Hilton Head Island Golf Vibe

New GPS System Unveiled at Already GPS (Great Place to Stay)-friendly Palmetto Dunes

Palmetto Dunes’ new Visage GPS system doesn’t quite qualify as the latest golf video game, it’s actually better than that, promising a more satisfying reality golf experience than you’ve had before, anywhere.

The interactive GPS is now standard equipment on all carts at PD’s gorgeous Robert Trent Jones Course, showing you a lot more than a picture of the hole you’re playing. The full-color, state-of-the-art information system is something you’ve likely never seen in this kind of detail before. It offers flyover videos of the hole you’re about to play and measures the distance of the shots you’ve already hit, important when playing near sea level, where the ball doesn’t quite carry and run like it does at altitude.

But the best feature might be the touch-screen that allows you to determine the distances of targets anywhere on the hole—how far to carry that bunker short of the green, or the pond between you and your intended landing area (particularly helpful at the Jones course, where 11 of the holes have water in play along the stunningly beautiful 11-mile lagoon system), and distances to the front and back of greens from your position anywhere on the hole.

The new system also allows two-way communication with the clubhouse as well. If you’ve got a problem with your cart, or want to order something to be ready for you at Big Jim’s BBQ, Burgers and Pizza when you’re finished, you can message the clubhouse. From the other side, the clubhouse can keep track of where all the carts are on the course to send out weather warnings, inform you if you’re out of position and also dispatch marshals to the trouble areas to improve pace-of-play- a feature that’s already paying big dividends as pace-of-play has improved significantly in just the first couple of months of its introduction.

Not only can you keep your score on the GPS monitor, and see those of others playing in your larger group if you’d like, but you can e-mail the score to yourself, and others, for further reflection, and to keep a history of an amazing golf experience at Palmetto Dunes.

The three courses at PD are one of the reasons Hilton Head Island’s been named by Golf  Digest as one of the “Buddy Trip Destinations” in America in their most recent poll, something you don’t need a GPS to find! For more information, visit www.palmettodunes.com

New Interactive Visage GPS at Palmetto Dunes' Jones Course

New Interactive Visage GPS at Palmetto Dunes’ Jones Course

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The Best View of OUR Heritage

The Hilton Head/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce invites you to their Social Media Center at the RBC Heritage

The Hilton Head/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce invites you to their Social Media Center at the
RBC Heritage

All of us who’ve been to the RBC Heritage have singular memories, of magical shots, special scenes, but most of all, special moments–that player we finally got to meet, to spend a moment with, to share an experience, on turf that is as much ours as theirs.  But it is not going out on one of Harbour Town’s stately old oak limbs to say you’ve never experienced the RBC Heritage like you will this year.

Like a player seeing the course for the second time, last year’s Social Media Lounge is much improved, to say the least. #SocialCentral is doing more than giving attendees a great place to communicate with each other, and their connections outside in a Wi-Fi-enabled area unlike any other on the course. It’ll become the go-to place to recharge yourself and your mobile device (on free charging pads), while enjoying big screen TV’s including a feed of the tourney telecast and streaming social media content. You’ll have the opportunity to network, share photos of the tournament and your Hilton Head Island experiences like never before through interactive touch displays and a built-in, full HD webcam to create the ultimate multi-media experience.

The Breathtaking View from #SocialCentral at the RBC Heritage

The Breathtaking View from #SocialCentral at the RBC Heritage

But the star of #SocialCentral is still something technology can’t duplicate. The best view from this house might be the best view from any house at Harbour Town and the best of any tournament on the PGA TOUR. Stunning views of the 18th fairway, framed by the Calibogue Sound, will literally give attendees a front row seat on the action, from the first tee shots at 18 Thursday morning (about 10am) until the final group parades by on Sunday afternoon. And this best seat in the best house is open to all ticket holders without any extra charge.

You don’t have to wait for tournament time to join in the discussion. Visit #SocialCentral, #RBCHeritage, #HeritageSelfie and handle @HiltonHeadSC with giveaways and snacks provided for fans that broadcast their photos via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The New Carpeting Looks Great!

