The Ford Plantation Golf Club clubhouse sits amid stately oaks and iconic Spanish moss.
Some golf course architects treat a course redesign like tailoring an old suit: put a tuck in here, let out a little there. Not Pete Dye.
When asked to re-evaluate the course he created in the mid-1980s at Ford Plantation Golf Club near Savannah, Ga., Dye did the unthinkable. Instead of making subtle changes to a very good course, he and on-site associate Tim Liddy bulldozed the whole thing and basically started from scratch. The result? An amazing renovation that not only rejuvenates the playing experience for its members, but provides a completely different look and feel.
“It’s really like two golf courses in one,” said PGA professional Ryan Skipton, head golf professional at the Ford Plantation Golf Club. “The front nine is a parkland course, with a lot of doglegs, winding along the lakes and the oaks with Spanish moss.
“Then you get on the back nine and it has no trees. It’s links-style. Obviously, it’s a Pete Dye signature course, but it’s unique.”
GETTING THERE: From Interstate 95, take Exit 90 (Georgia 144 East/Richmond Hill). Head south about 3.3 miles and the entrance to the club will be on your left.
ABOUT THE COURSE: Unlike some of Dye’s more devious creations, the new Ford Plantation is playable for all skill levels. However, that’s not to say the course is easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Strategically-placed bunkers, tricky pin placements and difficult approach shots will keep you from staring contentedly at the panoramic vistas. Each hole gets progressively harder from tee to green, and you won’t breathe a sigh of relief until the ball is safely in the cup.
“From a playability standpoint, it’s playable off the tee,” Skipton said. “The fairways are generous, and everything slopes towards the middle. But for the better player, the real challenge comes on that approach shot. That’s what really brings the higher difficulty factor, especially the way some of the pins are tucked here.
“When it’s windy, you can play the front nine and not feel any wind. Then you get to the 10th tee and the whole back nine, depending on how hard the wind is blowing, you can throw out the yardage book.”
The 10th hole is a perfect example. Previously, a blind double-dogleg to the left, Dye found a small peninsula on the right side of the hole when scouting the course during the redesign process, and decided to place the green there instead. Now it’s a great introduction to what you’ll experience on the rest of the back nine.
“It’s just a great short par-4 and even though it’s short and a good birdie opportunity, if you miss that green, it’s a hard up-and-down to make par,” Skipton said. “Just the way it curves, with a perfect little dogleg to the right, surrounded by the water, it’s my favorite hole on the course.”
MEMORABLE HOLES: Ford Plantation is full of signature holes, but No. 17 stands head and shoulders above the rest. Not only is it perhaps the most picturesque on the course, it appears at first glance to be fairly straightforward. But don’t be deceived. This 146-yard par-3 is fraught with disaster at every turn.
Not only are there deep bunkers to the left and front, but there’s no bailout to the right. And even more menacing, woe to anyone who goes long.
Skipton’s suggestion: Aim for the middle of the green and hope.
“I think the great thing about that hole is what you don’t see from the tee, which is a pot bunker in the back,” Skipton said. “If you hit it long on that green and you’re in that pot bunker, it might take you more than one shot to get out of it.”
CLAIM TO FAME: In the early 1920s, industrialist Henry Ford bought 70,000 acres covering 120 square miles southwest of Savannah, including three former pre-Civil War plantations. In 1936, Ford broke ground for a beautiful Greek revival style mansion on the banks of the Ogeechee River for his winter home.
The grand house, made of Savannah-gray brick, had marble steps, air conditioning, and an elevator. It sat on 55 acres of manicured lawns and flowering gardens. The house became the center of social gatherings with visitations by the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and the DuPonts.
The residential community and private course comprise just a small portion of Ford’s original holdings — approximately 1,800 acres.
WHAT TO SEE: Established in 1733, Savannah was Georgia’s first state capital. In addition to many historical districts and unique squares, the city hosts multiple arts and music festivals throughout the year. The biggest is the annual Savannah St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which winds through downtown Savannah. Tybee Island, known for its lighthouse and beaches, is 17 miles to the east.
KEY COURSE DETAILS
Address: 1 Club House Drive, Richmond Hill, GA 31324
The course is a private golf club and does not require tee times. Members may play whenever they wish.
Turner Sports Interactive
Tags: BMW PGA Championship, Brian Henninger, Champions Tour, Colin Montgomerie, Ford Plantation, French Lick, Georgia, Golf, Golf course, Golf courses, Golf Courses Georgia, Golf Vacation, golfuniverse.com, Indiana, Kevin Na, Masahiro Kuramoto, Pete Dye, Richmond Hill, Senior PGA Championship