Ask the average golf enthusiast about Hilton Head Island and chances are the first words you’ll hear are “Harbour Town Golf Links.” That’s no surprise, given the fame of Pete Dye’s celebrated layout within Sea Pines Resort – but there are many more options for visiting players to consider.
In fact, counting courses on the island, in nearby Bluffton and others within 30 minutes, the choices add up to more than 25. That’s enough great golf – by a list of acclaimed architects – to satisfy players visiting for a month without ever repeating a course.
The crown jewel is Harbour Town, site since 1969 of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing, South Carolina’s annual tour event. Thanks to renovations and upgrades in 2015, the course – rated second among PGA Tour courses by the players, trailing only Augusta National – is better than ever.
Cary Corbitt, Sea Pines’ director of sports and operations, oversaw a summer 2015 project where tee boxes, fairways and rough were re-grassed with Celebration Bermuda, “the most technologically advanced grass for warm weather courses,” he says. Greens were resurfaced using TifEagle Ultradwarf Bermuda, the same smooth grass used on the greens since 2001.
“The golf course is completely grown-in, and it looks beautiful,” Corbitt said. “All the guests and members who play the course are going to see a highly detailed golf course that, once it matures, will play firmer and faster than before.”
The course also installed a new irrigation system using advanced water management and control technology to assure premium conditions year-round. “That will allow us to manage the moisture levels more precisely,” Corbitt says. “We’re excited to be opening the course up and showcasing it for all our visitors. When the Tour comes to town, we think the players will be excited, too.”
The course upgrades came on the heels of reconstruction of the Harbour Town Clubhouse in 2015, resulting in a 55,000 square foot, multi-use facility featuring a new grill, Links, dining room and 1,900 square foot pro shop.
But Harbour Town isn’t the only game in town, or even in Sea Pines. Heron Point by Pete Dye, Harbour Town’s sister course, also underwent modifications in 2015 – larger greens, softer surrounding areas and contours – to increase playability for visiting golfers. The Ocean Course, Sea Pines’ third layout, also has been upgraded, by five-time Heritage winner David Love III and his architecture company.
Outside the Sea Pine gates is a wide array of courses for all skill levels and budgets. The Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort offers a trio of layouts by noted architects Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Arthur Hills, while Palmetto Hall Plantation has courses by Hills and Bob Cupp.
Other on-island multiple-course areas include Hilton Head Plantation (Country Club of Hilton Head and Oyster Reef, both designed by Rees Jones); Port Royal Golf Club (courses by Dye, George Cobb and Willard Byrd); and Shipyard Golf Club (36 holes by Cobb and Byrd). Across Calibogue Sound from Harbour Town on Daufuskie Island are the Jack Nicklaus-designed Melrose On The Beach and Bloody Point, a Tom Weiskopf-Jay Morrish creation.
Even before reaching Hilton Head Island, golfers find a treasure trove of choices in booming Bluffton. Most acclaimed is the private May River Golf Club at Montage Palmetto Bluff, an award-winning Nicklaus project nestled among the marshes and wetlands. Also in Bluffton are the popular Hilton Head National (by Gary Player and South Carolina’s own Bobby Weed), Arnold Palmer’s Crescent Pointe and Love’s Eagle’s Point , Fuzzy Zoeller’s Island West and Old South Links by S.C. native Clyde Johnston.
Start with off-island courses and work your way to Sea Pines, or try it in reverse. However you go, Hilton Head Island has golf options to stir a player’s soul.