Scratch Golf, owner of the 316-acre Hilton Head National Golf Club designed by Gary Player in greater Bluffton, began construction in late December on an upscale recreational vehicle (RV) park on 97 acres adjacent to the 18-hole course.
Completion of the 300 RV rental sites, community amenities and infrastructure is expected by mid-2021.
“We expect our new RV resort will soon be among the top-rated recreational vehicles parks east of the Mississippi because of its strategic location and wide number of preferred guest amenities,” said Bill Palmer, president of Scratch Golf LLC.
Park amenities will include nature trails; an Olympic-sized swimming pool and bath houses; tennis and pickleball courts; golf cart paths that connect to the golf course’s clubhouse; camping facilities; a children’s playground, a fitness facility and green space. All rental sites will feature electricity, cable, Wi-Fi, water and sewer. None of the sites are for sale.
Because the development is consistent with uses permitted under existing county zoning codes, it did not need legislative action, only approval by the Beaufort County Planning Department.
This project has not been without contention and controversy for at least four years.
The Beaufort County Planning Commission approved zoning changes for a massive development on the golf course property in late 2016, but the county council rejected the proposed project in May 2017.
Palmer said in a press release at that time that “the luxury RV resort will serve as a family friendly destination that will strive to enhance the viability of the Hilton Head National Golf Course as well as nearby retailers and restaurants.” He also said the RV resort would provide additional revenue to the county.
There was significant community backlash regarding density and quality of life issues over Scratch Golf’s plan to redevelop 279 acres for a hotel, apartments, homes and a convention center, among other amenities.
The Bluffton-based owner went back to the drawing board with a revised zoning proposal to develop the RV park and presented it to the Beaufort County Planning Department for review in spring 2018. The county approved the plan in spring 2019.
“It was an important step for getting the luxury RV resort underway,” company spokesman Tom Gardo said at the time.
The course, wedged between U.S. 278 and Bluffton Parkway, opened in 1989.
Smaller luxury RV communities also are planned in Hardeeville and Beaufort.
Meanwhile, residents and a developer have their own storm brewing at the Island West golf course community.
The financially ailing course, designed by pro Fuzzy Zoeller and Clyde Johnston, opened to the public in 1991. The course is currently closed.
Development plans essentially would pave over the golf course and build residential and commercial structures, while retaining green space.
The rezoning process would require approval from the county’s planning commission and county council. Currently the project is in the hands of the county Planning Department but further action is stalled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Official county action requires in-person meetings, which are not scheduled, because county offices have been closed during the pandemic.
Residents in the gated community, who do not own the golf course, and its homeowners’ association are concerned about flooding, the devaluation of their homes and their quality of life if development proceeds. The association has expressed interest in buying the golf course and initiated a vigorous letter-writing campaign to area politicians and county leaders voicing their opposition to the project.
The golf course’s owner has enlisted locally based developer Reed Group to sell the course. It plans to ask the county to rezone 74 acres of the 210-acre property for commercial and residential development and possibly a hotel.
“The homeowners in (Island West) are vehemently against this proposal,” resident Jessica Bender wrote to this newspaper. “If one privately owned golf course is successfully rezoned, then that opens up every other community in the county to the same type of rezoning threat. A dangerous precedent could be set if this is successful.”
In other golf news, Crescent Pointe and Eagle’s Pointe in Bluffton were sold in November to Hallmark Golf in Houston. The purchase price was not disclosed but the cash transaction included the property and inventory.
“We have no debt on it,” said company president Walter Galdenzi. “We bought everything free and clear so we have no bank financing, so we saved a lot of money … We own it outright.”
Galdenzi and his wife, Susan, who is also his business partner, think the Lowcountry courses are beautiful. “The reason for our success is we take golf very, very personally,” he said.
The couple owns two residences on the island. They also are investing $1 million in renovating the Days Inn at Shelter Cove, which they own.
Lowcountry resident Dean Rowland is a veteran senior editor and freelance writer.