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Hilton Head is nicknamed "Golf Island" for good reason: the island itself has 24 championship courses (public, semiprivate, and private), and the outlying area has 16 more. Each offers its own packages, some of which are great deals. Almost all charge the highest green fees in the morning and lower fees as the day goes on. Lower rates can also be found in the hot summer months. It's essential to book tee times in advance, especially in the busy spring and fall months; resort guests and club members get first choices. Most courses can be described as casual-classy, so you will have to adhere to certain rules of the greens. The dress code on island golf courses does not permit blue jeans, gym shorts, or jogging shorts. Men's shirts must have collars.
The Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament. The most internationally famed golf event in Hilton Head is the annual Heritage PGA Tour Golf Tournament, which is held mid-April. Sea Pines Resort, 2 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. www.theheritagegolfsc.com.
Golf Academy at Sea Pines Resort. The academy offers one- to three-day schools, hourly private lessons by PGA-trained professionals, and comprehensive analysis. Sea Pines, 100 North Sea Pines Dr., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–4540. www.golfacademy.net.
Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. There's something for golf-lovers of all ages at the academy. Lessons are offered for ages 3 and up, and there are ladies' programs, instructional videos, daily clinics, and multiday schools. Free demonstrations are held at 4 pm each Monday with Doug Weaver, former PGA Tour pro and director of instruction for the academy. Free club-fittings are also available. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, 7 Trent Jones La., Mid-Island, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com.
The PGA Tour Academy of Palmetto Hall Plantation. Affiliated with the PGA, the academy is one of only six in the country. It is known for its teaching technologies that include video analysis, which compares one's swing on a split-screen with the best golfers in the world. Students can choose from a one-hour private lesson to up to five days of golf instruction. Palmetto Hall Plantation, 108 Fort Hollow Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/342–2582. www.palmettohallgolf.com.
Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp at Palmetto Hall. There are two prestigious courses at Palmetto Hall Plantation: Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp. Arthur Hills is a player favorite, with trademark undulating fairways punctuated with lagoons, and winding around moss-draped oaks and towering pines. Robert Cupp is a very challenging course, but is great for the higher handicappers as well. Palmetto Hall, 108 Fort Howell Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–9205. www.palmettohallgolf.com. Reservations essential. Arthur Hills: 18 holes. 6257 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $145. Robert Cupp: 18 holes. 6025 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $145. Facilities: Driving range, 2 putting greens, pitching area, golf carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, lessons, restaurant, bar.
Country Club of Hilton Head. Although it's part of a country club, the course is open for public play. A well-kept secret, it's rarely overcrowded. This 18-hole Rees Jones–designed course is a more casual environment than many of the other golf courses on Hilton Head. Hilton Head Plantation, 70 Skull Creek Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/681–4653 or 866/835–0093. www.clubcorp.com/Clubs/Country-Club-of-Hilton-Head. 18 holes. 6162 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $85–$105. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, rental clubs, pro shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant (for members), snack bar for guests.
Golden Bear Golf Club at Indigo Run. On an island renowned for its exceptional golf, Jack Nicklaus, the golf legend and course designer, created another must-play course for Hilton Head. Located in the upscale Indigo Run community, its natural woodlands setting offers easygoing rounds. It is a course that requires more thought than muscle, yet you will have to earn every par you make. Though fairways are generous, you may end up with a lagoon looming smack ahead of the green on the approach shot. And there are the fine points—the color GPS monitor on every cart and women-friendly tees. After an honest, traditional test of golf, most golfers finish up at the plush clubhouse with some food and drink at Just Jack's Grille. Indigo Run, 100 Indigo Run Dr., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29926. 843/689–2200. www.goldenbear-indigorun.com. 18 holes. 6184 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $79–$99. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant, bar.
Harbour Town Golf Links. This is considered by many golfers to be one of those must-play-before-you-die courses. It's extremely well known because it has hosted the Heritage Golf Tournament every spring for the last four decades. Designed by Pete Dye, the layout is reminiscent of Scottish courses of old. The Golf Academy at the Sea Pines Resort is ranked among the top 10 in the country. Sea Pines Resort, 11 Lighthouse La., South End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/842–8484 or 800/732–7463. www.seapines.com/golf. Reservations essential. 18 holes. 6603 yds. Par 71. Green Fee: $200–$250. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, pull carts, caddies, rental clubs, pro-shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant, bar.
