At Palmetto Dunes, we look forward to the PGA Tour’s “Florida Swing” because it means that Hilton Head Island’s very own Heritage of Golf is right around the corner in April, one week after the most anticipated of them all, the Masters at Augusta National.
In 2019, the Players Championship returned from a May date to its rightful place in March, meaning the full Florida Swing — which follows the season-opening action on the West Coast — is back, and better than ever.
The Four Golf Courses of the Florida Swing
Each of the golf courses — the Championship Course at Bay Hill Club & Lodge, the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club and the Champion Course at PGA National Resort & Spa — have been in the Florida Swing rotation since at least 2007 and all four courses have been recently tweaked or renovated. Their finishing stretches are overwhelmingly memorable for their treacherous holes.
One of the coolest elements of the Florida Swing is the fact anyone can play all four host venues, which are all resort courses. And there is a nickname associated with the layouts, providing each their own unique identity:
“Arnie's Place” (Bay Hill)
“The Bear Trap” (PGA National - Champion)
“The Gauntlet” (TPC Sawgrass - Stadium)
“The Snake Pit (Innisbrook - Copperhead)
Two holes stand out as stages for the most memorable Florida Swing moments over the years. There is seemingly always drama around Bay Hill's 18th green: With Tiger putts and the hole-out for eagle in 1990 by rookie Robert Gamez to beat Greg Norman. Then there’s all the chaos through the years courtesy of the 17th hole island green at TPC Sawgrass, including a “better than most” moment from Mr. Woods himself. Meanwhile, the 15th hole at PGA National's Champion Course kicks off the infamous “Bear Trap,” which is one of the most challenging stretches of holes on the PGA Tour.
Even though Florida gets a bad rap for cookie-cutter architecture, these four courses and resorts are all actually quite different. There is a classic course like the Copperhead, a good example of “target golf” like PGA National and of course the over-the-top visuals like Sawgrass.
There are no breather holes on the Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with “visual intimidation” factoring conditions at every turn. There's water in play on virtually every hole and many of the 82 bunkers are huge waste bunkers that run the entire length of a hole. It’s a terrifying test of target golf.
Bay Hill is the longest course, as well as the oldest. Longtime owner, Arnold Palmer tinkered with tee boxes and other features over his decades of ownership and the golf course remains a classic. Tee to green, the conditioning is perfection, with green complexes running fast and true. Meanwhile, Innisbrook Resort has been home to the Valspar Championship since it started out as the Tampa Bay Classic in 2000.
Like the four courses the PGA Tour soon will be visiting in Florida, all three of the layouts at Palmetto Dunes are memorable, unique and accessible to all. The trio boasts tournament-quality putting surfaces year-round and each has been selected South Carolina’s “Golf Course of the Year.”
Hilton Head Island Golf Courses
The Robert Trent Jones course was the first layout at Palmetto Dunes and is a long-time favorite on the island. This facility features an extensive lagoon system which winds through the course impacting play on eleven holes, along with some of Jones’ seemingly patented bunkers and large, well-bunkered greens. One of only two oceanfront holes on Hilton Head Island, the par-5 10th hole, with sweeping ocean views, stands apart as one of the area’s most breathtaking golf experiences. The most wide-open of the three Palmetto Dunes layouts, the Jones course changes with the breezes rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean, making every hole play differently whenever the winds change.
The Arthur Hills Course, which opened in the spring of 1988, is one of the island’s most distinctive layouts, with continuous lines of dunes and thick stands of palmettos. The renowned architect took full advantage of the natural dunes and created a rolling layout with dramatic elevation changes. This course has a unique seaside character, with rough and fairway bunkers notably absent. The dune lines continue into the greens, thus creating undulating surfaces. Off-balance lies and ocean breezes are a constant challenge, and lagoons come into play on many holes. Future PGA Tour stars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have tackled the Hills Course during their collegiate careers.
Originally opened in 1974, the George Fazio course at Palmetto Dunes Resort underwent a major renovation in 1994, helping to create a course that is consistently in excellent condition and as challenging a test for golfers in Hilton Head. With only two par 5s, the heart of the course lies in a series of long par 4s, beginning with the 432-yard first hole and ending with the 462-yard 18th. With new state-of-the-art Diamond Zoysia greens, the Fazio Course delivers a peak golf experience you’re sure to remember. The layout offers an exhilarating experience and is revered as the island’s truest championship challenge.
If the Florida Swing has you ready to swing back into golf, come visit us at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.