An introduction to Bluffton, South Carolina
In South Carolina’s lowcountry region is the quaint town of Bluffton, just over the river from the more celebrated and popular Hilton Head Island. Yet for such a small town, the golf courses in Bluffton are truly top class.
Many people will inevitably drive through Bluffton on their way to Hilton Head, or simply never venture that far if staying in Savannah.
Yet Bluffton is a wonderful place with bags of Southern charm, a fascinating history and plenty of things to see and do.
If outdoor activities are your thing, then you’ll love it here. Whether it be kayaking, biking, fishing or hiking, there is ample to keep you occupied.
Within the town there are art galleries, quirky shops and factory outlet stores. And in the evening, try one of the fabulous mom and pop restaurants dotted through the town.
It also punches well above its weight with the quality of golf courses surrounding it. Let’s have a look at some of the best public and private courses on offer.
The best public golf courses in Bluffton SC
Old South Golf Links
This is the last golf course you pass before continuing on the Bluffton Parkway over the Karl Bowers Bridge and over into Hilton Head Island.
Yet fortunately, a lot of people do make a point of stopping here, or even coming back the other way from Hilton Head. Old South Golf Links is a wonderful layout in an idyllic spot overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and the marshes of McKay’s Creek.
The course was designed by Clyde Johnston and meanders over rolling terrain and through towering oaks. One of his core aims when creating the routing was to preserve the natural beauty of the site and build upon the magnificent views.
There is also a real variety of settings as golfers journey through oak forest, open pastures and tidal marshes. Whilst all the time you are surrounded by an abundance of wildlife.
Upon opening in 1992, it was recognised by Golf Digest as being one of the ‘top ten new public courses’. To this day it continues to be recognised especially amongst the locals who consider it one of their favorites.
Hilton Head National
Hilton Head National is alongside Old South Golf Links and Moss Creek Golf Club, one of the first golf courses you pass having crossed the Hilton Head Bridge. In fact, so good is this public course, many golfers make the trip out of Hilton Head to play here.
The design was a combined effort from two greats of the golfing world; the renowned golf course designer Bobby Weed and the Hall of Famer Gary Player. Each designed nine-holes, Weed the front-nine and Player the back-nine.
Subsequently, the routing here is a real pleasure to play and there are two vastly different nines. The course is also renowned for being great fun, one where you can smash it round and not get completely beaten up.
A good number of the tree-lined holes have water in play with a few featuring vast bunkers. This is definitely a second-shot course.
As a course renowned for its pristine condition, it won’t come as a surprise to know it is a regular recipient of Golf Advisor’s ‘Top Golf Courses in South Carolina’ award. Great course for great value.
The best private golf courses in Bluffton, SC
May River Golf Club
Across the tributary which separates Bluffton with Palmetto Bluff to the southwest, is the superb May River Golf Club.
The is another magnificent site with the course projecting itself into the Crane Island marshes on a peninsula. In a similar vein to Old South, there are wondrous views across the landscape of this beautiful lowcountry spot.
May River Golf Club is part of the Palmetto Bluff community, which is part residential and recreational. You can gain access to the course either through a member invite or by staying at the luxury Montage Palmetto Bluff.
And to design a world-class layout, who else to call upon but Jack Nicklaus.
As one of his Signature courses, rest assured this is an absolute treat. For starters, this is quite unlike your usual Nicklaus course. There are wide open fairways and pretty much no rough. Each hole seems to get better than the one before…it is quite spectacular.
As typical lowcountry terrain, the course is relatively flat, so the use of elevated greens comes into play. Precision in the approach play is essential to avoid one of the many run offs!
This is a gem and without doubt one of the best golf courses in Bluffton and South Carolina.
Chechessee Creek Golf Club
On the road from Bluffton, through Okatie and northeast towards Burton, is the sensational Chechessee Creek Club. This is the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry just north of Callawassie Island.
The site has very little elevation, but plenty of marshes and trees, mostly majestic Live oaks and long-needle pines.This really is a serene spot, with barely any noise surrounding the course.
It was designed by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw and opened for play in 2000. This is a low-key design which on multiple plays reveals subtle nuances maybe lost on first plays.
Yes the topography is flat, but Coore and Crenshaw have built some remarkable raised green complexes which are one of the main challenges. Both these and the sculpted bunkers are quite astounding and one of the main highlights of the course.
This is less about power play and length. Instead it is about precision, ability and strategy. That said the fairways do allow for a bit of movement off the tee, but your approach play is where Chechessee Creek comes alive.
Crescent Pointe Golf Club
Just 3 miles from Hilton Head bridge is Crescent Pointe Golf Club. It is located just off US 278, a stretch of road from which there are so many world-class golf courses.
And Crescent Pointe is right up there with them. This remarkable course is designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer and is his only public-access course in the Bluffton/Hilton Head area.
The property itself is beautiful, rubbing shoulders with the Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve which is an area of over 1,100 acres of nature trails, native trees and wildlife. So Palmer’s mission was to craft a golf course whilst preserving the natural beauty of the plot. And boy did he achieve this.
In typical Palmer fashion, the course is immensely playable. Wide fairways allow for aggressive driver shots with large white sand bunkers lining many fairways and the waters edge.
The main challenge here comes in the approach play. There are many elevated and undulating greens so pin-point accuracy is key. And unique in this part of the world is the fact there are very few flat-lies. Enjoy!
