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Laid Back In The Lowcountry

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. | As big a fan of Pete Dye as I am, I do not find his layouts particularly relaxing. Interesting, to be sure. Strategic and challenging, too. But the wild undulations of his greens often unnerve me, and so do his heaving fairways, which frequently send perfectly good shots into perfectly horrible positions. By his own admission, Pete likes to mess with golfers’ heads, and it takes no amount of effort to get into mine when I try to discern the proper angles I should take off his tees.
But for some reason, I am completely at ease as I play my way around one of his masterpieces, the Harbour Town Golf Links on Hilton Head Island. It’s not the tiny greens on that perennial top-100 track that have led me to South Carolina, nor the devilish bunkers and well-placed water hazards that so ably help to protect par. In fact, I am having a tough day as far as scoring goes. My blood pressure, however, is at a 10-year low.
I figure it must be the warmish breeze coming off Calibogue Sound, smelling faintly of salt, and the stretches of sandy soil along the borders of the golf course that calm me. Maybe it’s the sight of the live oaks lining so many of the holes here, their craggy branches draped with tawny strands of Spanish moss, and the stands of palmettos.
The sound of the swaths of brown-blonde marsh grasses clattering in the wind lull me as we play the oft-photographed 18th hole, as do glimpses of ospreys scanning shallow inlets for baitfish, occasionally diving into the water to grab unsuspecting prey with their talons. And the brick red-and-white lighthouse that looms behind the green is so picturesque that it manages to take much of the fear and drama out of what is a rather daunting approach. As a result, I am not so freaked out by Pete.


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