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Discover These Hidden Gems Around Hilton Head, America’s Golf Island

By Shane Sharp

The names of several courses on and around Hilton Head, America’s Golf Island roll off the tongues of diehard golfers everywhere. Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort and the Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes are perfect examples. They’re globally known, nationally ranked tracks that are on many golfers’ bucket lists. But home to 25 courses, Beaufort, Bluffton and Jasper counties – a.k.a. South Carolina’s stunning Lowcountry region – feature plenty of hidden gems that players of all levels will appreciate. Here are five venues to check out as you’re planning your next Golf Island getaway.



Dolphin Head Golf Club

Dolphin Head

He’s a man dressed in black. He’s traveled the world hundreds of times over. At 87 years old, he’s still in amazing shape. And back in 1974, he designed his first golf course on Hilton Head Island, Dolphin Head Golf Club. Gary Player and his team have designed more than 300 courses around the world and have remained dedicated to keeping their layouts playable by the average golfer. Dolphin Head is the perfect example with an enviable setting by the mouth of the Atlantic and a convenient location just minutes from the Hilton Head Island Airport.

Bear Creek


Just minutes from Dolphin Head – making for a perfect 36-hole combo in the summer months – Bear Creek was famed Rees Jones’ first solo design. This little-known fact is a huge draw for golf course architecture buffs who recognize Jones as one of the most influential and impactful architects of the past 50 years. In 2006, he returned to oversee several renovations and improvements that have stood the test of time. Dolphin Head plays to a par of 72 and stretches to over 6,800 yards from the back tees, a distance that locals point out feels much longer at sea level.

Golden Bear Golf Club

Golden Bear

Heading just a few miles south (and staying on the island), Golden Bear Golf Club is a vintage Jack Nicklaus design winding its way through towering pines, live oaks and a myriad of natural bodies of Lowcountry water. It’s the centerpiece of the Indigo Run, a 1,780-acre private golf community. Golden Bear also checks in as a par 72 at just over 6,600 yards with a 128 slope that ensures low-handicap golfers won’t totally dominate the day. The design is trademark Nicklaus: plenty of room off the tee and large green that can be hit in regulation but are prone to producing three putts.

Legends Golf Course at Parris Island


Legends Golf Course at Parris Island is a Marine Corps Community Services course just under an hour from Hilton Head Island. The site was originally used by Native Americans for hunting and seasonal campsites, and European settlements date back to the 16th century with the French occupation of “Charlesfort.” The course opened in 1947 and was designed by George Cobb, who famously designed the par-3 course at Augusta National. Legends was updated in 1999 by Hilton Head-based Clyde Johnston and has been ranked among the top 10 military courses in the world.

Palmetto Hall Golf and Country Club

Palmetto Hall

Opened in the early 90s and recently renovated, Palmetto Hall is a 36-hole venue that features courses designed by Arthur Hills and Robert Cupp. The Arthur Hills Course was the first to welcome golfers in 1991 and was named one of Golf Digest’s “Best New Courses.”


The Robert Cupp Course followed in 1993 with a slope rating of 152 – the highest in the state at the time – and a series of geometrically shaped bunkers Cupp designed via CAD (computer-aided design). The bottom line? As a pairing, the courses present a compelling contrast – the traditional look and feel of the Arthur Hills Course juxtaposed against the ultra-modern shaping and geometric bunkers of the Robert Cupp Course.

Getting Here

Getting to Hilton Head, America’s Golf Island has never been easier. Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) on the island’s north end offers non-stop and one-stop service from multiple hub cities and connections via American Airlines, Delta and United. American offers daily non-stop flights to/from Charlotte and seasonal service to/from Dallas / Ft. Worth, Philadelphia and Washington National (DCA). Delta has daily flights to/from Atlanta and United provides daily non-stop service to/from Newark (EWR) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

Golfers can also utilize Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), with direct flights on eight different airlines from numerous East Coast, Midwest, Texas and Canadian airports on several major and discount airlines. For golfers who prefer to hit the open road, major metro areas in the Carolinas, Georgia and north Florida are under a half day’s drive, while several Mid-Atlantic and Midwestern cities are seven to nine hours away.

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