Palmer to Renovate Wexford Plantation on Hilton Head

Arnold Palmer first made his mark on Hilton Head Island in 1969, when he captured the PGA Tour's inaugural Heritage Classic on the then brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links. Now, Arnold Palmer Design Company (APDC) will put his stamp on the golf course at Wexford Plantation, a 525-acre golf, yachting and tennis community on Hilton Head's south end.

The 18-hole Wexford course was originally designed by Willard C. Byrd and opened in 1983. Featuring five sets of tees, the tight, tree-lined layout celebrated its first 25 years in spring 2008 and recently spent $3.9 million renovating its Coastal-style clubhouse. In April, the club will be shutting down the course for a remodel, which should be completed in early October.

Jim VanBuren, Wexford Plantation's general manager, said APDC will immediately begin work on the Wexford driving range and golf practice area 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."

APDC will oversee a complete remodel of the course, allowing it to fit the property naturally. Palmer's design company says it will transform the playing strategy, characteristics and look of the Wexford layout, while also incorporating design changes to 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 (ASGCA). "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 pointed out that the current Wexford layout has 160,000 square feet more bunkers than greens, yet many of the expansive sand hazards serve only to penalize and don't add to strategy. In addition, there are the tight confines of the current layout. "Those majestic oaks and pines are beautiful, but they can cause problems," Larsen said. "So we will loosen the design up some. 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."

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 Old Tabby Links on nearby Spring Island.

"We are delighted to be back in the Lowcountry and be able to put our brand on one of the great clubs anywhere," said Larsen.