Robert Trent Jones at Palmetto Dunes
Hilton Head Island boasts numerous great courses and the Robert Trent Jones course located at the Palmetto Dunes Resort definitely checks that box. Built in 1967, this course is one of the older designs on the island and is one of literally hundreds of Robert Trent Jones courses that are found around the globe. Jones is known as one of the first architects to see where the game of golf was headed. He knew that length was going to be a key factor in course design and his courses are built with that in mind. Large bunkers guard his fairways at landing points for drives. He also was one of the first pioneers that used the idea of a runway tee box. In some situations, a hole can have a tee box that measures over fifty yards in length with the idea of making then hole playable for players of all ability.
One of the older courses on the island, this course features large open fairways and friendly sized greens. On an island such as Hilton Head, any fairway that is large is unusual. The open space gives this course some expansive views and players multiple options off the tee. Simply put, it is a different round of golf on Hilton Head, and that is part of what makes it fun. It also features some of the other Jones staples. Large bunkers and water hazards are prevalent throughout the course, and while this design certainly does not play as hard as some of his courses that have held major championships, it certainly will provide a stern test.
The course leaves the clubhouse and begins a journey that heads to the ocean. The design is a large loop with the tenth green being the furthest point of the course away from the clubhouse. The opening few holes play within the trees and don’t require a lot of length. As with many courses in the low country, precision off the tee is important as towering pines can create awkward angles should players get too far off track with their tee shot. This pair of short par 4s will give players an opportunity to get off to a comfortable start before the course starts to really show its teeth. The fourth through the seventh hole will test players with a premium on accuracy.
RTJ also features one of the best stretches of golf on the island. The ninth and tenth holes are par fives that play directly toward the ocean. The stretch culminates at the tenth green nestled amongst the dunes and featuring a stunning view of the Atlantic Ocean. It is one of the only holes on the island actually located on the beach.
The stretch of holes starting with eleven through fourteen is my favorite of the course. Playing among the lagoons that are so prevalent with courses on Hilton Head, these holes give players safe options off the tee but also allow for an aggressive line. Those who are more bold will be rewarded with short approaches with good angles. The twelfth hole is a par three that is a forced carry with a short iron. It is scenic and challenging.
In my opinion, the finish of the RTJ course is a bit of disappointment. The last hole is a sharp dogleg to the left that requires for most less than driver off the tee, leaving a relative long second shot. After a course that felt so open and expansive, it really feels like this last hole was squeezed in.
Robert Trent Jones is known for some great designs. Oakland Hills, Atlanta Athletic Club, Spyglass and Firestone are some of the courses known to test the world’s best players. The Jones course at Palmetto Dunes is certainly not on par with those courses in terms of difficulty, but it will certainly provide some challenges. The course does a nice job of being playable while also presenting players with some difficult holes. This course is enjoyable and scenic. Good players will find plenty of difficulty while those looking for a fun round will have a good time as well.