Palmetto GC, Aiken. Herbert Leeds (1892) with changes by Alister MacKenzie (1932).

palmetto b+w
The tee shot on the 12th asks a classic question–how much risk are you willing to take on?

The number of famous hands this remarkable course has had on it is something. Leeds laid out the course’s 18 holes but MacKenzie stopped by while working on Augusta National and converted the sand greens to grass and built bunkers. Donald Ross is said to have done work here sometimes in the interim and lately both Tom Doak and Gil Hanse have done restoration work. Sometimes, such a course becomes a mishmash of too many different things, but Palmetto is not that—the overriding feeling is very much MacKenzie of his Augusta period. There are bunkers and greens that you look at and, with the surrounding hills and trees and foliage, it’s not hard to imagine that a more rugged early version of Augusta National looked a lot like this.

But don’t mistake this for an Augusta clone, either. It’s a truly fine course in its own right.

The 4th is a wonderful natural par 4 where you want to bang a drive to the bottom of the hill but then play back up to a perilous green cut into the hill. The 5th is uphill to a remarkably severe three tier green. The 12th plays over and around a beautiful pond with a bunker and cluster of pines serving to break up the line of charm from the line of instinct. And the 7th with its narrow green cut into a side hill, bunkers left, and a steep fall off to the right is as exacting and dramatic as you could want a par 3 to be.

The course is not long, but it demands precise play and the bunkers are not just artful but fierce. The greens also extract their punishment, so the course is no pushover. As so many clubs in the area do, this one opens its doors to the public the week of the Masters and if you have the chance, I cannot recommend it enough.

#1 (of 2) in Southeast [2013]

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