Hilton Head Island Golf Vibe

Give the gift of golf to your children

Naturally, those of us who have been at it for a while realize golf is a lifelong game. We know that because we’ve been playing for a lifetime. Sometimes just a single hole can feel like a lifetime, but that’s a different story.

But when did we start playing? Who encouraged us? If we were lucky, it was our parents.

I started when I was a kid, accompanying my dad to a soccer field behind our house so he could warm up his nine-iron. (Not to worry, he practiced only when the field was vacant. He wasn’t target shooting.) He’d let me hit a few balls, giving me gentle instructions. Later, he set aside a few old clubs I could use when he wasn’t around.

However, it was years before he took me to play at a course. Wise man that he is, he waited until I had played a few rounds with friends before I was invited to play with him. He doesn’t abide slow play, but he’s casual. “Oh, pull that ball away from the tree, Lisa. We’re just playing for fun.” He always makes it relaxing and enjoyable. It’s still an honor to play with my 86-year-old father. See? Lifetime game.

Perhaps a vacation to Hilton Head Island is the ideal time to play together as a family. So, how do you get children interested in golf?

Here’s some sage advice from Ed Brill, head instructor at The PGA Tour Academy Hilton Head at Port Royal Golf Club, home of the Barony, Planter‘s Row and Robber’s Row golf courses. But that’s not what makes him an expert — he’s the father of three.

“The best way to get your kids interested in the game of golf is through simple introduction, rather than trying to push it on them,” he said.

“Bring a friend with them to the range or the putting green and turn it into a game that is fun for them — maybe chipping balls into a bucket for 10 minutes then head to the putting green and play nine holes of ‘putt putt’ keeping score,” Brill said.

“You want to build their confidence with golf and have them feel a sense of success so they stay interested in the game. Start them off hitting a tennis ball rather than a golf ball so they feel that success.

“If you accept that kids have short attention spans and think of creative ways to introduce them confidently to the game of golf – you could have yourself a golf partner for future vacations.”

More reinforcement of how much fun golf can be are the exhibitions Doug Weaver has each Monday at Palmetto Dunes. Weaver is head of instruction at the resort and a former PGA Tour pro. He hits some balls on the range, then invites people from the crowd to participate.

It also helps that all three Dunes courses — Robert Trent Jones Jr., George Fazio and Arthur Hills — have junior tees and encourage families to play together. Each child under 10 accompanied by an adult plays for free.

“We have families play in the late afternoon so they feel most comfortable,” said Brad Marra, director of golf, whose dad taught him the game.

It’s nice that Hilton Head Island courses understand the importance of getting the next generation intrigued with this compelling game.

So tell me, who encouraged you to take up golf?

Beware the Sh***ks!

Golf on Hilton Head Island is a thing of beauty, with a couple dozen gorgeous courses to choose from, lined with stately pines and graceful live oaks, dripping delicate Spanish moss.

But what if, in the midst of this beautiful island paradise, your golf game turns randomly ugly?

I have played the game for 20-some years, starting late, but making enough steady progress to secure a pretty solid 12 handicap. Drives are typically straight and long, mid-irons are dependable, chips and pitches are pretty consistent around the greens, and when they’re not, a deadly putting stroke often saves the day.

That was the case until a peculiar aberration appeared about two years ago.  Like an uninvited guest, suddenly, a shank showed up and simply refused to leave.  I had just switched clubs and blamed them at first.  But the problem persisted with my old reliable Pings.

What to do?  Take up tennis?  Move to Missouri? (no offense).  Quit and just walk the course for exercise?  Heaven forbid!

One of the great things about golf on Hilton Head Island is the preponderance of golf professionals available to solve even the most testy trauma.  My goal in the next several blogs is to seek a solution to this crisis of confidence about my game.  Every pro I’ve approached simply shakes his or her head, smiles wryly and assures me this can be fixed.  I’m trying to be positive but I have my doubts.

Stay with me during this trying time – my odyssey to return to the game I love – it’s either that or I start working on my backhand.

Find Your "Number" to Enjoy Hilton Head Golf

Technology has come to the PGA TOUR to the point that every shot can now be measured, using lasers operated by volunteers on every hole of every round. I’ve found it curious when fans at TOUR events invariably ask the volunteers “how far did he hit that one!” Fans are obsessed with how far the pros, or themselves for that matter, hit the ball off the tee. Yet one of the first things I learned watching the TOUR pros day-in-and-day-out is that rarely do they really “let it all out”, because they actually play each hole backwards, something we could all learn from the next time we jump out of our cart on Hilton Head’s reachable holes with our drivers firmly in our hands.

Believe it or not, the pros really don’t care how far they hit the ball, they just want to set themselves up for the next shot. In their minds, every hole has a yardage number that they’d like to reach to have the best chance to make birdie. If they only need to hit it 275 yards instead of 300 to get to the “number” they want to attack the hole, they’ll hit it to that number, especially if it avoids fairway bunkers. So they’ll often lay-up to the number they like, using 3-wood or iron off the tee when a lot of us would just bomb the driver, and end up with a “bad” number. It’s also how they play when they do drive it into trouble, recover to their “number” and maybe they can save par.

Hilton Head Island has a whole host of holes like that, holes that actually make you think about what to hit off the tee, not just grab the driver. Like the 6th at Hilton Head National, the 7th at Eagle’s Pointe, the 11th at the Robert Cupp Course at Palmetto Hall and the four holes near the water at Old South. And of course, there’s the short par-4 ninth at Harbour Town. In fact, that combination of courses would make a great golf vacation by itself, challenging holes that Hilton Head National co-designer Bobby Weed calls “half-par” holes. They’re the rage on the PGA TOUR these days because they’re fun, and they make us think. What’s your comfortable yardage? What’s your “number”?