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 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 since then looks beautiful,” Corbitt said. “All the guests and members who play the course have seen a highly detailed golf course that now plays firmer and faster than before.”
The course has hosted three RBC Heritage events since the upgrades, and the PGA tour professionals agree: one of their favorite courses every year, is, if anything, better than ever. The reconstructed Harbour Town Clubhouse, which earned raves for its Links, an American Grill restaurant and improved pro shop, continues to add special features, most recently The Pete Dye Room, showcasing the designer's career work with three videos and interactive displays.
But Harbour Town isn’t the only game in town, or even in Sea Pines. The 2016 addition to the resort's lineup is Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III, a reconstruction of the former Ocean Course by the five-time RBC Heritage champion. Atlantic Dunes earned a spot on Golf Digest's "Best New Courses of 2016" and was named 2018 National Course of the Year by the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Heron Point by Pete Dye, Harbour Town’s sister course, also underwent recent modifications, with larger greens, softer surrounding areas and contours to increase playability for visiting golfers.
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).
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.