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hilton head’s ‘off-island gems’ offer ample golf buddy trip options

By Shane Sharp

Featured Golf Itinerary: Hilton Head’s ‘Off-Island Gems’ Offer Ample Golf Buddy Trip Options

Savvy golf group leaders know how to chase the prime weather each spring to maximize their crew’s time on the course. This is especially true for golf buddy trips, which hinge heavily on 36-hole-a-day itineraries.

Hilton Head Island, located near South Carolina’s southernmost point, obliges with March and April temperatures up to 10 degrees warmer than other parts of the state. And spring unofficially gets underway in late February, as Eastern redbud, cherry and dogwood trees start to bloom.

Time is also of the essence when planning a golf trip, and that’s where Golf Island’s “off-island” courses come into to play. Situated in Bluffton along the U.S. 278 corridor connecting I-95 with Hilton Head, this collection of oft-overlooked layouts offers convenience and value while serving up strong design pedigree.

Where to Play – Day One

While waiting for your afternoon lodging check-in, start the trip off on Old South Golf Links, one of the region’s true hidden gems. Designed by local golf course architect Clyde Johnston, Old South is the only area public course playing along the Intracoastal Waterway.

The front and back nine views, with MacKay Creek and the Calibogue Sound in the distance, are among the best in the region and are a great way to welcome your golf group to the Lowcountry.

The variety of indigenous terrain is also fascinating – oak forest, pastures and tidal marshes are all on display, and in play. The finishing stretch, holes 16 through 18, is vintage Lowcountry with target fairways and greens requiring carries over marshland.

Old South’s Southern Café is reopening March 21 with a new menu and spacious new look. The restaurant’s screened in porch is great spot to grab a post round drink and settle bets.

Day Two

Pinecrest Golf Club is tucked away between U.S. 278 and the May River. It’s just off the beaten path and many first-time golf visitors to the area tend to overlook it. Tipping out at nearly 6,900 yard from the back tees, Pinecrest is meaty enough to challenge long hitters, but playable enough to appeal to higher handicapers.

The layout was designed by William “Rocky” Roquemore, a Summerton, S.C.-based architect who’s crafted courses throughout the Southeastern U.S. and internationally. Pinecrest is owned and operated by Brown Golf, which has invested in enhancing conditions and service.

With some of the most affordable rates along the U.S. 278 corridor, a spacious practice range and full-service restaurant, the Parkway Pub, Pinecrest is a solid second-day option for 36 holes, a bite to eat and a beer.

Day Three

Hilton Head National, located just a smooth 3-wood from Old South, has long been considered one of the region’s best public venues. The design is a Gary Player, Bobby Weed collaboration, with PGA Tour design consultant Weed crafting the front nine and the Black Knight the back.

Weed’s nine presents larger greens with more severe undulations, while Player’s nine offers smaller, flatter putting surfaces. A handful of holes require forced carries over water, but there are ample opportunities to play the ball on the ground.

Similar to Old South, Hilton Head National is a “core” golf experience devoid of residential development. The par-4 sixth is widely considered the course’s signature hole. Just 300 yards from the back tees, the largest lake on property runs along the entire right side and behind the green complex.

Also Playing

There are several other solid picks off-island, including Hilton Head’s sister atoll, Fripp Island. The Fripp Island Golf and Beach Resort is home to Ocean Point deigned by George Cobb and Ocean Creek designed Davis Love III. Both layouts kiss the Atlantic Ocean and provide stunning views.

On the way to Fripp Island, but sure to fit in a round at The Legends on Parris Island at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Back along Highway 278, The Golf Club at Hilton Head Lakes is conveniently situated just off the I-95 exit.

Where to Stay

Old South Golf Links and Hilton Head National offer golf packages with the Hilton Garden Inn, located under a mile away from both courses. Two-, three- and four-night stay-and-plays are available, and the “HGI” offers guests free parking and wireless Internet.

For a more authentic Lowcountry Flavor, head to the Old Town Bluffton Inn, situated in the heart of downtown in walking distance to bars and restaurants aplenty. Myriad privately-owned vacation rentals are also available for larger groups, or those in search of more indoor and outdoor space.

Dining and Nightlife

Old Town Bluffton, situated on the shores on the May River, is the place to grab a warm meal, a cold drink and relax with friends. This charming burg is replete with Antebellum homes, historic churches, and unique shops, all connected by Spanish moss-covered streets.

Get the night started with a flight of hand-crafted ales at the Saltmarsh Brewing. Then, head to Captain Woody’s for a plate of Lowcountry seafood while taking in the views from the rooftop deck. Open until 2 a.m., Old Town Dispensary is a good spot to grab a night cap.

Getting Here

Major metro areas in the Carolinas, Georgia and north Florida are well under a half-day’s drive from the U.S. 278, I-95 exit. Golfers outside of driving range can choose from two award-winning airports: Savannah-Hilton Head International (SAV) in Savannah, Ga. and Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH), on the north end of the island.

Hit the “easy button” and fly into Hilton Head Island Airport (HHH) on the island’s north end. American Airlines offers nonstop and one-stop service from multiple hub cities and connections. Seasonal Saturday flights to/from Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) are offered as of April 10, 2021

The new route complements year-round service from Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) and seasonal service from Washington Reagan Airport (DCA), Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW) and Philadelphia (PHL).  Book your flight to Hilton Head Island at

Delta Air Lines Airlines also offers nonstop and one-stop service to HHI via its Atlanta (ATL) hub with connections from 200+ cities worldwide.

Golfers can also utilize Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), with direct flights from numerous East Coast, Midwest and Texas airports. Southwest Airlines service began in March with six flights from five markets.

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.

Our expert golf vacation planners are available to help you design your ideal Hilton Head Golf Island golf trip. Click here to complete a brief form and to receive a custom quote.

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