Robert Trent Jones at Palmetto Dunes. One of the island's most popular layouts, this course's beauty and character are accentuated by the par-5, 10th hole, which offers a panoramic view of the ocean. Palmetto Dunes, 7 Robert Trent Jones La., North End, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29928. 843/785–1138. www.palmettodunes.com. Reservations essential. 18 holes. 6122 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $55–$155. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, pull carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant, bar.
Bluffton Golf Courses
There are several beautiful golf courses in Bluffton, which is just on the other side of the bridges to Hilton Head Island. These courses are very popular with locals and can often be cheaper to play than the courses on Hilton Head Island.
Crescent Pointe. An Arnold Palmer Signature Course, Crescent Pointe is fairly tough, with somewhat narrow fairways and rolling terrain. There are numerous sand traps, ponds, and lagoons, making for some demanding yet fun holes. Some of the par 3s are particularly challenging. The scenery is magnificent, with large live oaks, pine-tree stands, and rolling fairways. Additionally, several holes have spectacular marsh views. Crescent Pointe, 1 Crescent Pointe, Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–2600. www.crescentpointegolf.com. 18 holes. 6773 yds. Par 71. Green Fee: $70–$95. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, lessons, restaurant, bar.
Eagle's Pointe. This Davis Love III–designed course located in the Eagle's Pointe community in Bluffton is very user-friendly and playable. Eagle's Pointe attracts many women golfers because of its women-friendly tees, spacious fairways, and large greens. It also attracts a lot of amateur golfers, again, because it is very playable. There are quite a few bunkers and lagoons throughout the course, which winds through a natural woodlands setting that attracts an abundance of wildlife. Eagle's Pointe, 1 Eagle's Pointe Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29909. 843/757–5900. www.eaglespointegolf.com. 18 holes. 6126 yds. Par 72. Green fee: $55–$79. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, lessons, restaurant, bar.
Island West Golf Club. Fuzzy Zoeller and golf course designer Clyde Johnston designed this player-friendly course. The natural surroundings at Island West are stunning. There are live oaks, undulating fairways, plenty of wildlife, and marsh views on several holes. Golfers of all skill levels can find success on this course. There are several holes where the fairways are rather generous, while others can be demanding. This is a fun and challenging course for golfers of all handicaps. Island West, 40 Island West Dr., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/689–6660. www.islandwestgolf.net. 18 holes. 6208 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $35-$45. Facilities: Driving range, putting greens, golf carts, rental clubs, pro-shop, lessons, restaurant, bar.
The May River Golf Club. An 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course, this has several holes along the banks of the scenic May River and will challenge all skill levels. The greens are Champion Bermuda grass and the fairways are covered by Paspalum, the latest eco-friendly turf. A distinction of this classy operation is that caddy service is always required, even if you choose to rent a golf cart, and then no carts are allowed earlier than 9 am to encourage walking so golfers will enjoy the beauty of the course. Palmetto Bluff, 476 Mount Pelia Rd., Bluffton, SC, 29910. 843/706–6500. www.palmettobluffresort.com/golf. Reservations essential. 18 holes. 7171 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $175–$260. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, golf carts, pull carts, caddies, rental clubs, pro-shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant, bar.
Old South Golf Links. There are many scenic holes with marshland and intracoastal waterway views at this Clyde Johnson–designed course. It was named one of the Top Ten New Public Courses by Golf Digest in 1992. Reservations are recommended. 50 Buckingham Plantation Dr., Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, SC, 29910. 843/785–5353. www.oldsouthgolf.com. 18 holes. 6772 yds. Par 72. Green Fee: $65–$95. Facilities: Driving range, putting green, pitching area, golf carts, pull carts, rental clubs, pro shop, golf academy/lessons, restaurant, bar.
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