Cotton Dike is one of two courses inside the private gated community of Dataw Island located just outside Beaufort, South Carolina. A Tom Fazio gem, the course offers a variety of hole designs, is challenging but fair, and provides stunning views of the natural surroundings and abundant wildlife.
The driving range tee area is wide and deep, providing ample space for daily setup on fresh, well kept turf. Balls are abundant and included with club membership and guest fees. Greens with colored flags throughout the range area offer targets at most any distance. Beside the range is a large, undulating chipping green with greenside bunker. Although a tad bit small, the putting green provides an accurate assessment on speed and grain.
Amenities & Customer Service
The entire staff – gate house, pro shop, restaurant, and grounds crew – exudes a warm, southern charm. Having been at Dataw Island Club for twenty years, Director of Golf, Dave Britton P.G.A., has the golf operations running smooth as silk. The pro shop is well stocked and the interactions of Head Golf Pro Joshua May and Assistant Pro Chris Fearn with members and guests strike a great balance between friendliness and professionalism. This is not a stuffy private club and the vibe is inviting and comfortable. There’s plenty of ice and water at the start and at the front and back side comfort stations. You won’t see a beverage cart, but you can grab a drink and a hot dog at the snack bar located at the pool next to the clubhouse. After your round, the full service Pub serves up distinctive draft beer as well as delicious food while you gaze across the ninth hole and natural beauty beyond. I highly recommend the she-crab soup, a South Carolina specialty.
The Cotton Dike course is kept in great condition. It’s evident the members understand the importance of filling divots and repairing ball marks. Just like the driving range, tee boxes are level with abundant grass. Fairways are well-defined and bunkers are filled with beautiful clean white sand. As throughout the south, deep bermuda rough can be penal, and requires your full attention mentally and physically. The bermuda greens run true and fast.
Beauty & Scenery
It’s in this category that Cotton Dike really stands out. Six holes (5, 6, 8, 9, 17, & 18) are literally on the edge of coastal marsh lands with scenic views as far as the eye can see. Depending on the tides, you may see muddy bogs with exposed oyster beds or flowing creeks and the occasional dolphin. The golf course was named after the earthen dikes plantation owners built (some are still visible today) to keep salt water from their cotton crops. The par 5 18th may be the most beautiful hole I’ve ever played, with it’s long, undulating fairway slowly doglegging to the left, Jenkins Creek along the entire left side, white bunkers dotting the right side, and the small green seemingly perched in the marsh.
Unique in a different way, the 2nd hole seems like a typical par 3 until you get to the green and discover the stone wall behind it encloses a family cemetery of the original owners of the island along with a giant 400 year-old live oak tree.
The variety of wildlife around the course is impressive. It’s routine to see great blue herons, white egrets, wood storks, cormorants, and a variety of ducks and smaller birds. And in one of the four lagoons of Cotton Dike, you’re bound to see a decent size gator or two sunning on the bank.
Course Design & Difficulty
Cotton Dike golf course is a classic Low Country design – don’t expect much elevation change, but be prepared for water hazards. Fazio designed each 9 in similar fashion – start off simple and straight forward, then crank up the challenge. Cotton Dike is not long at 6,787 yards from the tips (black) and 6,219 yards from the regular tees (gold), but slope ratings of 136 and 130, respectively, speak of the challenges. The second par 3 on each side is visually intimidating with full hazard from tee to green requiring all carry with a mid iron. The par 5s – 7 and 12 – are reachable in two with long, accurate drives, but take the wrong line and you’ll run out into a lagoon. I find hole 6 the most difficult with water in play off the tee left, marsh along the entire right side, and a bunker fronting the green. With that said, the 9th hole is no peach and can really bring you down from the scenic beauty high you’ve been riding. I uncovered a plaque that gives the bad news from the back tees – 210 to carry the marsh. I checked it with my range finder and the good news was its accurate, the bad news is its 250 to carry if you go the right of the big oak tree. Moving up and over to the regular tees doesn’t offer much solace as you immediately encounter the same problem. If you stay to the left of the big oak tree, you end up with a long approach shot to a green tucked up against the same marsh, and now the only option is going over the big oak. Having to pick your lines – that’s one of the things I like about playing Cotton Dike.
I’ve been fortunate enough to play Cotton Dike numerous times. I was able to play 27 holes on my most recent visit. Being out along the marsh for a quick 9 as the sun set was a magical time, with long shadows on the greens and reflections on the water. Cotton Dike is a pleasure to play with its variety of well-maintained holes and spectacular scenery. If your game is under control and you play smart, you can score well. If you’re fighting any swing demons, bring some extra balls because the hazards are lurking. Either way enjoy a cold one in the Pub where the staff are sure to put a smile on your face.