Palmer firm working at Hilton Head


Sean Dudley

The Wexford Plantation golf course on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina is to undergo a comprehensive renovation at the hands of Arnold Palmer Design Company.

The Wexford course was originally designed by Willard Byrd in 1983, and lies at the centre of a 525 acre golf, yachting and tennis community at Hilton Head’s south end. The tight, tree-lined course winds its way through the plantation. Wexford celebrated its first 25 years in the spring of 2008 and recently spent US$3.9 million renovating its Coastal-style clubhouse. In April, the club will be shutting down its golf course for renovation with the plan to reopen as an Arnold Palmer Signature Course in the first week of October.

Jim VanBuren, Wexford’s general manager, said APDC will immediately begin work on the Wexford driving range and golf practice area – mirroring the renovation of the golf course – by adding improved tee space and target greens, and improving visibility.

“Wexford has a very diverse membership,” VanBuren said. “We have plenty of working families and 100-plus children, so our summers are busy. We want a golf course where three generations of members can play and have fun. We know that's what the Palmer design team brings to the table, and that working with our golf course superintendent, Brian Murray, the golf course will be maintained at a championship level.”

At Wexford, APDC will oversee a complete remodel of the golf course. Palmer's design company says it will transform the playing strategy, characteristics and look of the Wexford layout, while also incorporating design changes that will improve drainage and reduce maintenance costs.

“Our Wexford work will be a fun and imaginative renovation,” said Erik Larsen, executive vice president of APDC and current president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. “We will reposition and reorient tee boxes – add a few bunkers and take many away – and we will add more character to the greens and surrounding complexes. The Wexford greens complexes will be a lot of fun with roll-offs, roll-ons and strong visuals.”

Larsen said the current Wexford layout has 160,000 square feet more bunkers than greens, yet many of the expansive sand hazards serve only to penalise and don't add to the strategy. In addition, there are the tight confines of the current layout. “The majestic oaks and pines are beautiful, but they can cause problems,” he said. “So we will loosen the design up. We will reposition, move and modify the bunkers, and change shape and size, allowing greater strategic positioning for modern golfers while putting the bunkers in more strategic locations for the better player. This will also allow more room for the higher handicapper to hit it off the tee.”