, they should make the effort. The ferry ride, food, hospitality and quality of the course is very much worth it. If one wants to live in a quiet environment with access to the water, a fine clubhouse, and a fine golf course, this is worth considering.
There are a few clubs on this earth where you have to sail to get to the golf course. The Haig Point embarkation is on Hilton Head island, but the actual golf course is located on nearby Daufuskie Island, which is serviced by the Haig Point ferry charter. Passengers enjoy a wonderful view of the Harbour Town lighthouse as they make their way across the Calibogue Sound. There are no cars or commercial services on Daufuskie Island, it’s purely an island full of exclusive residential properties and 29 golf holes (20+9).
On the main course, two of the par 3s have multiple configurations, holes 8 and 17, offering multiple tees and greens. Each has a “Haig Point” set of tees which play to a more inland green site and a “Calibogue” set of tees which play to an exciting island green over a marsh. So in total, there are 20 holes on the main course to accompany the 9-hole Osprey course on the property. When Rees Jones laid out the course in 1987, his idea of having alternate configurations for the par 3s along the coastline was pure genius. Many holes along the coastline can get washed out to sea or can be drowned with the tide (think of the 18th hole at Wild Dunes (links) just north of Charleston), so if ever the club lost these Calibogue par 3s out over the coastal marsh, then at least the club would still have 18 holes to play and the Par of the course wouldn’t be impacted. The course itself has many iconic characteristics of the Open Doctor, and his bunkering around the greens is pretty penal. Rees Jones has performed successful renovations throughout the property in recent times and there are many impressive holes on show. The greens do have a lot of grain in them, and we noted that the green speeds were inconsistent while putting.
In my humble opinion, a number of the holes need trees taken down as the course is very claustrophobic in places and the green sites need more air.