Where Nicklaus golf is now only one “spoke in the wheel” of amenities

BLUFFTON, SOUTH CAROLINA: Palmetto Bluff, a 20,000-acre community, located between the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Savannah, Georgia, and the expansive beaches of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, is the latest addition to South Street Partners’ (SSP) continued expansion in the luxury private club community marketplace. Their portfolio of exclusive club addresses also includes The Cliffs in the Western Carolina mountains and lake regions (providing member access to seven golf courses) and Kiawah Island, outside of Charleston, South Carolina (complete with 36 holes of private club golf, multiple clubhouses, and a golf learning center). Newer development and hospitality additions include Residences at Salamander in Middleburg, Virginia, Barnsley Resort in North Georgia, and Naples Grande on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Goodness in the Lowcountry
First impressions of Palmetto Bluff generally focus on its big and bold size. The location, complete with a Jack Nicklaus Signature course; a 5-star Montage hotel; 32 miles of riverfront, unspoiled rivers and salt marshes; and the sounds and smells of nature only add to its mystique. During tidal shifts, Palmetto Bluff actually becomes larger. Twice each day, the receding tide reveals the silky beach of the May River sandbar. Access is via boat only to this “little island of perfection.”

Living in Harmony With Nature
Palmetto Bluff extends from the headwaters of the May River near the town of Bluffton, skirts Bull and Daufuskie islands via the Cooper River to its east, then gives way to the ancient freshwater rice fields of the New River along its western edge.

Whether it’s the serenity of a nature walk through the River Road Preserve, the challenge of testing your skills at its Shooting Club, or the excitement in your children’s eyes when you help them catch their first largemouth bass on the 7.5-mile Inland Waterway, the community offers the best outdoor experiences of the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Jack Nicklaus designed May River Golf Course is shadowed by ancient oaks and coastal marshes. “It is definitely a thinking man’s golf course where proper judgment, coupled with proper shot execution, will be rewarded,” described Jack Nicklaus.

As Palmetto Bluff grew, so did its demands for more golf. Upon completion of the purchase of the destination in June of 2021, one of the first orders of business for SSP was setting the wheels in motion for adding new golf amenities. Currently, a reversible nine-hole course designed by King-Collins is under construction, with anticipation to tee off by the late fall and a new Coore & Crenshaw championship course in Anson Village is in the routing phase.

Experiencing Both Sides of the Coin
Three years ago, Rob Collins and his wife, Denise, were vacationing at Palmetto Bluff. “At the time, our two girls were aged 11 and 15,” reminisced Collins. “We watched them hop on a bike and head out the back door of our rental for a trek around the community. I remember Denise saying, ‘How special. I feel living here provides a level of freedom kids don’t normally enjoy.’

“I’ve always felt Denise is clairvoyant and can ‘see around corners.’ When she asked me how I would feel about purchasing a home at Palmetto Bluff, it wasn’t a hard sell,” continued Collins.

Shortly before SSP purchased Palmetto Bluff and became the master developers of record, news broke that more golf was on the way. “Knowing the property well, my partner Tad King and I threw our hat in the ring to design the planned short course. I’m a big believer in transparency. During our first conversation with the SSP team, I didn’t know if being a property owner would help or hinder our cause.

“I think our reputation and ability to design and build played in our favor and ultimately the prize to design a nine-hole course,” said Collins. “After three land plans, we found the ‘just right’ parcel for a nine-hole reversible course. It will sit at one of the highest points on the property, allowing us to cut into the ground up to 14 feet. While this may not sound like much, typically, in the Lowcountry, you hit ground water once you dig two or three feet deep!

“Strategic shotmaking and the mental test of golf are the souls of the game,” relayed Collins. “The fact, unfortunately, is that an abundance of modern golf courses will not inspire us the same way as many of the older layouts from the classic era. Our design will harken back to the ‘golden era’ of golf course routing. Entering the grow-in phase, with Mother Nature’s cooperation, we will welcome golfers in the late fall. I expect them to be impressed. It will be an important part of Palmetto Bluff and will welcome camaraderie with its open layout, no rough, and expansive dunes.”

Geography + Biology = Best in Lowcountry
Mark and Diana Permar have been highly respected golf community development consultants in the Southeast since 1985.

“Our involvement with SSP started about a decade ago at Kiawah Island,” recalled Mark Permar. “They are a team that understands tangible and intangible assets of a community and hold true to the Designing with Nature philosophy, which I find very important. I found them intellectually honest and eager to access current conditions and capitalize on trends. I consider them to be a ‘community developer,’ not a ‘developer of raw land.’

“Our task was to evaluate Palmetto Bluff’s original vision and determine if that vision was intact,” described Permar. “Occasionally, when a community transfers from one developer to another, a series of small changes at the end of the day dramatically changes a club’s direction. Fortunately, other than the need for more golf, Palmetto Bluff’s evolution as a Lowcountry community was intact.

“The upcoming King-Collins design will complement Palmetto Bluff’s indoor/outdoor amenities. Everything, from prevailing breezes to sunlight patterns, was evaluated. It’s an example of how SSP looks at life differently. It is a very exciting time at Palmetto Bluff.”

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