How’s the carpeting look at your favorite golf course? Not the stuff inside the clubhouse that came from the same place hotels get their rugs- whatever anonymous warehouse that is. I’m talking the carpet you drive, chip and putt on this time of the year. Some of you, of course, have snow on your fairways and greens already. Many of you are still moving piles of leaves to putt in your final rounds of the fall season.

Hilton Head Island’s carpets- its fairways, greens and roughs, are all new, all grown in for the winter, and look better now than they have since the over-seeding process began in early October. In fact, you’ll even have a wide variety of carpet styles to play on a winter trip to the Golf Island.

The most popular look is a ryegrass over-seed of the tees and fairways with new poa

Oyster Reef/Winter 2013

Oyster Reef/Winter 2013

trivialis added to the greens, letting the dormant Bermuda roughs frame the holes in a delightful contrast of green and brown. Oyster Reef, the Barony and Robbers’ Row

Courses at Port Royal Golf Club, the Robert Trent Jones and Arthur Hills Courses at Palmetto Dunes and the Ocean Course at Sea Pines are prime examples of this winterization style.

Some courses have gone “all” green. Harbour Town Golf

Harbour Town- Winter  2013

Harbour Town- Winter 2013

Links and the Robert Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall are two of the courses who’ve gone wall-to-wall green, with ryegrass now taking over the Bermuda on the tees, fairways and roughs with poa trivialis on the putting surfaces.

But there are courses that are experimenting this winter with different combinations. The Arthur Hills Course at Palmetto Hall re-grassed wall-to-wall this summer with a more winter-resistant Celebration Bermuda and is only adding poa trivialis to its greens. Heron Point by Pete Dye in Sea Pines put ryegrass on its tees and fairways, but expects its Mini-Verde Bermuda greens to hold their summer speed all winter (they’re lightning-quick right now). Shipyard’s tees and fairways are sporting fresh ryegrass, but don’t need to over-seed their Zoysia greens.

But one of golf’s hottest trends is to go au natural. Palmetto Dunes’ renowned George Fazio course hasn’t over-seeded its Diamond Zoysia layout in any of the last four years and reports are the Scottish feel of those links is attracting more and more players. Off-island, the popular Old South isn’t over-seeding either, again, believing that less is more.

The best news is that all of the Lowcountry carpets are ready for you to play all winter long. You can even track whatever your shoes picked up inside! For more information on the latest deals, visit www.hiltonheadisland.org.

Busting two myths about Hilton Head Island golf buddy trips

There are two myths about planning a golf buddy trip to Hilton Head Island.

Myth number one is that it requires military-like organization to get 12 people or more from around the country — even the world — in the same place at the same time. Wrong. All it takes is a call or a click to turn much of the work over to experts in planning golf buddy trips to Hilton Head. They make it so simple.

Myth number two is that Hilton Head Island is out of your price range. Nope. It costs just

The Hoober group from Pennsylvania relaxes at their Sea Pines villa after that day's round.

The Hoober group from Pennsylvania relaxes at their Sea Pines villa after that day’s round.

about the same as a particular golf destination at the northern end of the state, especially when you add up the gas and time needed to travel from one end of the strip to the other. The power of packages even puts Hilton Head’s crown jewel, Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the annual PGA Tour RBC Heritage Tournament, within reach.

Hilton Head is unlike any other golf destination. It was designed specifically for golf, with two dozen courses and more than 100 restaurants dotting the 14-mile-long island, with nearly that many more courses within 30 minutes off-island. Golf Magazine deemed it one of the top 10 destinations for golf buddy trips.

“Our repeat percentage is 65 percent. Groups have been coming for 35 years,” said Chris Beck, a 20-plus-year veteran of planning trips to Sea Pines Resort.

Dave Fisher on Pennsylvania is able to pull off a flawless annual trip for 72 men from the U.S. and Europe, thanks to Chris. “Chris makes it so easy.”

