Coastal Carolina - Diversity in Experience, Unity in Excellence

The shores of South Carolina

One breathtaking coastline, three completely different yet equally engaging destinations; no other location does golf, beach and fun like South Carolina. Just don’t, for a minute, think there is only one way to do it right. 

There’s the breathtaking natural environment and relaxing nature of Hilton Head Island and the South Carolina Lowcountry. Heading slightly north up the coast maybe you’d prefer the southern charm and elegance of Charleston. Then, even further up the coast and dominating a vast majority of it, there’s the energy, excitement and dynamic diversity of Myrtle Beach. 

Whatever your style, mood or personal preference, or for that matter the real reason for the visit, the South Carolina coast and its three famous ports of call disprove the popular cliché – You can in fact be all things to all people all the time.

That said, albeit diverse in sheer numbers, each of these three destinations provide golf experiences that are second to none, boasting some of the finest public, resort and even private courses you’ll find anywhere in the Southeast, or the country, for that matter. Acclaimed top 100 layouts built by some of the world’s most acclaimed designers practically litter the coast from the South Carolina/Georgia border on up across the state line into North Carolina. Sure, there are some “need to know someone” courses to get on, but there are hundreds of others you simply need the game, the tee time and the cash to make that next memorable golf experience a reality.

With our home base in the Palmetto State for nearly the past 30 years, few know the South Carolina coast like Golfer’s Guide. Our backyard is the golf, the beaches, the entertainment, the culture and the beautiful natural environment that is so plentiful on our shores. Our windows look out upon the exciting nightlife, the elegant southern dining and myriad of other outdoor activities that include tennis, kayaking, sailing and bike riding, to name just a few.

Given we call this wonderful region home, it’s truly a pleasure to introduce its famous, and not-so-famous, landmarks and activities to those who might come to visit, even if for just a short period of time. It’s open for debate which member of the triumvirate provides the best golf vacation experience, but what is closed to argument is that each of them are worthy of being described as world-class no matter one’s standard. 

Our journey, then, starts in the beautiful Lowcountry and on the gorgeous barrier island that is Hilton Head. Best known as the home to Harbour Town Golf Links and the PGA Tour event it has hosted for more than 40 years, Hilton Head is truly the destination for those seeking to make golf the primary component to their vacation experience. The region, which includes the growing area of Bluffton on the mainland, features more than 20 public and resort courses, many of which have received both national and statewide acclaim, led by Harbour Town’s place on Golf Digest’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play” for quite some time.

The 18th hole at Harbour Town 

The center of the acclaimed Sea Pines Resort, Harbour Town is complemented by two other resort courses, one of which shares designer Pete Dye. Formerly the Sea Marsh Course, Heron Point re-opened several years ago after a significant makeover by Dye and immediately took its place as one of the most challenging resort courses on the island. Stretching to more than 7,000 yards, Heron Point offers many trademark Dye features include railroad ties, small, undulating greens, tight fairways and plenty of parallel water hazards that require significant accuracy to navigate the course unscathed.

“It’s unlike Harbour Town in many ways but it does feature some of the great characteristics of a Pete Dye design,” said Cary Corbitt, director of sports and retail operations for Sea Pines Resort. “The small greens and emphasis on shotmaking is something fans of Dye will appreciate at Heron Point.” 

At the same time Harbour Town was poised to put Sea Pines on the map inthe late 1960s, another resort several miles or so down the island was emergingas well. Also home to three championship golf courses the Palmetto DunesOceanfront Resort is the complete location for the perfect golf-only orall-inclusive Hilton Head vacation.

Led by its award-winning Robert Trent Jones and Arthur Hills courses,Palmetto Dunes takes a back seat to no resort in the Southeast. In fact, thosetwo courses, which bear the name of their famed designers, have been namedSouth Carolina golf courses of the year in the past decade by the SouthCarolina Golf Course Owners Association.

The George Fazio course was recently renovated to feature all new greencomplexes and routinely ranks among the most popular courses for those thatcall Hilton Head their full-time or part-time home.

While Hilton Head is certainly the name the region is sold and known by,the area of Bluffton just short of the bridge to the island offers some of thefinest courses the coastal area has to offer. Carved along the IntercoastalWaterway, Old South Golf Links features some of the finest visual settings thearea has to offer. Its neighbor, Hilton Head National, features 18 holescrafted by the famed Gary Player and nine more done by Florida resident BobbyWeed. Sister courses Eagles Pointe and Crescent Pointe are the two latestadditions to the Bluffton/Hilton Head area and features designs by Davis LoveIII and Arnold Palmer respectively.

While no one is suggesting a golf vacation to Hilton Head shouldn’tinclude major resort courses such as Harbour Town and Robert Trent Jones, wewill tell you that a trip to the region without experiencing “mainland” golfwould be a mistake.

Just as there are hidden golf course gems around Hilton Head, there arelittle known food and entertainment options that, if someone isn’t payingattention, might easily be missed. Like seafood? Don’t let the exterior of thesmall “Sea Shack” confuse you; this place is a local favorite for some of thefreshest catch around. Ditto that for Crane’s Tavern, for those seeking a solidsteak dinner following a day on the links. Both restaurants, and a host ofothers, are on the South End of the island near Sea Pines.

