Updated: May 21, 2015
Hilton Head Golf VacationsHilton Head Island is located towards the southern edge of South Carolina, about 25 miles north of Savannah, Georgia and 90 miles south of Charleston. Hilton Head is a barrier island named after a British sea captain who surveyed the area in the mid 1600's (long before the hotel chain of the same name!). When most people think about Hilton Head, they think about golf resorts. There are more than 30 immaculate golf courses within 10 miles of Hilton Head, making it a mecca for golfers from around the world, but especially up and down the East Coast. There is easy plane access from both Savannah and from the regional Hilton Head Airport (on the island), meaning the local population of just over 30,000 often swells to nearly 5 times that level during the peak tourist season. More than 2 million visitors come to Hilton Head Island each year, making it a top tourist spot on the East Coast. In this guide, we will look at the different golf courses and see just how grand a Hilton Head golf vacation can be!
Hilton Head Resort DevelopmentHilton Head began to assume its current form in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Planned as a resort development, one of the draws was the warm weather. The weather in Hilton Head is especially nice in the spring and fall, though the middle of summer can be mighty hot and humid. Temperatures in June, July, and August average in the high 80s and low 90s, while April-May and Oct-Nov will treat you to more balmy 70s and 80s. Sea Pines Plantation was developed first around Harbour Town towards the southern edge of the island, but the 12 miles of ocean beaches to the north drew plenty of competition. Today, this is not a quiet golf town. There are freeways, large malls, Wal-Marts (of course), and just about every chain store you can imagine. One thing you'll find when you visit is that the resorts rule. There is almost no beach access for the public outside of the large resorts. But the resorts are beautiful. Most of the resorts offer combination golf and lodging packages aimed at golf foursomes. You'll find a lot of people offering golf packages, but be sure to check for specials direct on the resort websites, listed below before booking anything -- you'll often find aggressive deals available, especially in the off-season.
List of Hilton Head Golf CoursesWith more than 20 golf courses on the island, Hilton Head is lovingly referred to as "Golf Island" - and the name fits. The Verizon Heritage Classic PGA Tour event is held here each Spring at Harbour Town Golf Links. The nearby islands of Fripp Island and Daufuskie Island are also home to more golf courses if you can't get your fill on HHI. Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes are the two biggest resorts here, but you will find golf courses everywhere you go on this island.
- Sea Pines Harbor Town - this Pete Dye course is legendary yet accessible to all golfers. Usually ranked the #1 course in SC, it plays just over 6000 yards from the white tees, with a 130 slope rating. It has the feel of an old links course from Scotland. (Seapines.com or 800-955-8337). You can check for tee times at their website (green fees can be in excess of $250!)
- Sea Pines Ocean Course - designed by Mark McCumber, this was the first golf course built on Hilton Head and was rebuilt in 1995. Same website and phone number as above for Sea Pines tee times and reservations. A little easier that Harbor Town with a 123 slope rating from the white tees.
- Sea Pines Sea Marsh Course - the last course at Sea Pines, this one features lots of lagoons and marshes (hence the name!), and was designed by George Cobb in 1967 (currently being re-worked by Pete Dye).
- Palmetto Dunes Robert Trent Jones Course (RTJ) - one of three courses at Palmetto Dunes (PalmettoDunes.com, 866-400-7931), this one has lots of action around the lagoons that make up Palmetto Dunes. Its' signature hole is the par 5 10th, taking you right out to the Atlantic. A sample golf package available includes 3 nights lodging and 3 rounds of golf (1 at each course) starting at $429 per person (4 people in a 2 room villa). Rates are as low as $65-$75 in the winter off-season, expect to pay several times more in the summer.
- Palmetto Dunes George Fazio Course - designed by, you guessed it, Mr. Fazio (same contact info as above for Palmetto Dunes) this is a very attractive course, fairly open on the front nine and tighter on the back 9. We suggest playing all three in a package deal if you stay at the resort.
- Palmetto Dunes Arthur Hills Course - the final one at Palmetto Dunes, it has been open since 1986 and many think it is the best Palmetto has to offer - we won't argue. Lots of lagoons and sand dunes, you know you are on an island!
- Crescent Pointe Golf Club - just across the bridge back in Bluffton, this Arnold Palmer designed course is relatively new, having opened in 2000 -- but it get high marks from those who play there. Lots of marshes and water here as you play among the magnolias. 126 slope rating from the whites (5987 yards). (crescentpointegolf.com, or (888) 292-7778 for tee times 24 hours per day)
- Hampton Hall Golf Club - back on HHI, this Pete Dye course is a beauty (hamptonhallsc.com, 843-815-8720). This is a private club, unfortunately.
- Country Club of Hilton Head - (hiltonheadclub.com, 843-681-4653) - a Rees Jones course, this is a tough course with a lot of water and elevated tees and greens. The beautiful oaks make for an unforgettable low country setting. The 12th hole tees off from the highest point on HHI for a great view.
- Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run - opened in 1992, this Jack Nicklaus designed course is one of the most popular on HHI. (843-689-2200, goldenbear-indigorun.com).
- Hilton Head National - also just across the bridge in Bluffton, this Gary Player course is calmer and quieter than the busy resorts on HHI. 27 holes here will challenge players of all skill levels. Not to be missed.
- Island West Golf Club - also in Bluffton, (843-689-6660, 40 Island West Ct.), this course plays through more of a neighborhood setting, not a resort. This is a fun course that is challenging but not imposing. In the spirit of designer Fuzzy Zoeller, he enjoyed our play here.
- Palmetto Hall Plantation Robert Cupp Course - opened in 1993, this course (palmettohallclub.com and its companion Arthur Hills make up the two championship courses at Palmette Hall (not to be confused with Palmetto Dunes).
- Port Royal Golf Courses - located along the coast line, there are three courses at Port Royal - The Barony, Planter's Row, and Robber's Row (portroyalgolfclub.com, (843) 681-1700). Robber's Row was redesigned by Pete Dye in 1994, and is our favorite with all the lovely oaks and magnolias that cover the landscape.
- Oyster Reef Golf Club - another Rees Jones course (oysterreefgolfclub.net), this one is often counted among the top 20 courses in South Carolina. The par-3 sixth hole is one of the best on the island.