Many assume that Harbour Town kicked off the golf craze on Hilton Head but famous architects had their boots on the ground before Pete Dye. Robert Trent Jones was among them, designing his title course at the Palmetto Dunes Resort one year prior to the aforementioned PGA host opened. It was also the first course to open at Palmetto Dunes, followed by designs from George Fazio and Arthur Hills.
The signature hole at the Jones course is certainly the signature for the resort: a straightforward par five that travels for 550 yards between bunkers, culminating in a green where players can look across the beach to the Atlantic. The course is a traditional out and back routing, and the turn will be marked by two par fives…this one and No. 9, a dogleg right that plays along the largest lagoon on the course.
No. 11 will be hugged on both sides by the same body of water, and No. 12 will also use the reservoir as its primary hazard. Players must cross and play a fade of the proper distance to a green that measures nearly 60 yards in length.
Roger Rulewich returned during 2002 to renovate his mentor's course.
Palmetto Dunes has three courses of which the Robert Trent Jones course probably has the most notoriety. Most folks have seen the green on the signature hole with the Atlantic Ocean serving as a backdrop, this is the outlier. The first hole is a welcoming par 4. Tree lined to a slightly elevated green with bunker front left and right. The 2nd hole has a water hazard in front of the green starting about 110 yards out. Big hitters should consider laying up. Not sure why this hole would be ranked easier than the first. The right leaning 3rd is a birdie oppty if you can avoid the right fairway bunker that starts about 130 yards out. Past this bunker the fairway narrows. The first par five is pretty darn straight with OB all the way down the eft side. Trust me, those fairway bunkers right are in the landing zone. The first par three is mid-length with bunkers left, front right and rear. The 6th is a tough par four. Straight but long and tight, favor left of center off the tee and consider taking an extra club for the elevated green on the approach. The 7th is even tougher, as the number one handicap hole. Not quite as long but with a water carry. The further right you go off the tee, the longer the carry. The answer isn’t to necessarily compensate and aim further left as those fairway bunkers are in play as well. The 8th from the tips is 227 yards just about all carry to a thin green. From the other tees this is a mid-length Florida par 3. The 9th is a reachable par five that doglegs right. There is a large bunker on the inside elbow as well as two water features, one of which runs all the way to the green. A well struck drive in the middle of the fairway will reward you with a green light. Albeit, bunkers left and water right.
The back starts with the signature hole heading straight out to the ocean. Usually, the wind is on your face so getting home in two is unrealistic. Play it as a 3 shotter and avoid the 3 fairway and 3 greenside bunkers. The 11th plays tougher than it looks. The fairway bunker left is in play as is the water hazard right. The 12th is a fun Florida par 3, yes, it is a lot more fun when you birdie it. The 13th is a short par with a water carry. Decent drive and you should have an attack wedge in your hand. Another fun hole. The 14th is not a fun hole. Perhaps that was a function of depositing two balls in the water hazard? A long right leaning par four with a water carry and water all the way down the right side. The left fairway bunker is also in play, but certainly better than being wet. The green is protected by three bunkers. The 15th is a reachable straightaway par five, that is the good news. Now the bad, OB left, water right the entire length, fairway bunkers left and right in the landing zone and a green with three bunkers. However, three decent shots and you will be putting for birdie. The 16th is a straight away par four, decent birdie hole. The fairway is squeezed with fairway bunkers left and right. Also, consider an extra club to this elevated green. The last par 3 is over 200 yards with a water feature that should only come into play if you top it or chunk it. The closing hole is a good one. Dogleg left with OB left and right and fairway bunkers on the inside and outside elbow! If you hit a decent drive and find the fairway you did better than everyone in our group.