EXPLORING HILTON HEAD ISLAND AND ITS WORLD-CLASS GOLF COURSES
Words: Graham McKenzie
As somebody who has played Golf most of his adult life and has been travelling to the USA for the same amount of time, I have often read about it, watched videos of it, talked about it and even dreamt about it but until April earlier this year I had never been to Hilton Head Island. Now I know what the fuss is all about.
I think I’ve found the almost perfect golfing destination. Apart from the truly world class courses the island also offers an extensive range of post golf activities. The picturesque coast of South Carolina features pristine beaches, stunning landscapes, and a collection of outstanding restaurants and bars serving a variety of local seasonal food. And if this was not enough for those of you in the ‘Attenborough’ generation (who isn’t ?) this charming island offers unique opportunities to watch a wide variety of wildlife.
HILTON HEAD ISLAND APPEAL
Lying at the heart of Hilton Head Island’s appeal is, however, its remarkable collection of golf courses. The island showcases a variety of meticulously designed courses, each offering a unique challenge and aesthetic pleasure. Renowned course architects have crafted these greens, transforming the island’s natural beauty into awe-inspiring fairways, undulating greens, and strategically placed hazards.
From the iconic Harbour Town Golf Links, with its iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse, to the exquisite designs of Arthur Hills, Robert Trent Jones and Davis Love III to name just a few Hilton Head Island’s golf offerings cater to players of all skill levels. At my skill level (WHS 10.7) I undertook to play Palmetto Dunes and Atlantic Dunes.
START OF MY GOLFING JOURNEY
First up was the Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort on Hilton Head Island which is a world-class golf destination that offers not one not two but three championship golf courses: the Robert Trent Oceanfront Course, the George Fazio Course, and the Arthur Hills Course.
These are designed by some of the best in the business and offer a unique golfing experience. The resort is nestled on three miles of Atlantic Ocean Beachfront and is, quite frankly, an amazing boost when you have just come from a grey, drizzly, dreary winter in the United Kingdom.
Given the challenge set on the Robert Trent Jones getting such a boost was the least of my concerns as the lagoon that winds through more than half the course required a skill level above mine and half the time, I was taking a shot in the dark not in the arm. The Par-5 tenth hole starts long and hard but reveals an inspiring view of the ocean. The design, the views, the wildlife, the top-quality greens and the meticulous manicuring gives rise to a truly fabulous facility.
THE MUST PLAY ATLANTIC DUNES
Next day it was off to the Davis Love III designed Atlantic Dunes. A relative newcomer to the Hilton Head Island scene but none the worse for that. I say newcomer as it is in fact a complete rebuild of the resort’s historic Ocean Course, the first ever built on Hilton Head Island. The ‘new’ course was designed by Davis Love III and lead architect Scot Sherman, who have fashioned entirely rebuilt holes to accommodate the distance modern golf shots go, or at least some of them go, and to frame scenic corridors. The corridor effect is present almost throughout the entire layout and is blended with an array of grasses matching the superior strains at other courses across the Island.
The set up has absolute stunning natural beauty and when combined with a challenging set up it rocketed straight into my top ten courses of all time . It features a series of long par 4s guarded by bunkers and water hazards, several holes that offer magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean and tens of thousands of indigenous plants in addition to the grasses that complete the seaside feel.
In summary, Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III is a must-play golf destination that offers a unique golfing experience.
THE BEST VIEW OF THE TOURNAMENT
One course I have not mentioned is perhaps the best known on the Island and that is the Harbour Town Golf Links which is home to the RBC Heritage PGA Tournament presented by Boeing. In 2023 this also had the status of a PGA ‘Elevated’ event i.e., all the top players in the world were there. Indeed, with one exception that being the man from Northern Ireland, the globes top exponents were in attendance. I, as a massive added bonus, had a ground floor room directly opposite the first tee at The Inn & Club at Harbour Town.
If you EVER get a chance to stay, there do so. Not only are the rooms large, well-appointed and luxurious but they also afford you a direct view of the first tee. In my case for one of the most prestigious golf tournaments in the world but even at other times watching amateurs it would be fascinating.
For me it was intriguing to watch the post drive behaviour of the pros. Some were engaged in light conversations with their caddies or opponents, others went solo probably eating their fifth banana of the day. For the lucky ones who had striped one down the middle the style of walk was a mash up of confident strides mixed with the aforementioned McIlroy style of lollop come skip when he is playing well.
GOD SAVE THE YORKSHIREMAN
This year’s tournament came down to a play-off between Americas favourite son Jordan Speith versus our lad from Yorkshire Matt Fitzpatrick. On both the first and second play off holes the Ryder Cup type chants of U-S-A , U-S-A competed with our small chorus of God Save the King. Finally on Harbour Town Golf Links signature hole, the 18th , Fitzpatrick put a nine iron from 170 yds to about eighteen inches and subsequently closed out the tournament. Much merriment was had by me and my fellow Brits.
In essence, the allure of golfing on Hilton Head Island transcends the ordinary. It’s a destination that caters to the golfer’s passion, offers an enchanting environment, and provides an exquisite balance between challenge and serenity. Whether you’re an avid golfer seeking new fairways to conquer or a traveller in search of a unique escape, Hilton Head Island promises a golfing experience that’s as memorable as it is rewarding.