Sharing that location are great bars such as Casey’s Sports Bar and Grill, which features more than 50 televisions and every sports package a visiting golfer will need. Same can be said for the Smokehouse, which offers a friendly environment and some of the best wings on the island.

Golf in Charleston 

The second bookend surrounding scenic Charleston is Myrtle Beach, an area that has truly earned the moniker “Grand Strand” for reasons that go beyond the hundred-plus miles of coastal area that it expands. There are the 100-plus golf courses that grace the region and the miles and miles and miles of packed-sand beaches that attract millions to the area every summer. There’s the abundance of shopping and dining options that fit the wallet and pallet of just about any visitor. And, of course, there is the nightlife that can keep golfers entertained the entire time from the end of one round and the beginning of another.

Yes, Myrtle Beach is truly grand, and the experience begins and ends with the golf. From classic courses such as Pine Lakes, Tidewater, Myrtle Beach National and Sandpiper Bay, the reigning Myrtle Beach Golf Course of the Year, to newer gems such as Grande Dunes, Barefoot Resort (four courses) and the Founders Club, Myrtle Beach offers more golf course options than just about any destination in the world.

The region also offers myriad of golf course designs and visual elements that both accentuate and often belie the area’s coastal location. There are traditional, tree-lined layouts that place an emphasis on accuracy such as King’s North at Myrtle Beach National in central Myrtle Beach and Meadowlands and Farmstead at the region’s northern tip. There are beautiful coastal courses crafted around breathtaking marsh areas and the Intercoastal Waterway such as the Arnold Palmer gem Tidewater, Grande Dunes in the heart of the region and the breathtaking Caledonia on the southern end of the “Strand.”

Then there are courses that offer such diversity with the turn of every hole. Layouts such as Grande Dunes take advantage of Intercoastal Waterway views and then turn into pristine, tree-lined holes that remind more of the Sandhills of North Carolina than its coastal regions.

Besides the sheer number of golf courses, what really sets Myrtle Beach apart is its amazing nightlife and the abundance of additional activities that light up the area every summer. At the dining table, Myrtle Beach offers enough seafood buffets to make Greenpeace pass out.

Broadway at the Beach is the center of family and adult entertainment with popular restaurants such as Hard Rock Café and Margaritaville and popular night spots to boot. A couple miles north, Barefoot Landing has an equal number of family dining and adult watering holes that makes it the place to be on Myrtle Beach’s north end. From the links to the shores and even the stores, Myrtle Beach continually earns its place as South Carolina’s “Grand-est” place for any type of vacation – golf or otherwise – that is on the menu.

While Hilton Head is peaceful and tranquil and Myrtle Beach is vibrant and energetic, the charming southern city of Charleston is a slight mix of both – with a heavy dose of historic importance tossed in. From a golf standpoint, the area is best known as the home of the Kiawah Golf Resort and its infamous Pete-designed Ocean Course.

The Ocean Course

The Ocean Course played host to the 1990 Ryder Cup, dubbed the “War by the Shore,” which helped to place the once overlooked area into top of mind consciousness of golfers from around the world. The tightly contested Cup was won by the United States, but it was Charleston that really proved the winner as its profile as a true golf destination was crafted. Today, the Kiawah Resort is home to five championship golf courses crafted by Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Clyde Johnston, Tom Watson and Tom Fazio, making it one of the largest and most acclaimed golf resorts on the East Coast.

In 2012, the Ocean Couse returns to national prominence as it again hosts the world’s finest golfers for the PGA Championship. If the net result of hosting that event is anything close to the benefits derived from the Ryder Cup, Charleston’s place as a golf destination is due for another big lift some 18 months from now.

While boasting only 36 holes, Wild Dunes, located on beautiful Isle of Palms in growing North Charleston, is every bit the golf experience of Kiawah. Surrounded by thick marshes, glistening sand dunes and dramatic water views, both the Harbor Course and Links Course are considered to be among the finest layouts in South Carolina.

Though both were designed by Tom Fazio, each course boasts its own unique qualities and characteristics. Though not nearly as well known as the Kiawah or Wild Dunes courses, the region is home to numerous quality courses including Seabrook Island Resort, Charleston National Golf Club, Patriots Point, Coosaw Creek Country Club and RiverTowne Country Club.

Like its coastal neighbors, Charleston offers an abundance of off-course activities, entertainment and nightlife that makes it a well-rounded destination. Downtown Charleston is home to amazing southern dining and exciting nightlife that is fed by a pair of universities – College of Charleston and Charleston Southern.

Historic landmarks dating back to the Civil War era are in great abundance and tours of naval vessels and museums are a great way to spend an afternoon away from the links. Likewise, a host of outdoor activities, including tennis and boating are popular distractions across the Charleston area and in many cases the primary reason for visiting.

Three regions, three distinct experiences, one unbelievable coast – when it comes to offering golf and vacation destinations, Coastal Carolina really is an embarrassment of riches. While not one fits every preference or desire, there really is something for everyone whether it’s elegant Hilton Head, energetic Myrtle Beach or relaxing Charleston.   

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