Don’t think for a minute that Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus crafted Harbour Town Golf Links, got famous and forgot about the 12-mile island off the southeast coast of South Carolina.
Far from it. In fact the two share billing at Colleton River Plantation, which has both the Nicklaus course and the Dye course.
Of course, a lot happened between Harbour Town Golf Links and Colleton River Plantation. For one thing, that 1969 joint endeavor of the then-unknown course designer and the player-turning-designer put all of us on the map — Nicklaus and Dye as golf course wizards and Hilton Head Island as THE place to golf.
Dye and Nicklaus became renown designers. Dye’s trademark is punishing courses that likely will remain enduring masterpieces: TPC Sawgrass, Kiawah Island Ocean Course, Whistling Straits. But Dye also is adamant about providing alternatives routes so players of all skills levels can enjoy his courses.
Nicklaus has several indelible courses of his own, including Muirfield Village course in Ohio, the annual PGA stop he sponsors. Nicklaus, one of the world’s most prolific designers, carved himself a niche as the Golden Bear of real estate and resort development. Home prices rise wherever there is a Nicklaus course. Nicklaus tends to give you plenty of room off the tee, but then he tightens down the screws. Getting to the green is where the fun begins.
Fortunately for us, both men have returned to Hilton Head Island to add other remarkable courses.
Dye redesigned Robbers Row at Port Royal Plantation, a tight course that retains Dye’s flare. He also designed Hampton Hall Club in Bluffton, a monster course that measures 7,500 yards from the tips. Dye used knee-high grass for some of his hazards, giving the course an unusual monochromic hue. One of his latest creations, Heron Point at Sea Pines Resort is classic Dye, with crazy undulating greens, knee-knocking carries and hazard assortments that squeeze landing areas down to the size of a postage stamp. It’s my kind of course, one that you set off on a course off the tee and follow through with it, or else. There’s no room for wishy-washy, mamby-pamby golf on this course. Play Dye’s game or pay the price.
His other two courses in the area are private, Long Cove and the Dye course at Colleton River Plantation. Long Cove has take up residence on “best of” lists for South Carolina.
Jack Nicklaus also peppered the local landscape with his skillful designs. The May River Golf Club at Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton landed on the No. 2 spot for new courses in Travel & Leisure Golf when it opened.
Nicklaus also created the Melrose course on Daufuskie Island and his course at Colleton River Plantation. The Colleton River course concludes with some of the most memorable holes within a hundred miles, using enormous mounds, elevation changes and close encounters with Colleton River to firmly etch that course in your memory bank.
As for Hilton Head Island itself, it now has dozens of courses by some of the best in the business: George Fazio, Robert Trent Jones, Rees Jones, Arthur Hills, Robert Cupp and is one of the top golf destinations in the world.
So 42 years ago, a three-way risk of a designer few had heard of, one of golf’s greatest players who hadn’t designed anything yet, and a sparsely populated island with a single golf course spawned a meteoric rise for all.
And that’s the story of Pete, Jack and the island.