Smyers Promises Wind, Sand and Sizzle at Orange Hill Plantation

By: Mark Leslie

"Walkers Wanted, Caddies Available." Signs encouraging walking golfers won't be necessary once Orange Hill Plantation golf course opens late in 2002, because the point will be evident. "We want to put golf back in the game," said course architect Steve Smyers, who has been engaged to design the 18-hole track that will be the centerpiece of this new 731-acre private community in Charleston, South Carolina. "Greens will be close to tees, and we won't move massive amounts of dirt - only enough to develop features to form the strategy of the holes."

Located on Bohicket Road en route to Kiawah Island, the project is being developed by Mike Cassa, a local homebuilder and developer, and Tom Sacks, a retired international businessman. The property, operated as Orange Hill Plantation as early as the 1700s, will include 181 home sites.

"But it will be a 'core' golf course," said Smyers, "because homes will only abut the course in one specific area."

Construction is anticipated to begin in November, and, with three of his designs ranked among the top-80 modern courses, Smyers has high expectations for Orange Hill Plantation. "The property is five miles from the coast, so there is a good coastal breeze, and Charleston has wind throughout the year. We will allow that wind to become an integral part of the game," Smyers said. "Because it also has sandy soils, we can produce a hard, fast-running golf course. We feel that accommodates golfers of all abilities; plus it heightens the fun."

The Lakeland, Florida-based architect also will introduce "a second dimension: the ground game," he said. "We have no forced carries. We do not believe in too many water hazards. Instead, we want golfers to be able to play over the ground, to read that ground and use humps and bumps and contours. If they can identify a hook lie and hit the right shot according to their lie, we think that makes the game more fun and brings people back time and time again."

Orange Hill Plantation's fast-draining soils and wind allow that type of game, the kind played in the British Isles, Smyers said. Also, the site's pasture land, framed by large majestic grandfather oaks and interspersed with some marshland, will create variety, he said.

"We will have great holes that go into the field, into the forest, into the marshland, back into the field and then into the forest," he said. "The golfer will get a comfortable feel going in and out of these fields. And all these features will be utilized and enhanced to help form strategy of the golf holes."

The course will also boast a unique practice facility actually, three large facilities. One will be a practice range where golfers can warm up for a round. Another will be set up for golfers who want to hit a lot of balls, with tees, greens and a practice fairway. The third will be a short-range area, emphasizing shots from 120 yards and in.