The Palmetto Golf Club is a monument from the dawn of US golf. Thomas Hitchcock founded Palmetto in 1892 and he also laid out a rudimentary four-hole golf course, which was soon extended to nine holes by Herbert Leeds (the architect and early member of the Myopia Hunt Club). Herbert Leeds and James Mackrell, Palmetto’s first golf professional, extended the course to 18 holes in 1895. Since then, the hands of numerous architects, including Donald Ross, Alister MacKenzie, Rees Jones, Tom Doak and, more recently, Gil Hanse, have all tweaked and tuned the course that is in play today at Palmetto.
The Chicago Golf Club has the oldest 18-hole golf course in the USA operating on its original site and the Palmetto Golf Club can reasonably claim to have the country’s second oldest golf course.
The green complexes at Palmetto are a delight and their current size is the result of Tom Doak’s work, which pushed the putting surfaces outwards utilising the existing mounds to great effect. Additionally the bunkers were reworked under Doak’s stewardship.
Notorious for its excellent two-shot holes on the outward half, Ben Hogan reckoned holes 3, 4 and 5 were the best back-to-back par fours he’d ever played. Additionally Hogan apparently listed Palmetto’s 3rd, 5th and 13th in his all-time list of 18 favourite holes.With a clubhouse designed by Sanford White (who also designed the clubhouse at Shinnecock Hills) and a who’s who list of golf course architects who have left their impression, it’s no wonder that Palmetto Golf Club is on many people’s must-play list. Dr Alister MacKenzie was quoted in the May 1933 edition of American Golfer Magazine: “The alterations at Palmetto have been such a success that the Chairman of Bobby Jones’ executive committee at the Augusta National writes me saying, ‘We have only one serious complaint to make against you regarding the Augusta National. That layout you designed at Aiken is liked so well that the Aiken colony does not seem to be the least bit interested in coming over to the Augusta National’.”
I played this course during the last US Masters Week and although I have heard/read how good it was, I have to say my impression was even better than expected. It is located not long from Augusta, maybe a 30-40mins car drive which is not bad and while at The Tournament week this is one of the best golf courses you can play in the area together with Sage Valley but really different in what to expect. While Sage is perfection, this is pure golf history and one of the best set of 18 greens I have ever played: fast, sloped, tough to read, tougher to play and really fun, birdies will not come easily!
Club House is a small one, but pretty much the original since it was opened in 1892 y with a charming board of winners with some really big names from the game's history.
As all courses in the area, crew and staff know how special that week is and everybody is set to make your day really special.
And not as many of the proshops of the courses visited, this one is really good with a big variety of stuff and design which will for sure spend some money on it.
Course plays really tough, I tried playing concetrated and focused to post a good score but both approach shots and putting made it extremely tough. Every small mistake was punished with at least a bogey, short game is as demanding as you can expect and this is one of the best features of the course, you HAVE to get all your wedges working and even the bump & run chip will be necessary.
A great test, the touch from Mackenzie in every green and mantained at the highest level even when a small tornado hit the course 2 days before I played it.
Par 3 6th with that small tough green was one of the best ones, very similar to 14th at Los Leones in Santiago de Chile. Par 3 11th downhill was one of the greats as well, were tries hide the wind (as in Amen Corner at Augusta National) and it is tough to get the correct club.
Dog leg 12th over the water is the other great, where the more brave you are with the line of the tee shot, the easier and shorter the approach shot uphill will be.
I've read final 3 holes are "weak" and cannot share that: 16th is a very tough long par 3 where holding ball on green is maybe the toughest hole on the course, 17th is a nice downhill par 4 where again approach shot needs to be extremely precise.
And finally 18th might not be nice from the tee, but you need to be sharp. I went for the green and missed, had a really tough job to get the final par.
If you travel to Augusta and want to play a really good golf course, this is the one. You have everything a golfer will appreciate from an old golf club.
It didn’t take very long for me to realise why Clifford Roberts complained to Alister MacKenzie that his members at Augusta National preferred to play MacKenzie’s course up in Aiken, SC! Things at Palmetto haven’t changed much over the past 100 years since MacKenzie completed the work.
It’s truly amazing that this course has never appeared on any Top 100 list as its architectural credentials are simply fabulous. Its greens and visual deceptions are equally as impressive as the site that hosts The Masters.
It started as a 3-hole course in a tri-angular routing, that now play as holes 16-18 on the backside of the clubhouse. This collection of holes is arguably the weakest on the course.
It’s not a terribly long course, but it has iconic features recognizable across the world which offer up one of the most enjoyable walks in golf. Short-game aficionados will be tested to the max. As with all of MacKenzie’s masterpieces, the player is offered tremendous width off the tee, leading towards an immense challenge around the greens.