March 2011

Best Kept Secret - THE GOLF CLUB AT INDIGO RUN

Author: David Tobias | Photographer: John Brackett

How much fun is a well-kept secret anyway? The plain truth is, usually not much. So let’s blast this one out there and do the big reveal. The Golf Club at Indigo Run, tucked back about two miles off Highway 278, at the far end of a peacefully flowing, serpentine drive, framed by lovely live oaks and picturesque pines, has been kept quiet too long.

It’s time to tell all—that this is not only the site of one of the finest golf courses on Hilton Head Island, designed by Jack Nicklaus and his son Jack Nicklaus II (it was the first signature course built by Nicklaus and his son and the last course built on the island), it’s also a close-knit club of about 275 self-proclaimed best friends.

Any conversation about Indigo Run starts with poetic descriptions of the setting, and almost every pastoral adjective applies: bucolic, idyllic, green. Even if members don’t consider themselves particularly poetic, they can’t help it. Marianne Kinsey, Board of Governors Chairman, and an Indigo Run resident since 1995, simply calls it “homey.” And who’s ever called a country club homey? But it’s not quite a country club—it’s a golf club—and it’s definitely not a country club setting in the traditional sense, with a cottage at its core instead of a larger, more imposing central structure like most country clubs.

That’s because the club was sort of built in stages, starting in 1995 when the golf clubhouse was the only structure and the golf course was being built around it. That almost rustic structure, with its exposed beams, two-sided fireplace and the inviting smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies (which is now a tradition) is still the pre-eminent gathering place for golf club members and their guests.

This is where, at a designated time every morning, the “welcome group” or “open group” gathers to throw a couple bucks in a bucket, toss golf balls out on the lawn to choose sides and form foursomes of folks that sometimes don’t even know each other. Does that sound like a club? Well, not in the traditional sense, but it sure is a great way to meet new people, develop new friendships and solidify existing neighborly bonds.

Several years ago, one of those new to the group was Vincent DiCanio, who, at the time, was a recent transplant from Stoneybrook, New York. He chose Indigo Run in 2006 and moved there in 2008 for the lifestyle, a certain third garage stall (more about that later) and for the golf. As an avid golfer, he was looking forward to year-round golf but was a little nervous about the social aspects, having been advised by his New York pals that he’d likely never meet another friend.

“They told me I was too old for that,” said DiCanio, who is now the club’s Membership Committee Chairman. “I must have met 100 guys in the first couple weeks; I now have more friends here than I ever had up north, and they’re all open and welcoming. Those morning golf rounds opened doors to a golf and social lifestyle that I couldn’t possibly have envisioned or experienced otherwise.”

DiCanio and Kinsey are two of about 60 members who actively serve on various steering committees that advise on matters of membership, rules and regulations, golf greens and social golf. They advise, because ultimately policy for the club is set by ClubCorp, which operates Indigo Run as well as two other golf courses on the island: the Country Club of Hilton Head and Golden Bear at Indigo Run. Indigo Run Golf Club members also have playing privileges on those courses.

According to Lorri Hunter, Membership Director, perhaps one of the greatest benefits of being owned by KSL Resorts and operated by Club Corp is that, unlike an equity club, the Golf Club at Indigo Run is private, without assessments and monthly minimums.

“Belonging to a private club without the assessments is a dream come true,” Hunter said. “The parent company takes care of everything—members just pay their dues.”

Being corporately owned also opens the door to the club hosting private events from the public, such as weddings, showers, reunions and graduation parties. MacKenzie Raehm, Private Events Director , says her operation has access to the 100-person capacity Fairway Grill; the Main Dining Room for luncheons of up to 45; and a Board Room capable of hosting between 12 and 14. Next door is Indigo Hall, a banquet facility, also available to the club for events, built by the Community Owners Association but shared, and the indoor pavilion and outdoor space, which can accommodate larger functions for up to 350.

Another slight break from traditional membership is that members—social or golf—need not be homeowners in Indigo Run. Most members are residents, however, and Kinsey says that they not only socialize and play golf together, they also sometimes travel to play golf or for dining, thanks to another Club Corp perk called Signature Gold, which provides access to more than 140 private clubs around the world and benefits as varied as complimentary Sunday gospel brunches at House of Blues locations and loaner clubs for golf.

And oh, about that third garage… It was the extra garage, dedicated to a golf cart, that really pushed DiCanio’s house buying decision in Indigo Run. He says he always wanted to retire on a golf course.

“When I came down here and saw a third garage, I didn’t know what it was for—well, I kind of knew—but when I saw that third garage, I didn’t even have to go in the house,” DiCanio said. “That was it. To be able to drive my own golf cart to the golf course…? I bought the house. The Golf Club at Indigo Run? Best decision I ever made.”

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Call Lorri Hunter, membership director for more information about The Golf Club at Indigo Run. 843.342.2988.

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