Dataw Unveils Renovated Morgan River Course

By Lance Hanlin,

After two years and $5.4 million in renovations, Dataw Island residents now have access to two upgraded championship golf courses.

Improvements inside the 870-acre gated community started with the acclaimed Cotton Dike course in 2010 and ended with the unveiling of the new Morgan River course last month.

Residents, club officials and select members of the media got their first chance to play the new Morgan River layout Sept. 12 in a grand reopening tournament.

“It was spectacular,” Dataw member Jim Foley said. “For a course that just got rebuilt, the greens and tees were magnificent. These guys did a whale of a job.”

While renovations weren’t as dramatic as they were on the Cotton Dike track, many significant upgrades were made to Morgan River.

Irrigation was replaced, cart paths were repaired and straightened, bunkers were improved, new drainage was installed, lake banks were restored and several trees were pruned to allow more sunlight on the fairways and greens.

All greens were also re-grassed with Miniverde Ultradwarf Bermuda grass. Dataw member Bernie Chalmers made the most of the improved surfaces, rolling in four clutch putts for his foursome in the tournament.

“I think the course is very playable,” Chalmers said. “The greens are true and the turf has grown in very consistently. The changes to the five or six holes are good, mainly because it turns it into a different golf course for us to play. I’ve been playing this course for 15 years. This is a nice change.”

When designer Arthur Hills opened Morgan River in 1989, he described it as “delightful.” Words such as relaxing, beautiful and unique also fit.

Unlike many private communities, some of the most valuable waterfront property at Dataw wasn’t sold for home sites, it was used for golf. The Morgan River, home to Megalodon and other types of fossil shark teeth, is very much a part of the course named after it.

Water comes into play on 10 of the 18 holes. It measures 6,646 from the longest tees and is the narrowest Dataw course, placing a premium on accuracy.

“The views are unbelievable,” assistant golf professional Stuart Carrihill said. “We have two very different golf courses that give you two unique experiences. If you’re going to play golf like our members do, day in and day out, you want two completely different venues. That’s what they’ve got.”

The renovation project was handled by course designer and former Augusta National superintendent Billy Fuller. The goal of his design company was to bring course specifications up to par by incorporating modern golf design principals, in turn making the club competitive with the marketplace for the next 20 to 30 years.

Mission accomplished.

“I’m very pleased with both courses,” Dataw member Bob Hazelrigg said. “The Cotton Dike course has been just wonderful. The greens hold well. I think every indication shows (the Morgan River greens) will as well in just a couple of months. I think both renovations are really great.”

Both of Dataw Island’s championship golf courses got a recent facelift. Here is a look at both layouts.

Course: Cotton Dike
Year built: 2008 (Tom Fazio)
Renovation: 2010 (Billy Fuller)
Par: 72
Rating/slope (white): 68.7/124
What’s new: Seventeen of the greens were cored out and re-contoured. All of the greens were re-grassed with MiniVerde Ultra Dwarf Bermudagrass. Fairways were converted to Celebration Bermuda, a grass better suited for shade and heat. A new drainage system was installed. Bunkers got new drainage and sand.
Details: The course was originally created out of the marshes by a series of dikes originally used to generate more land for cotton fields during the plantation days. The course requires strategy and accuracy. Nearly half of the 18 holes lie along the pristine marsh waters of Jenkins Creek.

Course: Morgan River
Year built: 1989 (Arthur Hills)
Renovation: 2012 (Billy Fuller)
Par: 72
Rating/slope (white): 68.5/121
What’s new: All bunkers were redone, cart paths were repaired, lake banks were restored and several trees were pruned to allow more sunlight to the fairways. All greens were re-grassed with Miniverde Ultradwarf Bermuda. New fairway grass was put down for holes 1, 17 and 18. The irrigation was replaced.
Details: The Morgan River course is narrower than the Cotton Dike and challenges every shot, demanding accuracy at all times. The beauty of the course is apparent as it winds through the scattered oak trees, framing water views of the Morgan River.


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