Hampton Hall: Unique course with unique history

Hampton Hall2

Play the course Dye almost didn’t build

By Lance Hanlin, lhanlin@golfersguide.com

Most Americans remember where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.

Golf course architect Pete Dye was in Bluffton the day before, looking at a patch of property John Reed, Gary Rowe and the Toll Brothers wanted to transform into a golf course.

Dye wasn’t sure if he wanted to take on the project. With his busy schedule, he was leaning towards passing on the opportunity.His plan was to catch a flight back home to Florida the next morning to think it over.

Then the terrorist attacks happened.

With all the airports shut down, Dye was stuck in Bluffton with a heavy heart. The legendary designer decided to sit down and draw up the golf course at Hampton Hall.

“That’s true,” Pete’s wife Alice confirmed. “He was there the whole time because he couldn’t go any place else. By the time he had laid it out, he got enthusiastic about it and wanted to build it.”

He ended up building one of the most unique courses of his distinguished career.

Today, Hampton Hall is the shining star of Bluffton Parkway.

The private residential community features a wealth of on-site amenities but its centerpiece is the 18-hole golf course, which is open to public play.

Dye designed the links-style track to accentuate the natural beauty of the surroundings. Unlike many of his other designs, he eased off the gas pedal on this one, building a course for golfers on both ends of the talent spectrum.

Hampton Hall plays from 5,329 yards to 7,503 yards, depending on which set of five tees is used.

For novice players, there are wide fairways, open landing areas and large, unprotected greens. Accomplished players can trade in the safe routes to each hole for several risk/reward opportunities.

“That’s one of the great things the Dyes did here,” course superintendent Matt Sapochak said. “They knew the club was going to have both good and high-handicap golfers. It’s not all carry. You can play a low shot, a high shot or a bump-and-run.”

The fairways are constantly changing due to their clay-based soil composition. The ball rolls very little when it is wet in winter and a whole lot when the grass dries out in the fall and spring, allowing for punch-and-run shots to the unprotected greens. In the summer, they play like traditional Bermuda fairways.

To add an extra twist, Dye made sure to keep the land behind the greens clear.

“When Pete designed this, he said ‘Let’s not plant a lot of trees behind these greens.’” Sapochak said. “He wanted to mess with people’s depth perception. It’s hard to judge the yardage when it’s not framed in by a lot of trees.”

Keeping up with the design has kept Sapochak and his team busy. Hampton Hall is in the middle of a bunker project, replacing all the sand and making sure the drainage is right.

“It’s not just a club we mow grass at,” Sapochak said. “We’re constantly working on the golf course to keep it in really good condition.”

 

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