To get to the ball rolling for your Hilton Head golf trip, just call or click on the website for Heritage Golf Group, Sea Pines Resort, or Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. For example, Palmetto Dunes has an instant quote widget on its website. Plug in some info and, poof!, you get an idea of cost.

Whatever you need, just ask. Trip planners can book your lodging, no matter how many villas you need or where you need them. They can set up tee times and plan tournaments, arrange transportation from vans or taxis, and even make your dinner reservations. Once you’re all here, just call if you need to change tee times at the last minute or find a breakfast spot that can get you to the course on time. They can help with that, too.

With those two myths out of the way, an inexpensive, well-planned golf buddy trip to Hilton Head Island just might be in the cards for you and 11 of your closest friends.

Playing With the Stars

Actor Dennis Haysbert makes a return appearance at the HH Celebrity Golf Classic

Actor Dennis Haysbert makes a return appearance at the HH Celebrity Golf Classic

Actor and Golf Nut Anthony Anderson will be back at this year's Hilton Head Celebrity Golf Tournament

Actor and Golf Nut Anthony Anderson will be back at this year’s Hilton Head Celebrity Golf Tournament

The first time I was ever exposed to “celebrity” golf was as an impressionable teenager playing hooky from high school in California to visit my grandparents and watch the grand-daddy of all celebrity events, the old Bob Hope Desert Classic in Palm Springs. Old “Ski-Nose” could always draw a crowd of his actor pals to come play in his event. I also remember getting autographs from Johnny Bench and astronaut Alan Shepard and even getting to watch Vice Presidents Agnew and Ford spray balls into the gallery. There were always more laughs than birdies, because you really could interact with the stars while they played—and they loved every minute of it.

There’s not nearly as much hit-and-giggle golf on the Tours as their used to be—too many people playing much too seriously. But there are a few events that bring back the best times to watch, meet, and actually even PLAY with the stars—like Hilton Head Island’s own Celebrity Golf Tournament, coming up for the 32nd time this August 30th, 31st and September 1st at three of the Island’s most venerable venues—the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes, the Arnold Palmer Signature Course at Wexford with the final round at Harbour Town Golf Links.

The courses are terrific, but the stars truly are the stars in this event. A terrific mixture of newcomers and long-time returnees keeps the tournament fresh every year, and the chance to get to know stars like Alice Cooper as people, and golfers, is NOT to be missed. I’ve talked with Alice at other celebrity events, and don’t know anyone who’s any more passionate about the game than he is. Truth be told, most entertainers love golf because they work at night and have all day to play while they’re touring, when they’re not on the tour bus! Cooper’s coming for the first time this year and heads a list that includes country stars Jay DeMarcus and Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts, actors Dennis Haysbert, David Spade, Alan Thicke and Anthony Anderson. News anchors Kyra Phillips and John Roberts, Richard Karn and Debbe Dunning from “Home Improvement”, Super Bowl champions Mark Collins and Dwight Hicks (they’ll probably bring their rings with them), even celebrity chefs like Hilton Head’s own Robert Irvine and Beau McMillan.

The opportunities to get to know these folks, who rarely bring their “entourages”, are numerous. There are off-course events, including some terrific parties and memorabilia auctions that the celebrities participate in wholeheartedly, but the best opportunity at all is to play with the stars between the ropes, really getting to know them and their families. And the proceeds benefit children’s charities in the Lowcountry to the tune of over $3.9-million over the last three decades.

The crowds are manageable, the celebrities wonderfully approachable. And the memories will last a lifetime. After all, I still remember the Hope from 4 decades ago, and have the autographs to prove it.

For more information on playing with, or at least watching when the stars come out, visit www.hhcelebritygolf.com

Get Your Kids Into the “Game of a Lifetime”

The next Tiger??

The ancient philosopher who said that “families who play together, stay together” probably never met any of today’s busy vacationers, who are faced with a more daunting task—“how do we get our kid away from the video games?”

