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Hilton Head's Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run puts trees - lots of trees - into play

Lisa AllenBy Lisa Allen,
Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run - No. 18
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The 18th green at Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run will stay in your memory. (Lisa Allen/WorldGolf.com)

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - The biggest challenge Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run has is to get people to turn right. Not on the fairway, but right off of William Hilton Parkway.

Many of the semi-private Hilton Head golf courses tend to be east of the thoroughfare, but the island's only Jack Nicklaus-designed course is on the right, people. Compounding the problem, said Head Professional Wes Metheny, is that the semi-private course is tucked into Indigo Plantation, where the only other course is private, the Golf Club.

Given the economy, Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run has gotten much more aggressive in getting its name out there. It's also obvious the course does a lot to recruit novice players, from the short course that starts at the 150-yard markers on most holes adding up to only 2,949 yards, to a pay-your-age deal for those under 18.

A father from Indiana was delighted to take his son golfing for only $14.

Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run: The overview

So, once you're aware of the Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run, you'll find the service friendly and efficient and the tree-lined course in great shape. One whiz-bang feature is the touch-screen GPS system in each cart. Touch a particular hazard, and it gives you the yardage to it, then from it to the green.

The golf course is shorter from the middle tees, about 6,200 yards, but certainly not from the tips, which cross the 7,000-yard threshold with 14 yards to spare.

The course offers two sets of tees for shorter players, the whites at 5,259 yards and the forward tees at 4,974.

"It's very lady friendly," Metheny said. "It pushes a lot of the forward tees out of the line of hazards. There's not a lot of carry."

Olga Krecker agreed, a 28-handicap player who plays Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run each Sunday. She calls it a "very reasonable course to play - not too hard, not too easy. I never feel bored."

When you play the course, you will become acquainted with many trees as they are the primary hazard on the course.

"It's right tight," said Obie Bacon, a 10 handicapper, who prefers Golden Bear to other Hilton Head golf courses. He gave it a seven on a 10-point scale of tightness.

Golden Bear Golf Club: Specific examples

From the back tees, several holes qualify as "bowling alleys," Metheny said.

Then, when one gets close to the green, those darned trees come into play again. A prime example is No. 17. It bothers with only one sand bunker to the right of the green. The rest is trees, some which encroach on the fairway.

Water doesn't come into play often on the course, but when it does, primarily on par 3s, it's pretty obnoxious. Take, for example, the No. 4 par 3 with water in front of the green and a bunker behind, or No. 8, carry it or else. Consider those club selections carefully.

No. 5, Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run's signature hole, is a long par 4, dogleg left, but the approach is nasty, with water left and a bunker between the water and the green.

Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run's narrower back nine

The game changes considerably on the back, where Jack pulled in the fairways considerably and used trees to do the dirty work.

No. 10 announces its presence with alternating tee boxes marching their way along a long par 4 varying in length from nearly 400 yards across a ditch to the forward tees on the other side at 293 yards. Adding to the trees are left and right bunkers guarding the green.

Sand appears big time on No. 16 with massive bunkers at the green. No. 17 throws in just a solitary bunker, up at the green, and relies instead on suffocating trees, especially a pair that nearly form a canopy in front of the green.

The finishing hole is the most memorable: No. 18 is a dogleg left with bunkers flanking the landing area of your second shot and a knee-knocking third shot to a green with water reaching across the middle from the right and a ring of bunkers covering the left side.

Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run: The verdict

If you like to prove your accuracy on your drives and approach shots, this is the course.

It's tight but within those confines quite fair. It's a pleasure to note that Nicklaus carved a golf course out of the terrain, rather than tearing out the trees and bulldozing the land to his liking.

The course is particularly group friendly, given the variety of lengths from the five tee boxes. There are also a lot of chances to improve your game with excellent practice facilities and a short course to hone your skills.

More photos

Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run - TreesGolden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run - No. 15

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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