Berkeley Hall (North & South)
This is a wonderful member-owned private club located along the Okatie River. It is also one with the least density of housing per hole, so the golfing experience remains paramount.
There are two outstanding layouts here, the North and South courses and both were designed by Tom Fazio. He boldly proclaims his inspiration for both were Winged Foot, Seminole and Riviera Club. So bolt yourself in, you’re in for a treat!
Both courses are top-class and in immaculate condition. Indeed, both are rightly considered as up there with the best golf courses in Bluffton. This is the heart of the Lowcountry so there is very little movement in the terrain. Therefore the emphasis is around the green complexes, which are bold and contoured.
The North course was to open first and is widely considered the better of the two layouts. The fairways are slightly more undulating here than versus the South, but it primarily leans upon well defended green complexes as the main strategic challenge. The South is slightly more tree-lined and embodies more of a parkland style layout. And in the coastland marshes, you’re not safe from water as it comes into play on both.
Both routings benefit from marvelous surroundings. There are wide open vistas and an abundance of native vegetation including azaleas, crepe myrtles, pines and majestic live oaks.
Make sure post-round you visit the Jefferson-style clubhouse which houses a fabulous restaurant.
Belfair (East & West)
From a distance, you would be forgiven for thinking when turning into Belfair, you were actually at Berkeley Hall.
Both are on the north side of US 278, bordering the Okatie River. Both are private residential communities of the highest level and both feature two Tom Fazio designed golf courses. That said, I’m sure the members at each would insist on their respective redeeming features and rightly so.
Needless to say, Belfair is another exclusive club providing a first-class experience for its members. The setting here has the much coveted stamp of being an Audubon International Certified Sanctuary. There is a real respect towards preserving the natural environment.
And this attention to detail pervades the golf course design which Fazio oversaw. The two championship courses, the East and West, meander through a vast 1,100 acre heavily wooded plot.
Naturally this coastal site features marshlands with numerous inlets and creeks finding their way into or around the playing surfaces.
The West course was first to open in 1996, with the East course following three years later. Both are ranked among the Top 150 Private Residential courses in the country and regularly hold golf events and tournaments.
Colleton River Club (Pete Dye & Jack Nicklaus)
The Colleton River Club is a sensational members club in a special part of South Carolina’s Lowcountry.
First and foremost, the location. The club is located on a stunning peninsula, surrounded by water and marshes on all three sides. There is also a vast 1,100 acre nature preserve, the Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve, as you drive towards the club.
The club features a number of amenities which members can enjoy. There is a Stan Smith tennis complex, an Olympic sized swimming pool and a fitness center. Being so close to the water, members have easy access to allow for fishing, sailing and any other water-bound activity.
But golf is arguably the main attraction. There are two world-class courses here, each with their own clubhouse and each designed by one of the greats in golf course architecture.
Jack Nicklaus Course
First out was the Jack Nicklaus course, which made its bow in 1993. Immediately, this was recognised as one of the top golf courses in South Carolina. This is without doubt one of the stronger courses in Jack’s portfolio despite the fact it was slightly softened for members’ play.
In archetypal lowcountry fashion, there is a mixture of marches and pine forests. But the finish is through dunes which make for some awesome finishing holes with a few shots overlooked by the clubhouse. The signature hole is the par-3 4th where you’re hitting across the marshes to an island green, which is connected to by a long bridge.
Pete Dye Course
Six years after the Nicklaus course opened, came the formidable Pete Dye layout. This is a brute of a course measuring over 7,400 yards from the back tees and with only two par-4s at less than 400 yards.
Dye transformed this relatively flat piece of land into what many regard as one of his finest designs. The course which hosted the 2015 Junior Amateur Championships, starts in the tight tree-lined pine forests where precision off the tee is paramount.
It then proceeds into the bayou, the more open marshland, and here the course takes on a completely new challenge. There is a litany of bunkers and some bold contouring of green complexes. This is visually demanding and absolutely requires accurate shot-making.
For anyone visiting the Hilton Head or Bluffton areas, these two courses are out of this world and provide a welcome contrast from one another.
So to the last on our list, yet certainly not the least is Oldfield. This is yet another top class community with a whole range of facilities and amenities for the members to enjoy.
The club is located a little further away from Hilton Head than many of the other courses on this list. In fact, it’s about a 30 minute drive from Hilton Head Island, taking US 170 north when you hit Okatie.
The course at Oldfield is a Greg Norman signature layout. Of the many courses he has designed from this point up to Myrtle Beach, Oldfield was the first and widely considered as one of his finest.
The first thing you can’t help but notice is the immaculate condition of the course. Tee boxes, fairways and greens are sensational and the greens are both true and fast.
As for the layout, it is dominated by Okatee river views, marshes and an abundance of live oaks. Indeed oak trees play an important role in the course management. Norman left many in play ensuring to score well, hitting the right part of the fairway is essential.
There are some wonderful par 3s which play over water and the signature hole has to be the 18th, a par-5 double-dogleg which is a peach of a hole.
If you get an invite here, please don’t turn it down!
What is the best golf course in Bluffton SC?
The best golf course in Bluffton, South Carolina, is Chechessee Creek Golf Club, just north of Callawassie Island. The course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened for play in 2000.
That said, there are many great golf courses in Bluffton and any number of them could be considered as the best in region.