The first course that comes to mind when most golfers think of Hilton Head is Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the annual RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. For those relocating to the area, you’ll have plenty of chances to test your game on the tight, demanding Pete Dye design framed by forests and marshes.
However, how often do you want the challenge (or the cost) of a PGA Tournament course?
No worries, future Lowcountry dweller. Hilton Head and nearby Bluffton have other great resort golf courses, as well as top-notch private golf communities and a wealth of affordable public options.
Bottom line: variety will never be a problem.
Golf On Hilton Head Island
Start with Harbour Town, which is open to the public but also offers memberships. This classic 1969 design underwent a total 2016 renovation, buffing up its already pristine conditions. And Sea Pines Resort offers two more choices: Heron Point by Pete Dye and the 2016 design Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III (who only won the Heritage five times), all featuring the Lowcountry vibe, but each unique from its brethren.
Another on-island tradition is Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, with three courses to choose from. The resort’s premier layout is the Robert Trent Jones course, but players can also try out the George Fazio and Arthur Hills courses. The RTJ 18 includes one of two oceanfront holes on Hilton Head; the other is at Atlantic Dunes.
For ultra-private on-island golf, there’s Long Cove Club, about a mile from Sea Pines’ Greenwood Gate, a Pete Dye design inside a gated community and one of S.C.’s most honored courses: Golfweek’s No. 14 Residential Course in the U.S. (2017), Golf Magazine’s No. 6 among Top 25 Courses You Can Live On (2007), and No. 2 among Top 40 Real Estate Courses by Golf & Travel.
Golf in Bluffton
Maybe island life, with its tourists, isn’t your thing. Bluffton, about 10 miles from the island, features a trio of impressive private golf-course communities located along U.S. 278.
Colleton River is the original Bluffton private golf community, featuring championship courses by Dye and Jack Nicklaus, plus a nine-hole par-3 course by Bruce Borland, ensuring members can always get a tee time. Colleton River has the forests and marshes – Robert Redford chose to film parts of his movie, “The Legend of Bagger Vance, on-site – plus a Golf Academy for tuning one’s game.
Nearby are Belfair Plantation and Berkeley Hall, each with 36 holes of Tom Fazio golf. Belfair’s par-71 East Course is reminiscent of Scottish links golf, with windswept fairways and freshwater lakes and lagoons; the parklands-style West Course (par-72) features landscaped bunkering on every hole and rolling fairways. Berkeley Hall’s two courses are in classic 1920s style, with open fairways guarded by seaside grasses – and no homes or roads on the courses’ interiors.
For private golf but with public access, the May River Club at Palmetto Bluff, built in 2004 by Nicklaus, is unequalled. Voted S.C.’s “Best New Course” in 2005, it incorporates marshlands, old-growth trees and the May River – and Nicklaus, a perfectionist, even imported sand from Ohio to better fill the sloped bunkers.
Depending how far from Hilton Head you want to live, there are other private-community choices. Tops are Spring Island’s Arnold Palmer-designed Old Tabby Links, Callawassie Island by Tom Fazio, and the Greg Norman-designed Oldfield, all stretching between Bluffton and Beaufort, each with its unique charms.
If you want a break from pricey rounds or member golf, Hilton Head-Bluffton has affordable courses, also. Choose from Old South Golf Links, designed by island resident Clyde Johnston; Gary Player’s fun and playable Hilton Head National; or the Bob Cupp and Arthur Hills courses at Palmetto Hall, among some 20-plus area options.
Harbour Town is the world’s most recognizable Hilton Head-Bluffton course – but it’s far from the only one.