There's no wrong way to play Hilton Head; but there is OUR way

Essentially, it is our OUR Lowcountry Experience delivered to you

Photo courtesy of Heritage Classic FoundationThere are certainly many benefits to living in a golf destination such as Hilton Head Island. There’s the weather that lets you play the game year-round. There are the Lowcountry perks such as the beaches, the rivers and the quite natural environment that sometimes makes life feel like it moves at a welcomed crawl.

There’s also the inside information that comes from living and working on Hilton Head Island every day. It’s the kind of intel that makes it simple to plan the perfect golf vacation for the closest of friends. The kind of “inside the loop knowledge” that combines the obvious with the hidden, the “must sees” with the really “must tries.”

Indeed, Hilton Head is a destination with many obvious places to see and experience, many courses that are well known and others that should be. At the end of the day, it is a region, both on and off island, that has many secrets that may only be explored if you know someone that knows where to look.

Well, you know us and we would like to know you, so we have put together the map for the perfect Hilton Head Road Trip. It’s a four-day adventure that takes you to places on the island you may well know and also introduces you to places and faces that you should know. It’s the visit to the Hilton Head we know and the adventure we would take if our schedules would only allow.

DAY 1 – Make Yourself at Home

Make Yourself at HomeThink you know the real Hilton Head Island? Well you might and you might not. There are great hotels and villas on the island that welcome and entertain visitors year round, but for this stay we thought a luxurious house just steps from the quiet beaches of our barrier island would be more appropriate. We settled on a house owned by Charter One Realtor Charles Sampson located on North Forest Beach Road on the south end of Hilton Head.

A massive 8-bedroom house with great living spaces, a large kitchen, a pool and large deck and a game room on the bottom level was everything we needed for “down time” or in-house meals that make up a small but enjoyable part of this type of golf trip. The house is conveniently located near the majority of nightlife options is close enough for a short run to the beach and provides plenty of entertainment space for those looking to relax before and after a long day of competitive golf.

DAY 2 – Golf – It’s the Reason They Come

Don’t let anyone fool you, there is plenty to do and see away from the golf course in the South Carolina Lowcountry, but if golf is your primary purpose and passion, you have come to the right place. There are certainly other locations with more golf courses. In all honestly, there are other places with more affordable options. That said, there are few if any other destinations that provide such a consistent and high quality product as the resorts and public courses that grace this beautiful southern paradise.

Hilton Head NationalThere is true value in Hilton Head. Given the challenge presented by many of our local courses, we believe it best to ease into things during the first “real” (as in you actually get to play golf) day on the island. So, with that, in the morning we head off the island to Hilton Head National, a favorite of locals and visitors equally. Mind you, we don’t take you far off the island, Hilton Head National is a mere mile from the bridge to Hilton Head; but no matter the distance this Lowcountry stalwart is worth the drive.

With a pair of nine holes built by the legendary Gary Player and famed architect Bobby Weed respectively, Hilton Head National provides what is often so difficult to come by – core golf. There are no homes, hotels or timeshares encroaching on this dynamic 18-hole layout. Rather, its only golf and nature that waits the first of several enjoyable rounds of golf– during “our” Hilton Head experience.

Although their works are separated by several years, Player and Weed both crafted nine holes that blend seamlessly together and offer a mix of long and short par 4s, risk/reward par 5s and some of the most challenging and scenic par 3s in the Lowcountry. It truly is a great start to the trip.

Depending on the time of year, to get 36 holes in that include Hilton Head National the best bet is an afternoon round at either Old South Golf Links, which is a half mile toward the island, or Crescent Pointe, which sits about a mile to the west of National. Both layouts feature stunning vistas, challenging designs and closing stretches that take second to none in the Lowcountry.

For its part, Crescent is the only Lowcountry course crafted by the legendary Arnold Palmer and is among the most challenging layouts in Bluffton. Built along the veins of Colleton River, the course takes full advantage of the Lowcountry scenery on both the front and back nine finishes. In fact, the par-4 18th runs the length of the marsh and with a large oak to the left of the green is among the most gorgeous finishing holes in the Lowcountry.

Should the preference be Old South, well, another shotmakers course awaits. A Clyde Johnston design, Old South is equal parts strategy and accuracy as golfers must show patience and creativity throughout the round. For our money, the finish from 15 to 18 is among the most challenging and scenic in the entire region this side of Harbour Town Golf Links.

Casey’s Sports BarThe golf complete for the day, it’s time to sample the nightlife of Hilton Head for the first time. After a relaxing early evening at the house, it’s off to Red Fish for some excellent seafood dishes or Michael Anthony’s for the best Italian food on the island. Then it’s into Casey’s Sports Bar and Grill located next to Michael Anthony’s in Orlean’s Plaza to watch the evening’s sports action. For many who come to Hilton Head, Casey’s is a home away from home to watch the home team. With 50-plus televisions and every sports package you can imagine, if your team is in action, they are playing at Casey’s.

