May River a Hidden Gem
Sometimes we play these hard-to-get-on courses for a fee. Sometimes we are extended the courtesy of the course. Sometimes we are expected to write or talk about these golf courses. Sometimes the people who run them are just happy that we found the time to stop by.
Thanks to my job, I have been able to play at Bandon Dunes before the clubhouse was completed. And I have played Augusta National as part of the media lottery allowed on the course the day after the Masters. Both provided great memories.
But there is nothing quite like finding a new golf course that isnt so much well-known as Bandon has come to be and Augusta National always has been. On my way back to my home base of Orlando from the U.S. Womens Open at Pine Needles earlier this week I found one of these hidden gems.
It is rare, in this marketing day and age, to discover a golf course that has clearly paid attention to the important details (regardless of how expensive those details may be) that isnt shouting to the golf world how high up it ought to be on this list or that.
Our ownership is not searching for accolades, says Charlie Kent, the genial Director of Golf at the May River Golf Club near Bluffton, South Carolina. Were not trying to get on lists.
As a result, May River, a classic Lowcountry design framed by palmettos and mature live oaks hung with Spanish moss, isnt overrun by course raters and travel writers.
May River serves as the home course for a high-end community, still developing, just far enough from the occasionally madding crowds of Hilton Head Island. The 20,000 acre sea island known as Palmetto Bluff extends from the headwaters of the May River near the town of Bluffton. It skirts Bull and Daufuskie Islands via the Cooper River to its east, and gives way finally to the ancient freshwater rice fields along its western edge.
Its written history dates all the way back to 1524 when a French expedition, led by Jean Ribaut, came upon a large group of Native Americans living off the land.
If you Google Palmetto Bluff and/or May River, you will find a fair share of magazine and newspaper pieces on the golf course. But its still mostly word of mouth.
If you stay at Palmetto Bluff, you will pay dearly for your lodging; you will get around the property on bicycles supplied to every cottage; and you will have access to May River, a Jack Nicklaus design that meanders gracefully through the environmentally-protected freshwater wetlands that eventually lead out to the Calibogue Sound.
From the tips, May River stretches to 7,171 yards. But it plays longer because of the Lowcountry humidity and the delightfully golfer-friendly paspalum grasses that dont bake out; which means May River rarely plays hard and fast. The course rating from the back tees is 75.4 with a slope of 140. There are three other tee boxes with 18-hole lengths of 6,623 yards, 6,103 yards and 5,223.
In short, anybody can play May River'as long as you are either a member of the club or a guest at the adjoining Inn at Palmetto Bluff. Once you qualify on one of those two scores, procuring a tee time will not be a problem. Kent reports that May River did 6,100 rounds in 2006 and is anticipating 7,000 in 2007.
May River isnt a complete secret. The USGA has visited. And, sources say, there could be a U.S. Junior Amateur or another smaller field USGA event in May Rivers future.
Palmetto Bluff is an Auberge Resort, an outfit that doesnt cut corners on amenities. There is a small but beautiful spa at the Inn. And there is fine dining; a terrific fitness center; a gourmet corner market and a post office. There is also a real estate office in case you want to buy property.
If you have a 1 p.m. tee time, you can probably go off at 12:30, if youre running early, or 1:30, if youre running late. There is an over-all unhurriedness about the place that makes it hard to leave. There is also a full range (stocked with new Pro V1s) and a short-game practice area at the back of the practice facility that is state-of-the-art.
May River has caddies and/or forecaddies. And my round, played with my wife as partner, took three hours. It felt like two. We wished it had been four. Our forecaddie, Ricky, was knowledgeable, friendly, competent and indigenous.
The par-3s are all the kind of scenic Lowcountry short holes you come to expect of this part of the world. The 336-yard (from the back tees) par-4 seventh hole is the kind of demanding short par-4 that Nicklaus has increasingly incorporated into all his recent courses. The back nine features three par-3s, three-par 4s and three par-5s.
May River is typically Nicklausian in that it offers the player room off the tee and tightens your options as you get closer to the green. Another course at Palmetto Bluff, to be designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, is in the planning stages.
If you get the chance, play this golf course. If you are a golf course designer, please visit May River and study what Nicklaus and nature did in this quiet and unspoiled part of the world. They have gotten it quite right.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”