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Westin Savannah Harbor Golf and Spa Resort

The lengthy list of golf courses designed and built by the legendary Bob Cupp is as impressive a  catalog of any golf course designer in history. This also includes numerous redesigns and renovations. There is a certain exclusive pedigree of golf course designers that simply do not build anything that is not enjoyable to play and of the highest quality. He was one of them.

A gentle start greets the golfer on the Par 4 first hole.

Two of my favorite golf courses in North America can be credited to his design company; Big Sky Golf Course in Pemberton, British Columbia, very close to world-famous Whistler, BC, and the two courses at Pumpkin Ridge which is just west of Portland, Oregon, in Corvalis. It is for this reason that while in Hilton Head, South Carolina, a known golfing mecca, we ventured one hour south to play the Troon managed Westin Savannah Harbor Golf and Spa Resort Course. On one of our non-golfing days while in Hilton Head, we drove to Savannah to take in the stunning beauty of its famous downtown squares. We also took advantage of the complementary river boat ride to go across the Savannah River to the Westin and pop into the golf shop. The hotel, its surroundings and the clubhouse at the golf course all oozed class. Dan could not have been more accommodating and friendly in providing me with a score card and confirming our tee time on Thursday morning.  As I looked out the window of the pro shop, I could see that we were in for a treat as the course looked very well groomed and interesting to play.

An interesting contrast of modern architecture set behind the 6th green.
Marsh grasses dominate the left side of the Par 5 7th fairway

We arrived with plenty of time to hit some balls and test out the speed of the practice green. I was very impressed with the bag drop procedure. You pull your vehicle up to the front of the hotel to the bag drop stand, which although it appears to be unattended, has a courtesy phone you pick up which links you to an attendant who appears within 30 seconds.

Justin swiftly put our clubs into the cart, instructed us to park our vehicle and then check into the pro shop.  He told us that when we were finished checking in, our clubs would be positioned over by the practice putting green on the opposite side of the hotel. Very efficient. It was nice to see Dan again as he welcomed both Myra and me to the course and promptly issued us our green fee ticket. I asked him where we could get a small bucket of balls to warm up and he stated that the range was unfortunately closed for the day. It was not an issue even worth discussing as we’re both playing consistently well so a warm-up was not necessary.

A really great little par 3, hole 8.
The stunning Westin hotel looms over the par 4 9th green.

He apologetically explained that the driving range is situated in the middle of a 2-mile-long auto racing circuit which was being used for a vintage car race weekend.  We thought nothing of his comment until we were on the practice putting green.  Suddenly, the sound of eight or nine high powered cars revved up their engines and started doing laps on the circuit.  It reminded me of the famous Rodney Dangerfield quote, “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.” This time though it could be, “I went to play golf and a car race started.”

The Par 4 10th runs parallel to the first and introduces another birdie chance.

On this day of near perfect weather conditions, 75° F and a light ocean breeze, we weren’t about to let it ruin our day. I thought it was quite cool actually as I love cars, but Myra who doesn’t even  like loud music improvised some ear plugs by rolling up some Kleenex and putting that into her ears. Perhaps it forced us to really concentrate and block out the sound coming from these high-powered engines as I had my best round on the holiday a solid 42/40 for an 82 and Myra had three great pars including back-to-back ones on the back nine.

The stunning view towards the Par 5 13th green, best hole on the course.

The course sits right next to the ocean and a number of the holes encroach into the tall grassy marshlands. The greens were very receptive and consistent. the five minutes we spent on the beautiful practice putting green gleaned excellent results. We both had three putts of over 25 feet that we drained and for the third consecutive round neither of us three putted. The course starts out with a fairly gentle if somewhat innocently timid six holes until you reach the gargantuan seventh. A beast of a hole at 599 yards I wasn’t overly disappointed in making bogey. Myra’s seven was equally acceptable.

Tight and teasing beauty of a short Par 4 14th “Alligator Alley”

This hole was a bit of a wakeup call with marshland running down the entire left side all the way to quite a small green. From here on in the course just got progressively better to what I consider the best hole on the course the par 5, 13th named “The Waving Girl”.

That was followed by a fantastic short par four aptly called “Alligator Alley” as a gator of about 8 feet in length lurked some 3 feet off the edge of the pond next to the tee box. The fauna on the course was much different than that of Hilton Head Island. There were no live oaks but lots of seagrass, Australian bottlebrush and magnolia trees mixed in with pines. The quality of the course was excellent. Although it may seem repetitious the bunker sand in this part of the world is extremely playable. We both splashed out of green side bunkers with soft landings and spinning shots. It made me realize one of the real challenges of courses back home is the lack of this light, quality bunker sand.

Before or after the round enjoy a cold one overlooking the practice putting green.

With everything from Formula One cars to vintage Porsches racing down the backstretch parallel to the 18th fairway we finished up a very rewarding and at times unusually loud round of golf. We had a wonderful day and both had some spectacular shots which we praised each other for as we made the very enjoyable one hour drive back to the condo in Hilton Head. Whether you stay at the Westin or just add a round of golf to your itinerary I can guarantee you’ll enjoy this course in a big way.

Nothing overly dramatic beckons your finish on the straight Par 4 18th.

Although it only happens once a year one small bit of advice –  call the pro shop and ask them at any time will you hear, “ Gentlemen, start your engines”.

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Bill Flower

Bill Flower is a passionate golfer and lover of the game who lives on Vancouver Island in Parksville, BC. He has played the game since the age of 10 and has spent many years in the golf business ranging from full time teaching pro to part time professional caddy, golf tour operator and golf writer. He loves to travel with his wife Myra up and down the west coast of the US playing and reviewing golf courses of all styles.

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