DAY 3 – 36 More Wait

Following a nice breakfast (how nice to have a huge kitchen in a large house) to fortify the morning round, it’s off to Palmetto Dunes, the second-most recognized resort on Hilton Head Island next to Sea Pines. With two days left of golf, it’s a good idea to split the experience, so Day 2’s morning highlight will be the Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course at Palmetto Dunes. Redesigned less than 10 years ago, this layout features one of only two oceanfront holes on Hilton Head Island.

No. 10 at the Robert Trend Jones Ocean Course at Palmetto Dunes.Yet scenery is only part of the attraction of this course, which features some of the best par-5s on Hilton Head and a quartet of par-3s that will test even the best player’s iron play.

The course is highlighted by back-to-back par-5s that cover the close of the front and the turn to the back nine. The par-5 ninth features trouble left and little bail out right, but a good drive for a long hitter certainly can bring birdie into play.

The 10th is among the most popular on Hilton Head as it rolls directly out to the Atlantic Ocean. Relatively straight but with severe bunkering to the right and in front of the green, the birdie opportunity on this hole depends directly on the direction of the wind. Behind you, have fun. In front, you’re gonna need help to get home in three.

Given enough time for lunch on the way to the next round, there is a hidden gem of a seafood joint that must be experienced if you have a taste for the sea. While it will not impress from the outside, The Sea Shack is well known for its oyster sandwich and other lunch items that makes it one of the most recommended secrets on the south end of Hilton Head Island.

Lunch behind, it’s time to resume the golf and the destination for the first time is Sea Pines, which is just up the road from the Sea Shack and just down the road from the house (when getting 36 holes in, location is everything). When it comes to Sea Pines, Dye is best known for his work at Harbour Town. Several years ago, however, the architect returned to the resort to redesign the Sea Marsh course that was an original work of George Cobb.

The end result was so remarkable that Sea Pines renamed the course Heron Point by Pete Dye, and it’s a layout that should be on any avid golfer’s playlist. Yet if it indeed is on the list as recommended, the A-game better accompany the clubs, because this course is among the stiffest challenges in the region.

We believe that golfers love to hang out where other golfers hang out, so Day 3’s evening should begin at Aunt Chiladas, which features a perfect mix of Mexican, Amerian and a dash of seafood cuisine. Like Casey’s, Aunt Chiladas features plenty of televisions and strong Happy Hour specials, which is always important to traveling golfers. We also recommend a night cap at Remy’s or Murphy’s Irish Pub,both of which are located on the south end, not far from the North Forest beach house.

DAY 4 – Save the Best for Last

The lasting memories of most golf trips are the last ones, so we have saved the best for last in our ideal golf trip. The day starts with a trip back to Palmetto Dunes to tackle the Arthur Hills Course.

In his course design, Hills is as consistent as the day is long and what he provides golfers is a consistent, fair but challenging test of golf. His layout at Palmetto Dunes is no exception. Built on rolling dunes and featuring 10 holes along the water, Hills crafted a course that forces golfers to execute a number of different shots from myriad of lies and locations. The famed architect also built his typically well-mounded, yet open-front greens that invite a variety of approach shots that demand creativity and commitment.

Speaking of commitment, one has to be truly committed to incorporating Harbour Town to its agenda to complete the perfect Hilton Head golf experience. Home to The Heritage, the island’s PGA Tour event, this Dye classic is unlike any course you will play on or off the island. The layout is characterized by tight fairways, sharp doglegs, strategic waste areas and the smallest greens you will find on any course in the Southeast, much less the Lowcountry.

Photo courtesy of Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of CommerceBy most accounts, Harbour Town is home to the one of the toughest quartets of par-3s on the PGA Tour and even from the forward tees they are no picnic for amateur players. As a collection of finishing holes, golfers will find no better than the finish from 16 to 18 at Harbour Town. In fact, the 18th hole is among the most recognizable in golf with the Calibogue Sound to the left and famed Harbour Town Lighthouse located in the distance behind the green.

Speaking of the Lighthouse, it overlooks the harbor just steps away from the 18th green, which is home to great restaurants, bars and shopping. It’s a great location to follow a round at Harbour Town with a cold beverage, a relaxing lunch or dinner and even some shopping if the significant other is alongside. It’s also a nice location to check out the large boats and yachts, if for no other reason than to get a glimpse of how the other half lives.

Truth be told, Harbour Town is the perfect finish to the unbelievable golf experience that Hilton Head provides. The perfect combination of resort and public golf, combined with entertaining post-round activities and a comfortable landing spot at night is the way to play Hilton Head and the Lowcountry.

At the end of the day, golf if the reason for the reasoning to come to Hilton Head and this experience incorporates all the key elements of the ultimate Lowcountry experience. To be sure, one can mix and match courses or post-round hangouts that went unmentioned. Truth is there really is no way to go wrong when it comes to a trip to our secluded barrier island.

So then, get to it. Take our advice or find your own map, you will be glad you did, as when it comes to experiencing our Hilton Head Island, there really is no wrong answer.


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