Brown Golf is a golf course management company on the rise and from what I can see, they do things right. I’ve encountered a number of companies that come in and take over respectable, well maintained facilities, syphon off all the cash, let the golf course and facilities slide down the tubes and leave them as barren as a caterpillar on a milkweed plant. One such company in Orlando, FL, recently closed their doors out of the blue, leaving several high-profile golf and country clubs in the lurch.
Brown Golf manages 6 facilities in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area: Island West, Pinecrest, Crescent Pointe, Eagle’s Point, Dolphin Head and Palmetto Hall Plantation. They also manage two facilities in the Pinehurst area: The Country Club of Whispering Pines and Foxfire Golf Club, both of which are 36-hole facilities. CCWP also offers accommodations as well as stay and play packages.
I had the opportunity recently to the Brown Golf-managed facilities in North and South Carolina. I came away amazed at how playable and affordable their area courses are, and how good a shape they are in considering all the area has been through in the past 12 months.
The Palmetto Hall Plantation property, a 36-hole facility with courses designed by Robert Cupp and Arthur hills, was acquired in 2016, a week before Hurricane Matthew hit the area. Not what you want to go through with the newest addition to your company’s portfolio. The courses lost over 1000 tree during the storm, nevertheless, the grounds crew had both courses cleaned up and playable within 60 days. Grant Backus, Superintendent at Dolphin Head Country Club – a once private, now public facility – moved over to Palmetto Hall Plantation and set his crew about restoring the courses to their former glory, just like he had done with Dolphin Head. The remnants of Matthew are still evident as you make your way around the course, but do not infringe on play in the least.
Speaking of Dolphin Head, this once member only course now flourished under Brown Golf. It’s the only course in the area to be designed by Gary Player, who wanted to leave as much of the existing terrain intact as he could. Since it opened, Clyde Johnson has redone the tees, fairways and greens, installing the much quicker Mini-Verde Bermuda grass on the greens. Dolphin Head is really two courses in one – the front 9 plays through trees and forests while the back nine brings marshes and wetlands into play. Both nines are rife with Player’s signature bunkering, creating a course that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is fun to play.
Eagle’s Pointe is a Davis Love III design and has been lauded as one of the most environment friendly courses in the area. The course winds its way through strands of moss-draped live oaks and pine trees, freshwater lagoons, and makes use of the natural beauty and variety of the existing terrain in the area. Native coastal wetlands come into play on several holes and, in addition to adding a challenge to your game, they also provide some wonderful scenery. For the most part, the greens are large, and roll true at a moderate pace.
Crescent Pointe is an Arnold Palmer design and like most Palmer tracks, offers generous fairways and challenging approaches to elevated, undulating greens. Water is present but not necessarily in play on all but the par 4 18th. In addition to the water that dots the landscape, you’ll find a lot of sand; in fact, in areas where grass was hard to grow, they simply replaced it with sand. You’ll find several massive waste bunkers and beach bunkers, which butt up against the water and while they create great aesthetics, they can wreak havoc on your scorecard.
Pinecrest Golf Club in Bluffton, SC was designed by Rocky Roquemore, best known for his designs at Cannongate Golf Club in GA and several of the Disney courses in Orlando, FL. The course has a stunning and scenic layout and plays its way through strands of tall pines and around several beautiful lakes. Although water comes into play on about 15 holes, most players will find the sand more of a threat, especially off the tee. Greens are also well protected, with many of them being elevated. Speaking of greens, Pinecrest’s are large and roll true; if you want to score well, best to not leave yourself a lot of long putts.
Another PGA stalwart has also left his mark on the Hilton Head area golf scene. Fuzzy Zoeller’s Island West course features fairways with a lot of role and undulation. Island West winds its way through naturally preserved marshlands and strands of live oak trees, creating a beautiful setting. Water comes in to play in one form or another on 10 holes, creating many risk-reward opportunities. Bunkers have been strategically placed along the edges of the fairways and all around the greens. This is a course that makes you think and requires accuracy to score well, especially on the narrow, tree-lined holes. New golfers won’t be overwhelmed and skilled players will be challenged.
Brown Golf offers a tremendous opportunity to join not one area course, but all of them. That’s right, for one low monthly fee, you’ll have unlimited access to all local courses AND out of state properties too. You’ll also have unlimited use of the driving range and range balls and use of the tennis and basketball courts at Pinecrest Country Club as well as the pool and fitness center. If you live in the area or visit it frequently, membership is definitely something to consider. For more information, go to www.browngolfmanagement.com or visit one of their course websites.