Maybe it’s fitting that in this season of the College Football Playoffs that golf announces its own Final 4 for National Golf Course of the Year. That said, maybe it’s even more appropriate that South Carolina is represented in both elite groups.
Heron Point by Pete Dye, one of the Sea Pines Resort’s trio of courses and one of the more remarkable course renovations done anywhere, by anyone, has been named by the National Golf Course Owners Association as one of its final four clubs, from four regions of the country, for the NGCOA’s National Course of the Year Award, to be presented at the Golf Business Conference February 10 in San Diego. Heron Point will vie with Forest Dunes in Roscommon, MI, Ak-Chin Southern Dunes outside Phoenix and TPC Boston for the title.
Imagine deciding to renovate your home inside, but knowing you couldn’t knock down any outside walls, and, in fact, had to keep the traffic flow in the home the same. The gorgeous live oaks that framed the old Sea Marsh layout had grown enough in the 30-plus years since the course originally opened that they had created shade and air flow issues on the course, particularly at the tees and greens. Nobody wanted to cut down the centuries-old oaks, so Dye was brought in and told to do what he could to maximize the sunlight and air movement, but he obviously couldn’t change the footprint that wove his way through the variety of homes and accommodations that had built up over the years.
What Dye the magician did is nothing short of miraculous, finding sunlight for the formerly shady tees and greens, and creating a layout unlike any other on the island, by moving a lot of dirt to create rolling fairways and elevation changes on an almost-flat island layout. To complement its famous sister, Harbour Town, yet have its own distinctive feel, Heron Point does have Dye’s signature wooden walls, but at Heron Point, many of them are vertical planks alternating with turf. His par-4s are a combination of long and short holes, requiring imagination on every shot. His par-5s include a couple of sharp doglegs where driver might not be the best club off the tee. And every hole has distinctive mounding around the greens that make approach shots a true test of your game—some say a stiffer test than Harbour Town, at least around the putting surfaces.
What we the golfers get is something unique to the Island, similar in some ways, yet quite contrasting in others, to Harbour Town, even though they’re only a mile apart and were conceived by the same mind, the Hall of Famer Dye. And your round begins and ends at the spectacular Plantation Club clubhouse (named Clubhouse of the Year by Golf, Inc.), providing panoramic views of the first tee, the 18th hole across a large lagoon, and an expansive practice area.
Final Four on Hilton Head Island would be victory enough for Heron Point. But we’re talking best in Golf-Nation now, and certainly another course to add to your bucket list.