Golfing legend’s victory at the inaugural Heritage Classic helped put the island on the map. Now, Palmer returns with his design team to unveil its stylish renovation of the Wexford Plantation golf course – and mayor proclaims Oct. 20th a day to remember
HILTON HEAD, SC – Hilton Head Island Mayor Drew Laughlin has ordered an Arnold Palmer.
Mayor Laughlin proclaimed October 20, 2011 “Arnold Palmer Day” on Hilton Head in conjunction with Palmer’s return to the island for the grand reopening of the Wexford Plantation golf course.
“Our town and community are committed to excellence in all that we do,” said Mayor Laughlin, “and nothing exemplifies this better than Arnold Palmer and Wexford’s new golf course.”
Thursday morning, Palmer landed on the island aboard his Cessna Citation, accompanied by members of his design team, and following a tour of the new Wexford golf course that now bears his name, struck a ceremonial tee shot and entertained during a lunch and media event.
Palmer first made his mark on Hilton Head in 1969, when he captured the PGA TOUR’s inaugural Heritage Classic on then brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links – his victory lending invaluable credibility to a tournament, a golf course and an entire island.
Now, Arnold Palmer Design Company (APDC) has added to his legacy on the island again by putting its signature stamp on the Wexford Plantation golf course. In this dynamic pairing, Palmer and his team brought their design style to a unique and elegant, 525-acre golf, yachting and tennis community in the heart of Hilton Head’s bustling south end.
The 18-hole Wexford course was originally designed by Willard C. Byrd and opened in 1983. Wexford celebrated its first 25 years in the spring of 2008 and recently spent $3.9 million renovating its comfortably elegant, traditionally Coastal-style clubhouse strategically located facing Broad Creek’s Marshlands and Wexford’s picturesque private marina isolated by one of only three lock systems on the east coast of the United States. The club shut down its golf course for renovation in April and has now reopened as an Arnold Palmer Signature Course.
The new design winds through a magnificent display of stately southern residences within the plantation and is brilliantly blended with the natural setting to provide a meticulously maintained journey through tall, majestic Oaks and stately Pines, over intimate ponds and next to expansive Coastal Marshland to offer a unique but special experience.
Following the APDC renovation, each hole at Wexford now presents a distinctive look, challenge, or strategy in the form of risk and reward situations, heroic shots, preferred angles of approach or delicate plays that require thought, imagination and a deft touch. Width may be friend or foe depending on the slopes and angles between a golfer and their target.
APDC also renovated the Wexford driving range and golf practice area, mirroring the renovation of the golf course by adding enhanced tee space and target greens, while also improving visibility.
APDC has developed a worldwide reputation for designing golf courses that are unique and special. The firm is known for using the natural beauty of the land making each golf course compelling and authentic, featuring its own characteristics – a trait that made the company particularly attractive to the Wexford membership owners.
Considering Wexford’s diverse membership – plenty of working professionals, 100-plus children, active boaters, tennis players, croquet players, golfers and retirees – the club wanted a golf course where three generations of members can play and have fun. APDC oversaw a fun and imaginative, complete remodel of the golf course.
Without sacrificing its character, APDC has allowed the Wexford golf course to fit the property naturally and provide the layout a more timeless feel and style. Palmer’s design company has transformed the playing strategy, characteristics and look of the Wexford layout, while also incorporating design changes that have improved drainage and will reduce maintenance costs.
“Our intent was to create a new design in the spirit and tradition of America’s classic golf courses and bring a modern interpretation or twist to their enduring standard and a few select template holes such as The Road Hole, Redan, Alps or Biarritz,” said APDC Senior Architect Brandon Johnson, lead designer on the Wexford project.
Added APDC Senior Architect Thad Layton “Wexford is by no means a replica course, we take inspiration from certain places and our inspiration for the Wexford Plantation remodel is founded in traditional and classic Golf Course Architecture.”
The Wexford renovation encompassed repositioning and reorienting tee complexes, significant bunker removal and strategic old/new bunker placement and modifying, along with tree removal, to increase sun exposure and widen fairway corridors. APDC also added more character to the greens and surrounding complexes, which now provide an enjoyable challenge featuring roll-offs, roll-ons and strong visuals.
“We wanted to give the golfer several options of play off the tee and around the greens to cause him or her to think about their upcoming shot,” Johnson said. “By significantly reducing the amount of bunker space, repositioning them in more visible and strategic locations and widening the fairways we were able to add a previously missing strategic element to the golf course while allowing more room and avenues of play for the higher handicap player.”
Since its inception in 1972, APDC has designed approximately 300 golf courses around the world that are acclaimed for their individually unique styles. In addition, the company is widely recognized among the preeminent experts in the field of renovation work, highlighted by its remodeling of world-renowned tournament venues such as Pebble Beach and Bay Hill.
While Wexford will stand as the only Arnold Palmer Signature Course on Hilton Head, this will not be Palmer’s first design in the Lowcountry. APDC also designed Crescent Pointe in Bluffton, S.C., along with internationally renowned Old Tabby Links on nearby Spring Island.
“We are delighted to be back in the Lowcountry to create a special and unique golf experience for the membership at Wexford,” said Mr. Palmer. “We hope the strategy, options and variety of play challenge your intellect and allow you to find the best ways to navigate the course based on your personal game. Wexford is a special place to us and we enjoyed the responsibility of remaking this exceptional club.”