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|Yes, among all that sand at The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes is a green. (Lisa Allen/TravelGolf)|
HARDEEVILLE, S.C. - On paper, Tradition is a sprawling community with 9,000 homes and three golf courses. In reality, the dream is stuck in the trough of the economy.
What does exist is an extremely well-maintained, 18-hole course - The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes - designed by Tommy Fazio amid a few houses here and there.
Now is the time to enjoy the course.
It's a young course, so it still has some growing pains in regard to immature trees and grass on the greens and fairways a year from adulthood. However, it's in surprisingly good shape, having opened in October 2007.
Common threads throughout The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes are waste bunkers along most holes, lots of sand, particularly around the greens and a sort of Texas mentality: huge, deep bunkers and enormous greens, many 35 yards deep.
"We have very expansive fairways with very contoured green complexes," said David Wilding, director of golf. "They offer a multitude of shots" from putters to hybrids to irons. Use your imagination, he said.
The bunkers have mean feeds that swallow up any ball that gets near them. Water is a common factor on the back nine.
"One of the biggest enjoyment factors is that it appeals to all levels of handicapper," Wilding said. The length varies from a monster 7,300 yards from the tips to a short 4,955 from the front tees, and in the middle, the white tees run to 6,200 yards.
The golf course starts with the hardest ranked hole for women, but the reason is not apparent. It has an extremely wide fairway with waste bunkers left and sand bunkers flanking the fairway as it makes a rise. The green is large and undulating but not impossible. I considered it a warm-up hole.
The most scenic par 3 is No. 3. From the tips, it's 230 yards, up front, only the standard 100 yards (as a woman golfer, one really, really tires of 100-yard par 3s. A little variety, please, designers.)
If one over clubs, you'll likely never see your ball again. Behind the green is a tangle of forest.
Moving on, it was a bit of a surprise to find on No. 5 a bunker plopped in the middle of the fairway, requiring you to think your way around it.
No. 7 is a gorgeous hole, obviously its signature hole. Unfortunately, the forward tees remove much of the risk posed by trees on the right and water left.
Bunkers run along the left side with water on the other side of them. The water then juts in front of the green, giving you incentive to stay right.
Another interesting hole is No. 9. A creek that cuts in front of the green requires most golfers to lay up on their second shot. Put your ball close to the pin because the green has swales that will make putting a possible three-shot affair.
The back rewards long hitters often, giving them several opportunities (11, 12 and 14) to shorten the hole. The shortcuts are windows of opportunity that will close as the vegetation grows.
The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes' 12th hole is worth noting because the trick is to come into the green from the left side. There's a nice entrance that is sand free. Put your ball close to the pin because a canyon bisects the green. You don't want to have to putt through it.
No. 14 is a beautiful hole with a middle-of-the-fairway bunker and water along the left guiding the dogleg.
No. 15 lulls you into complacency, but don't fall for it. Stay on your game, or your ball will trickle into the drink on the left. Bunkers are all along the right.
There are a few critical approach shots on the course. One is putting it on the green on No. 16. There is a sea of sand in front and behind. Smack dab in the middle is the green. It makes your second shot a little stressful.
The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes wraps up with a stunning No. 18 that bends to the left along a pond with strategic bunkers on the right. It's a wide, wide hole, so a foursome might doubt, when recounting their shots, that they played the same hole. Wind also plays a role on that hole, too.
"It's like a wind tunnel," said Kevin Jones, an 8 handicap. Jones appreciates the wide fairways.
"I get tired of playing Hilton Head golf courses, because they are so many trees and houses," he said. He knows that's short-lived. "I know there are going to be houses here."
However, straying from the fairway can lead to a penalty stroke. "Out of bounds is too close to the fairways with the mounding," Jones said. "I hit one of those and it ricocheted OB."
Hilton Head Lakes is a versatile golf course that invites creative play. As Wilding said, "we're the new kid on the block. And it's worth checking out the course.
Besides, it won't be long before you can impress your playing partners by claiming, "I remember when this was all fields and marshes." For a young course, it's in great shape.
The course has excellent practice facilities with fast greens seeded with tiff eagle turf. A small thing, but it was noted that its practice balls are Titleist NXTs. One-on-one lessons and a variety of golf clinics are available at Tradition National.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes was formerly known as Tradition National.]
June 2, 2009
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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