Geometric golf: Palmetto Hall’s Cupp Course Was Born in a Computer

By:Bob Gillespie

Date:8/27/2014

If you’ve ever played a computer golf game on your home PC, you might feel a certain déjà vu upon stepping to the first tee at Palmetto Hall’s Cupp Course — except the birdies won’t come as easily there as on your desktop.

Designed by Bob Cupp, a former Golfweek Architect of the Year and former Jack Nicklaus Golf associate, Palmetto Hall’s second 18 holes (the Arthur Hills course opened in 1991, the Cupp in 1993) don’t scream “designed by a computer” from the first tee. But were you to look down from above the property, general manager Chip Pellerin says the geometric angles and shapes of greens, bunkers and mounding would be apparent.

“Cupp designed it using a CAD system,” Pellerin says. “It was the first golf course designed from tee to green with all geometric features, because doing that, he was able to project a cost and use no additional dirt. And he could stay on budget.

“It’s a great course for its playability and shot values. From the ground, you don’t notice (the shapes) so much, but flying in, you definitely see it.”

Most first-time players aren’t aware of the course’s unique design, but Pellerin says “some know, if they do research on the web. When those guys call, it’s one of the first things they bring up.”

Even at ground level, some features are noticeable; the 12th green, for instance, is a perfect circle. “Rectangular greens have been in existence since more than 100 years ago in Scotland,” Pellerin says. But the Cupp Course also has rectangular bunkers around the greens and, in some cases, pyramid-shape mounds. “The nice thing with the pyramid mounding is, the average player hits a cut (shot), and some of these mounds in the rough will kick the ball back in play.”

The course — which was closed in May for renovations and reopened in mid-August — is quite playable for all skill levels, Pellerin says. “It can still be a challenge from the regular tees, but you can get around OK. From the back tees, though, where you have to cross more water hazards, you’ve got to hit some pretty good carries.” In fact, the professional eGolf Tour stages an annual event each February on the Cupp Course.

The par-72 course plays up to 7,079 yards (6,524 and 6,042 from the blues and whites) and features woods, wetlands and a dunes system running through the course. Pellerin believes it complements the more-traditional Hills layout, which was re-grassed with Celebration Bermuda in 2013.

Cupp, now semi-retired and living in Atlanta, visited in early 2014. “You listen to him about how the fairways are designed to receive shots — it’s a tremendous concept and design,” Pellerin says. “The aesthetics are what you remember afterward, but the shot values are memorable, too.”

The Cupp Course has made lists of the world’s more unusual golf courses. To learn about real “computer golf,” visit palmettohallgolf.com, or call 843.342.2582.

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