The answer to the second quote lies in the first, and on Hilton Head Island, that answer could, and should include getting them out to play the Island’s signature sport. Admittedly, golf probably hasn’t been as hospitable to the younger generation as it could be, but the game is progressing and now Lowcountry golf courses can’t wait to host your kids and possibly spark the same love of the game so many of us supposed-grownups have developed.

Nearly every course in the Lowcountry has rolled out the green carpet to become more family friendly, with 5 and even 6 different teeing areas to allow players of every skill level the chance to succeed in this often most frustrating game. Most courses also have special rates for juniors and families as well, making the sport so much more affordable for a family outing any time of the day.

As for the instruction that can really light the fuse of fun for younger players, Old South Golf Links’ Junior Golf Camps just off the Island, and daily drop-by opportunities at Palmetto Dunes and the Golf Club at Sea Pines, as well as the Junior Players Golf Academy at Port Royal and Shipyard Golf Clubs are just a few of the public course offerings for kids who’ve never picked up a club before to those who just want to improve on the game they brought with them on vacation. And most importantly, the courses are tailoring their instruction to the shorter attention spans of today’s kids.

Old South has a junior program that’s been growing for nearly a decade, in cooperation with the Island Rec Center . With seven instructors on staff and a double-ended range with separate chipping and putting greens, Old South has full-day camps every Tuesday, a 90-minute camp every Wednesday morning and half-day camps every Thursday afternoon during the summer where players as young as 8 years old can get full-swing instruction, putting lessons, help with bunker play and even on-course play for the half-day and full-day campers. The kids don’t even have to bring their own clubs, as generous donations from sponsors like the British Open Pub have donated sets of age-appropriate clubs from US Kids Golf. Drinks and snacks are included for the campers (Old South is one of the few courses with its own ice cream machine).age. Camp costs can be as low as $30 for the 90-minute clinics to $75 for the half-day camp and $150 for a full-day of instruction and play. For more information, visit www.oldsouthgolflinks.com or call (843) 785-5353.

The JPGA program at Port Royal and Shipyard takes kids as young as 5 years old any weekday morning for a 3-hour camp that features putting, chipping and pitching contests as well as full-swing and short game fundamentals and exercises that’ll help them no matter what other sports they play. Clubs are provided for those who need them and costs run from $75 for one student to $65 each for two or more. For more information, call (843) 686-3355.

The Golf Club at Sea Pines makes it even simpler. At 9am every weekday morning, and at 3:30 every afternoon, beginners of all ages are invited to a clinic that, for $25, gives award-winning instruction and games to challenge and entertain, only takes an hour, and covers a different club every day. Visit www.seapines.com for more information. Palmetto Dunes offers similar clinics at 9am each weekday, again covering a different club each day. Visit www.palmettodunes.com for more.

You remember that moment when golf hooked you for life. You can give your kids that same opportunity to fall in love with a game that’ll be around long after their video game days are over. And the feeling you’ll both have the first time your young one wins a hole, or a match from you? Priceless!

Golf expertise has global flavor on Hilton Head Island

It’s early Wednesday morning at Shipyard Golf Club on Hilton Head Island. It’s short game day, led by R.J. Schebel, golf instructor by day, golf coach by afternoon at the Junior Players Golf Academy.

That combination is what makes The Heritage Golf Group instruction stand out. The group

R.J. Schebel gives some short game pointers to Joe Didomenico at Shipyard Golf Club. Schebel is an instructor and coach at Island Golf School.

includes the two courses at Palmetto Hall, 27 holes at Shipyard and the 18-hole Oyster Reef.

Instruction is provided by the Island Golf School, which also runs the academy, which caters to outstanding junior players from around the world.

The school-clubs combo is a good division of labor, said Keith Bach, president of Island Golf School. While the staff at each club has other duties, the golf school’s instructors concentrate only on making their students’ games better.

For example, at Shipyard they have full-swing lessons on Mondays, short game tips on Wednesday and a three-hour clinic on Fridays that includes instruction, video analysis and playing nine holes with a pro. You can take home a CD of your video analysis for refreshers whenever you need them.

