Hilton Head National

Hilton Head National

The Tradition Continues at this Lowcountry Favorite

Some golf courses exist to help sell real estate. Others are built to fill hotel rooms or timeshares. There are those, however, that are built to honor and serve a golfer’s love of the game. They are crafted to provide the ideal setting and atmosphere for the pursuit of a passion. Welcome to Hilton Head National, where serving the golfer and his quest to play the game is THE only reason it exists.

Designed under the skillful hands of architects Gary Player and Bobby Weed, and managed through the watchful eye of Scratch Golf, Hilton Head National is golf in its purest form. There are no homes encroaching on the course, no 18-story hotel blocking the sun on the 18th hole. Rather, there are just three elements to golf at Hilton Head National – the golfer, the golf course and the beautiful natural surroundings that bring them together.

Located less than a mile from the bridge to Hilton Head Island, Hilton Head National offers 18 holes of championship golf that rivals any resort or private facility in the Lowcountry. Crafted through pristine woodlands, around natural wetlands and over rolling terrain, the course harmoniously blends nine holes by Player and another nine by Weed into one challenging yet fair design. While not overly long, both nines at Hilton Head National require accuracy, management and imagination. The entire course provides a great mix of short and long par-4s, challenging par-3s and risk/reward par-5s that combine to make for a rewarding round of golf.

“You have to move your ball around a little bit out here,” said John Ferrebee, head golf professional at Hilton Head National. “The iron play is really the key to a good round at Hilton Head National.” Those who have visited and played Hilton Head National, and that includes a bulk of the golfers who come to Hilton Head each year, might be surprised to see the course being referred to now as an 18-hole facility. From the late 1990s to just last year, Hilton Head National was the only 27-hole public course in Bluffton, yet the planned expansion of a parkway from Bluffton to Hilton Head has taken away nine of the original Player 18.

Hilton Head National - The Tradition Continues at this Lowcountry FavoriteWhile no one around Hilton Head National is celebrating the loss of nine quality holes from the facility, the 18 holes that remain are still among the finest in the region and are more than enough challenge to make any visiting or local golfer choose to play here time and again.

“There was really nothing we could do about it,” Ferrebee said of losing the nine holes. “But the tradition of Hilton Head National continues. We continue to provide a great golf experience at a great value and with Southern hospitality.”

Truly that is the right way to look at a bad situation.It also helps that the collaborating works between Player and Weed, albeit done years apart, blend so nicely together into one unique course. In the late 1990s, Weed, who has built or rebuilt many top layouts in the Southeast, was brought in to add an additional nine at Hilton Head National that would complement Player’s work. He succeeded and then some.

The Weed nine boasts an impressive collection of challenging par-4s of varying lengths, including its signature 298-yard sixth, which lures golfers into taking on water to the right and severe mounding to the left to reach the green off the tee.

Throughout the nine, Weed takes full advantage of the natural terrain and wetlands to craft a course that puts equal demand on accuracy and imagination. “Weed crafted some memorable holes by using elevation changes and some unique bunkering,” Ferrebee said. “The greens are small, but if you miss in the wrong places you will be challenged.”

While the course lost some strong holes from the original Player design last year, what is left is a layout that demands accuracy over length and creativity over “play it safe.” Player’s remaining nine holes, previously referred to as The National, are highlighted by the mix of challenging par-4s that dominate the nine. By using a blend of length, natural hazards, waste areas and small, protected greens, Player challenges accuracy without severely testing power.

This blend of challenge and beauty is well-defined in both the 385-yard par-4 fifth and the 450-yard par-4 ninth. While varying in length, both courses use hazards on one side (waste bunker on five and wetlands on nine) of the fairway and woodlands on the other to frame the tee shot. Both feature difficult, well-guarded greens that require accuracy on the approach.

There is no dearth of quality golf in the Hilton Head area, but what makes Hilton Head National so special is its dedication to the game. In addition to its core golf environment, the staff and conditioning at Hilton Head National is second to none, including the area’s private courses.

Superintendent Blake Carlisle, who was previously at the then Scratch Golf-owned courses at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla., is credited with keeping the course in top-notch year-round conditioning. Couple that with a staff that is as friendly as it is consistent and the Hilton Head National model of excellence is revealed.

“Our goal is to create a course that is obviously open to the public but where we provide them with a private club atmosphere,” Ferrebee said.

“Our staff really is one big happy family and that shows in the way they treat our customers.”

It is, to be sure, the perfect recipe for a successful golf course. Build a course people want to play; don’t distract them while they do it; treat them well before, during and after; and make sure your best foot is always forward.

Such is the model at Hilton Head National, one that works no matter how many golf holes there are to be played.


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