A few years ago I met my family in Charleston, SC for Christmas. We had a good time doing touristy things there so this year we met up a bit further south, and stayed on Hilton Head Island. This trip wasn’t golf focused, but I was still able to squeeze in two rounds while in town. For the first round I ended up playing Old South Golf Links, a course that I had heard good things about! I read that Old South was a good course, just with a few weird holes.
We stayed at the beach so it took me about 20 minutes to get off the island and to the course. Old South is located in Bluffton, just before you cross the bridge to the island. It is pretty convenient, no matter where you are staying.
I booked the earliest tee time showing on the course’s website (8:12am) and got there a half hour early to stretch. After getting loose, I joined another single and we were the first group out on an eery, foggy morning. I have to say that I’m very surprised that the course wasn’t busy early on a holiday weekend! In fact, the whole island seemed deserted while my family was there! Anyway, we played at our own pace, taking a smidge less than three hours to play!
From the little that I’ve seen of golf in the area, Old South offers something more memorable than narrow, tree-lined fairways! My first experience with local courses was when I played Hilton Head National years ago. Phew, I remember that course being tight!
Thanks to its great location on the Harbor River, Old South gives you plenty of marsh views. The course starts out with your fairly typical Lowcountry course features. You’ll notice water lining one side of the opening holes, mounding, and trees that can affect you shots if you aren’t in the right spot. The narrow looking 5th even has a small palmetto tree in the left side of the fairway, so be on the lookout for it!
The 6th is where Old South starts to show its uniqueness! The 6th is a 370 yard par 4 that runs out to the marsh. It is ranked as the #1 handicap, but if you hit a good drive then it shouldn’t that difficult of a hole. What’s unique is that it is the first of five marsh holes at Old South. The green sits at the edge of what I think is Bass Creek, and offers a nice view. If you like to take course pictures then get your camera ready when you get to the 6th green!
The 7th and 8th are two of the course’s possibly four signature holes, as they also play along the creek. The 7th is a shorter par 4 where you hit a layup up to an island fairway and then a short iron to an island green. The 8th tee boxes are on the same land as the 7th green and then you hit to yet another island, where the 8th green is located. The 8th is only 140 yards, but one of those holes where you need to hit the green or else you’ll be throwing a ball down.
I think the back nine is slightly better than the front. The back still has some neat marsh holes, but the other holes seemed framed better by trees and there were fewer homes. You’ll have to drive it better on the back as trees overhang fairways, creating some narrow chutes to play through. The 16th and 17th are the signature holes on the back nine and include another segmented par 4 and a par 3. These holes actually border the Harbor River instead of Bass Creek. The 16th is 383 yards, where you again layup to a section of fairway in the marsh. This time you turn left and play over the marsh to the green. You drive across three cart bridges to play the hole, pretty cool! The 17th is a 165 yard par 3 that features a peninsula style green.
I’m not going to argue with you if you think the marsh holes here aren’t the best designed. All the forced carries could be frustrating for the higher handicappers and the doglegs are severe. But, there is only so much any designer can do with marshy land. Management seems to recognize these pain points and has drop areas setup across the hazards to speed up play, so that’s great. I wish more courses would do that!
I played the blue tees which are 70.5/130/6354. I’ve already covered most of the trouble but if you can carry the ball in the air, that will give you a chance for a good score. I didn’t hit it straight the day I played but managed to play with the same ball all round! I pitched back to the fairway multiple times, and if I had made a few putts I would have shot a score near my handicap.
The conditions at Old South were good. The fog, some patches of super dormant grass in the rough (not sure what type), and the lighter color fairways don’t properly reflect the course conditions. I’m pretty sure the fairways were painted, which is why they didn’t have that deep green color. It isn’t my desired winter look, but painted fairways are still so much better than the completely brown fairways we that we mostly get up in Virginia this time of year! The fairways are bermuda and I had lots of nice, tight lies. The greens were cut short and smooth, but rolled slower than they looked. I hit it close on numerous occasions, but never could get a putt to fall! The straighter looking putts darted one way or the other while the breaking putts somehow straightened out. I paid $70 to play here as that is the only time frame that worked on my family vacation. However, if you have some flexibility I saw cheap times in the $30 range.
Clyde Johnston designed Old South and I’ve only played one of his other courses, Cherry Blossom Golf Club in Kentucky. That one was a bit boring to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Old South. I think all the marsh views outweigh any design quirks, and I think that Old South is a public course worth checking out if you are in town. Plus, if you play at low tide like I did, it is fun to see all the balls in the mud. You immediately feel better about your game!
#1 (365 yard par 4):
#2 (390 yard par 4):
#3 (502 yard par 5):
#4 (155 yard par 3):
#5 (513 yard par 5):
#6 (370 yard par 4):
#7 (353 yard par 4):
#8 (140 yard par 3):
#9 (368 yard par 4):
#10 (381 yard par 4):
#11 (170 yard par 3):
#12 (370 yard par 4):
#13 (335 yard par 4):
#14 (535 yard par 5):
#15 (354 yard par 4):
#16 (383 yard par 4):
#17 (165 yard par 3):
#18 (505 yard par 5):