“Adults are easier to teach because they made the effort to take a lesson,” Schebel said, who arrived at the golf school after serving as a golf coach for Notre Dame. “With the junior golfers, they don’t need a lot of instruction, they just need a little coaching.”

That cross pollination between adults and teens, instructors and students infuses the lessons, no matter whom the student.

“For example, some of the students from South America learn golf a little differently than we do in the States,” R.J. said. “I’ve picked up some techniques from them.”

In turn, that knowledge funnels to other students, adults and teens alike. “We can offer the family many options,” Bach said. “Sometimes the adults want to get away and take their lesson while the kids can also have a lesson and not be in the same group. Then just the opposite — some families enjoy taking classes as a family. We do a lot of father and son golf schools.”

It’s also easy to book lessons, through SmarterLessons.com.

While on Hilton Head Island, tap into the wealth of international golf knowledge available at the Heritage Golf Group courses. It’s just what your game needs and you can’t get it anywhere else on Hilton Head Island.

Par-Tee TIme!

The Harbour Town Golf Links has always had its favorite places to watch the action (see our recent blogs), but the 45th edition of the RBC Heritage will have a new venue for an “enhanced fan experience” (in other words, another great place to party). Scottsdale has its famed 16th “stadium hole”, the PLAYERS has its Stadium Village, the Byron Nelson has its “party tent”, and now the RBC has its “Heritage Lawn”, a new place to see, and be seen, during the playing of the RBC Heritage.

Located in the triangle formed by the back of the 16th green, alongside 17 and off the 18th tee, the Heritage Lawn takes the place of the CBS TV compound, and instead of being an eyesore, will become a mecca for fans during tournament week.

The star of the Lawn will likely be the giant video board that’ll update the latest scoring and play the Golf Channel and CBS Sports broadcasts of each day’s action (be sure to wave during the blimp shots, your friends will see you all across the world! Some will find the Grey Goose Lounge a particularly tasty spot to hang out. Among the variety of activities that’ll be offered on the Heritage Lawn, RBC is sponsoring an interactive fan experience, Bridgestone will also provide interactive activities for fans of all ages, the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Social Media Lounge will offer fans the opportunity to share experiences and get all the latest Hilton Head Island Insider travel information. And you can visit the Heritage Classic Foundation’s Birdies for Charity tent where volunteers will be giving away Birdies Buttons to anyone who makes a pledge to the Birdies for Charity program.

The social media lounge will offer sofas to take a load off your feet, free rapid mobile charging stations and over a dozen iPads for visitors to share their memories on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram—some of which will be displayed on the jumbo video board (that’ll really impress your friends). The Heritage Lawn will also be the center of activity for daily giveaways, will be the “home” for RBC Heritage host Sir William Innes for much of the week, and the Saturday concert from the Headliners. You’ll be able to connect to the tournament’s Twitter feed or on Instagram by using @HiltonHeadSC or #RBCHeritage, on Facebook by tagging Visit Hilton Head on your photos, on Pinterest using @HiltonHeadSC in the photo description.

The tournament’s first impression will also be enhanced with the move of the large Sea Pines merchandise tent from the front entrance near the clubhouse to space between the 1st and 9th fairways, opening up more room for fans to get their PLAID On, and into, Harbour Town to enjoy a terrific day of golf and gathering with friends.

If it’s possible, the best party in South Carolina just got better!

There’s nothing like golf — or golf instruction — on Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s candy store with dozens of designer golf courses meticulously maintained at affordable prices. Add atop, like sprinkles on a sundae, clinics from some of the best instructors in the world and you’ll take indelible memories and an awesome swing home with you.

You can’t go wrong with pointers from any PGA-certified instructor on Hilton Head Island or

PGA-certified instructor Doug Weaver shows how it’s done at the Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

Bluffton, but if you want a little extra showmanship, seek out Doug Weaver, director of instruction at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort.

I arrived recently for a short-game clinic at the Arthur Hills course with instruction under way. Doug quickly introduced me to my classmates, Doug Sisson of Greensburg, Pa., and Robert Stenhammer, who runs a local property management company.

