BLUFFTON, S.C. - Colleton River Plantation's acclaimed Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course received a shiny new present this past year: a strikingly beautiful clubhouse full of space and amenities.
Though the course and community were built at the beginning of the 1990s, the clubhouse has helped the development stay ahead of the ultra-competitive, Southeastern golf and real estate market.
"The community is much established," said John Ussery, realtor of Colleton River. "But to some degree it's a brand new amenity package thanks to the new Nicklaus clubhouse."
The clubhouse was entirely paid for by the members themselves and has helped elevate the community to the cream of the crop in the Hilton Head area. As the real estate market slows nationally, Colleton River managed better sales in 2006 than previous years, something no other neighboring golf community can say.
The original course at Colleton River, the Nicklaus Course is also higher rated by several publications - including TravelGolf.com and Golf Digest - than its neighbor, Colleton River's Pete Dye-designed course, which is set alongside the beautiful Port Royal Sound.
Debate ranges among members which is the better course, but that's a good problem to have. Both the Nicklaus and Dye possess different challenges and a different palette. The Nicklaus, in fact, has several different identities wrapped into one.
The course's first three holes begin as a traditional inland, Lowcountry course, tightly lined by trees and weaving among finger lakes.
The par-3 fourth hole is the first of several visual stunners. It's a delicate, 130-160 yard shot to an island green entirely over marsh with seemingly zero room for error. The following hole plays from an island tee box, a long carry over the same marsh to the fairway. That isn't the last time you're playing daring, penal shots either. The 9th hole doglegs left around wetlands to a shallow peninsula green guarded on three sides.
The gargantuan par-5 10th hole seemingly goes on forever: straight ahead, gently uphill that plays as long as 612 yards and begins another collection of woodland and marsh holes.
By the next par-5, the 14th, the course takes on another new identity for the remaining holes: a more barren, rolling wasteland look, featuring expansive waste bunkering lining each fairway.
The best views are saved for last on this course. The 17th green and 18th tee play along the banks of the river. Like Dye Course, the finishing hole here is a long, penal par 4 that offers a wide landing zone for the drive but a difficult shot towards a green guarded by water, framed by the new clubhouse in the backdrop.
Both the Nicklaus Course at Colleton River and neighboring Dye Course are private, though memberships are currently available and can be awarded through purchase of property within the plantation. Membership tops out at about 700 members for both courses.
Nicklaus Course at Colleton River Plantation: The Verdict
A spectacular piece of land has helped make Colleton River's Nicklaus Course one of the top golf courses in South Carolina. It's a piece of property particularly inspiring to Nicklaus.
"Colleton River reminds me of Cypress Point," said Nicklaus. "It has as many elements as any golf course on the East Coast."
Fellow tour pro and golf course architect Greg Norman called Colleton River Nicklaus' best effort in the Golden Bear's entire design portfolio.
Colleton River Plantation Real Estate
Membership to Colleton River is awarded through purchase of real estate in the development.
Initiation fees for home owners are $15,000 and annual dues are $14,300.
The bulk of the property at Colleton River, which was founded in the early 1990s, has been purchased, though 125 home sites are still available. There are currently 300 homes built or under construction. Lots start at $175,000 and existing homes start at $699,999.
Also on location at the Nicklaus club at Colleton River is a nine-hole executive course, the Borland.