Colleton River Plantation: Hilton Head Island, SC

"You can attack one course or use your patience to overcome the other; either way, you can play your kind of golf on any given day.

"Thus says Jim Storey, general manager of Colleton River Plantation on Hilton Head Island, in discussing a pair of much-heralded golf courses that continue to make the "best-of-the-best" lists in a multitude of golf publications.

"Pete Dye will tell you that his Colleton River course is his best work, a crowning achievement in more than 30 years of course design," Storey continues, adding that accolades for the course began rolling in just six months after it opened for play.

The recently renovated Jack Nicklaus golf course has a layout that places a premium on strategy and shot-making, striking a fine balance between challenge and playability. Heroic carries over hazards, treacherous bunkers and multi-tiered putting surfaces are notably absent, while open approaches to gently contoured greens, alternate routes of play and ample bailout areas are the norm. The course begins its journey through forests of live oaks, towering pines and magnolias on holes one and two, then rambles across lush meadowlands on the par-5 third, to the tranquility of the tidal marshes and subtropical palmettos on holes four and five. It repeats this pattern three times before bursting out of the protective environs of the interior on the unique par-5 14th to its grand finale on a wonderful stretch of wind-swept dunes bordering the Colleton River.

The Nicklaus Signature Course, along with the neighboring Pete Dye Course, give Colleton River the distinction of being one of the only private golf communities in the world to have had two courses on the same Top 100 list. And they are private, with play limited to owners of one of the Colleton River Plantation community's 695 lots.

"If you want to play these courses, you must own property in the community," advises Jeff Hall, one of the original developers and a realtor with Sea Pines Real Estate Company.

But there's more to this private golfing community. The Borland course, a nine-hole layout consisting of par-3 holes ranging from 60 to 135 yards, provides a fun way to perfect your short game. Designed by Bruce Borland, the course was named in his memory after his tragic death in 1999.