The interruption in practice was one of many, many to come as Doug stopped us to make a point, provide an example, or do a quick Socrates session in which he tossed to each of us a question. (It pays to pay attention.)

He might use as an example a conversation he had with a PGA Tour player in town for the RBC Heritage or a lesson he learned while on the PGA Tour himself.

His energetic coaching is peppered with easy-to-remember mantras:

“Golf is a social game.”

“One swing, 14 clubs.”

“Let gravity (or centrifugal force) do the work.”

Doug captured my swing on a smartphone app that recorded my swing and advanced it frame by frame. In an instant, Doug saw my fatal flaw: I wasn’t turning my lower body, leaving the task pretty much to my arms. I hadn’t played in a while and I had gotten stiff and lazy, but Doug would have no part of excuses. I like that about him.

In a little while with a few more tips and minimal effort, I looked like a golfer again.

My golf lesson buddies at the Arthur Hills course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, from the left: Robert Stenhammer, Doug Sisson, me and Doug Weaver.

Doug Sisson had the right idea: The first time he pulled a club out of his bag this year after a snowy Pennsylvania winter, it was under the watchful eye of Doug Weaver.

“I took a lesson from Doug last year,” Doug Sisson said. “It changed my game. That’s why I’m back this year. Doug really makes a difference.”

I highly recommend starting your Hilton Head golf vacation with a lesson or two. No matter where your golf game is when you arrive on Hilton Head Island, it can be so much better in a short order, thanks to the expertise of PGA instructors at Palmetto Dunes.

Five prime places to watch the 2013 RBC Heritage on Hilton Head

It’s somewhat irresistible to plan your Hilton Head golf vacation to coincide with the RBC Heritage golf tournament the week of April 15. Think of it: pick up some great swing visuals in the morning from PGA TOUR pros, then dash off for an afternoon round at one of the dozens of designer golf courses on the island.

Here’s what I suggest for packing in the best views of the pros, the course, the spectators and the gorgeous Hilton Head Island scenery. The good thing is there isn’t a bad spot on the course and it’s a cinch the walk the entire 18.

1. Check out this year’s new Heritage Lawn that extends from the 16th green to the 18th fairway. It’s a perfect vantage point to stroll along to watch approach shots on the par-4 16th, the tricky par-3 17th hole right into the prevailing winds of Calibogue Sound, and along the fairway of the final hole that runs along the Sound that’s packed with risk-reward. Just ask Brian Davis about 2010. A two-stroke penalty on the 18th handed the tournament to Jim Furyk. The Heritage Lawn also has a Jumbotron to watch all of the action on the course and concessions so you can nibble and sip your way through the action.

2. Speaking of social, planners have added a social media hub, too. The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce is hosting the new Social Media Lounge next to the 17th green. Duck in and share photos, recharge your cell phone and use iPads to search travel info and post on social media platforms. It’s all for free. You also can snap some fun photos using golf and RBC swag to share with all your Facebook friends. Will they be a little envious? Yeah, we think so.

3. The 15th green. That’s one of my favorite places to watch all of the above–golf, people and the nature that makes Harbour Town Golf Links unlike anywhere else on the planet. Check out this video of Kip Henley nudging an alligator away last year so golfer Brian Gay could make a great chip shot, given the circumstances.

4. The 10th fairway. This is the must-be-seen place for locals. You also can spin on your heel and watch golfers come up the 16th hole. We’re a very friendly lot, so get right in there and mingle. You can get some tips on local haunts others don’t know about.

5. The 13th and 14th holes. These are among my favorite holes on the course to play, so I like to see how the pros handle Alice Dye’s diabolical Mickey Mouse ears-shaped, railroad-tie-lined bunker that nestles up to the 13th green and the wickedly tricky par 3 14th that seems to have a golf-ball magnet in the water on the right.

That’s where I plan to watch the 2013 RBC Heritage April 15-21. What are your plans?

To find out more about the tournament, go to www.rbcheritage.com. Come join us. It’s the Hilton Head Island event of the year.