It takes a visionary to imagine a world-class resort in the middle of an uninhabited barrier island off the coast of South Carolina. A visionary like Jim Self Jr.
Self was president of Greenwood Mills, Inc., a leading manufacturer of woven fabrics for apparel, home furnishings, industrial and military applications. The company derived its name from Greenwood, S.C., the site of its corporate headquarters.
Greenwood's involvement with Hilton Head started in the early 1960's, when Charles Fraser, the modern day founder of Hilton Head Island and the developer of Sea Pines Plantation needed a golf course.
Mr. Fraser approached the President of Greenwood Mills, Jim Self, Jr. with an idea about building a golf course on the island. It took a very creative mind at that time to picture what the island could offer. Mr. Self shared in that vision with Charles Fraser, and as one of several avid golfers in the Self family, he had a special interest in the golf course.
Fraser came to Greenwood with a plan for an executive course, but Mr. Self said "No, Hilton Head needs a championship course."
A few weeks later, back on the island, Fraser answered his door to find a line of construction equipment and mill crews from Greenwood. The foreman told him "Mr. Self sent me down here to build your golf course." And so it began. Not only was the Ocean Course at Sea Pines the first golf course on the island, it was also Greenwood's first golf course.
Greenwood Development Buys Palmetto Dunes
Executives at Greenwood were then approached with a proposal to buy Palmetto Dunes. John Davis, president of the company from 1982 to 1999, signed a 90-day option to purchase the property in June 1979. In November of that year, Greenwood Development closed the deal and acquired Palmetto Dunes along with the land that would become Palmetto Hall and Shelter Cove. At the closing, "Greenwood" Development Corporation (today known as Greenwood Communities and Resorts) became Hilton Head's second largest landowner.
Having established a significant presence on Hilton Head Island, Greenwood Development focused on creating a thoughtful and sound development framework for Palmetto Dunes. Greenwood sought to develop an ecologically friendly path to development, one that would preserve the natural resources of the tract while enhancing the value of the land.
Unique Lagoon System
One significant advantage Greenwood built into the resort was the 11-mile lagoon system that wove its waterways like threads through the fabric of the land. The lagoon system was unlike anything else on the island or in the world at the time. It would provide the ideal template for neighborhoods and a host of amenities.
Work had begun to save the Palmetto Dunes beachfront in 1970. Led by Dr. Per Bruun with assistance from a British architect, a team of engineers and equipment operators dredged huge quantities of sand from the lagoons and transported the sand to the beachfront where it was sculpted into dunes 11 feet high. The project was immense in scope. Massive pipes fed nearly 2 million cubic yards of sand from a 100-ton dredge out to the beach where bulldozers shaped the rapidly growing dunes. The tidal gates that were installed 30 years ago still flush the lagoons and control the tides.
Dr. Bruun was a pioneer in the field of coastal engineering. As the first chairman of the University of Florida's Department of Coastal Engineering, he was responsible for every major early effort to protect Florida's beaches.
"What we have here at Palmetto Dunes is really a prototype for other coastal communities," Dr. Bruun said. "When we developed the lagoon system and built the dunes, there was very little beach at high tide. Palmetto Dunes was all forest... The solution was the canal system - it was considered a radical way to handle things."
Creating Shelter Cove
Ten years later, in 1980, Greenwood Development turned its focus to the west side of Route 278. Embarking on another major dredging operation, the company created the deepwater marina at Shelter Cove. The 600,000 cubic yards of sand dredged from the marina were put to use nourishing Palmetto Dunes' beaches. When the dredging operation was completed, the marina became the cornerstone for the company's next step in development growth: a mixed-use community. Relying on its business plan, Greenwood Development sold several parcels of land to generate sufficient revenue to maintain momentum when the Harbourside condominiums were completed.
The strategy worked. As Shelter Cove grew, the Island gained much needed retail establishments, offices and a diverse selection of residential properties. Over time, the marina attracted boat owners and sailing enthusiasts from around the world.
In 2007, Greenwood made a renewed commitment to the future of Palmetto Dunes. "We saw that the future of the resort lay not in just passively providing a variety of amenities for the use of guests but in providing a complete resort experience for each guest" said Greenwood's VP of Resort Operations, Bret Martin. "Our goal is to offer the best vacation experience on Hilton Head Island - from the accommodations to the bikes and kayaks to boat tours, golf and tennis and beyond, customized to each guests preference and coordinated through a central reservations and concierge service."
They have also created a new name for the company - Greenwood Communities and Resorts - which more accurately reflects the current scope of the company.
Today, Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has been ranked the number one family resort in the United States and Canada by Travel + Leisure Family magazine. It offers three championship golf courses, each designed by a legendary figure in the world of golf. The Palmetto Dunes Tennis Center was named the third best tennis resort in the world. Activities and amenities at Palmetto Dunes will challenge even the most imaginative sports-minded individuals. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort has grown to become one of the world's finest luxury resort destinations for today's active families.
For more information, contact:
Palmetto Dunes & Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina