Golf legend Arnold Palmer will return to Hilton Head Island Oct. 20 to help christen more of his design handiwork.
Palmer first made his mark on Hilton Head in 1969, capturing the PGA Tour's inaugural Heritage Classic on the then brand new Harbour Town Golf Links. He has since designed several courses in Beaufort County, including Old Tabby Links on Spring Island and Crescent Pointe in greater Bluffton.
Now, the Arnold Palmer Design Co. is preparing to debut its signature-design stamp on the recently renovated Wexford Plantation Golf Course. Palmer is scheduled to appear for the course's private grand opening.
Palmer and his team brought their design style to the 525-acre golf, yachting and tennis community. The 18-hole Wexford course originally was designed by Willard C. Byrd and opened in 1983.Wexford celebrated its first 25 years in the spring of 2008 and recently spent $3.9 million renovating its clubhouse. In April, the club closed its golf course for renovations and is set to reopen it as an Arnold Palmer Signature Course. Officials would not reveal the cost of the course renovation.
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"Wexford will reopen as a completely different golf course with an emphasis on a timeless, classic design -- conveying a throwback style of architecture with smaller greens with different angles, smaller bunkers and a bigger emphasis on playing strategy," said Steve Johnson, director of golf at Wexford. "The ninth green at Wexford now strongly resembles No. 10 at Riviera, and a new 15th green at Wexford nearly replicates the 13th at Augusta National."
The golf course's turf conditions had deteriorated, Johnson said. With the downturn in the economy, what was once an expensive endeavor became more affordable as contractors and designers sought work.
Course conditions are now more lush and should make for better playing conditions year-round, Johnson said.The renovations haven't been without controversy.
A letter to property owners this month from Susan Minter, former president of the Wexford board of directors, said three resignations followed an investigation by a board-approved oversight committee. The investigation came after the gated community's management told the board July 22 that a "significant golf course overrun" was inevitable, the letter said.
After the committee's report was presented Sept. 1, the board voted to accept the resignations of general manager Jim VanBuren, project manager Richard Thompson and Johnson. Johnson's resignation is effective Dec. 1.
Minter, Johnson and other Wexford officials have declined to comment further.
Details: Go to www.wexfordplantation.com.
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/EyeOnHiltonHead