Looking for Lowcountry Golf on Hilton Head Island Part 2
Day Two: A Sea Pines Appetizer at Atlantic Dunes
My next tee time on Hilton Head Island was at Atlantic Dunes. Located inside the gates at the Sea Pines Resort, this Davis Love III design is known for its scenic beauty, stern challenge, and impeccable conditions. Thanks to their world class golf and first rate hospitality offerings, Sea Pines is one of the best known communities on the island and around the golf world. Atlantic Dunes was the perfect appetizer for those experiences.
Starting our round amidst the morning dew, the golf island was waking up all around us as we began to play. Birds chirped, fish jumped, and balls flew as we took our first swings of the day. The early morning sun illuminated the lowcountry as we went further into the course. Each hole was more interesting than the last.
At Atlantic Dunes, the challenges lie right in front of you. Each hole requires golfers to make decisions from tee to green. While you're daydreaming about the natural beauty around you, the course is making demands of your swing. It’s the greens that are most memorable though.
Once you approach the putting surface, the best parts of Atlantic Dunes come into focus. Their shaping brings great interest to a mostly flat golf course. There’s always an open side of the green made for those who don’t want to challenge costly hazards, but at some point you’ll have to take on some risk to score well.
In many ways, Atlantic Dunes feels like playing a private club. Our foursome played a leisurely game and moved briskly around the course without any need to hurry. With the spacious clubhouse and tasty food at Fraser’s Tavern, Atlantic Dunes would be the perfect place to enjoy a 36 hole day. Heron Point, a Pete Dye design, shares the same clubhouse and is also part of the Sea Pines golf experience. Although some weather kept us from doing this, I couldn’t help but dream of how fun a day like that would be at such a pretty place.
Enjoying the Main Course at Harbour Town
No golf trip to Hilton Head Island would be complete without making a tee time at the world renowned Harbour Town Golf Links. Best known for hosting the PGA Tour’s annual RBC Heritage event, Harbour Town is one of the most enjoyable courses you can play on the east coast. It’s a bucket list course for millions of golfers and I was thrilled to finally see it for myself.
Established in 1969 as the centerpiece of the Sea PInes Resort, Harbour Town was designed by World Golf Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye in concert with golf’s greatest major champion Jack Nicklaus. The first rounds played there were by PGA Tour members during the inaugural RBC Heritage tournament. Arnold Palmer won that event and kickstarted Harbour Town’s reputation as a favorite stop for tour players around the globe.
Harbour Town was the course that put Pete Dye on the map. His artful routing, creative hazards, and small greens were a noticeable departure from the other golf courses of the era. Dye, assisted by his wife and design partner Alice, was one of the first architects in the latter 20th century to bring strategy and shotmaking back to the forefront of course design. Those design theories, and the spirit of the Dye design duo remain alive and well on every hole at Harbour Town.
From the opening tee shot, my thoughts were fully engaged throughout the round. You simply can’t take a shot off at Harbour Town. Playing golf isn’t enough, you’ve got to hit good shots to the right spots. Even with these demands, the course remains approachable to all skill levels. Pete, Alice, and Jack created a masterpiece here and the best quality of the course is that every hole provides every kind of golfer an opportunity to score.
Aided by world class caddies, our group was able to enjoy the challenges and scenic beauty of Harbour Town while getting great advice from tee to green. I found the abundant charms of Harbour Town, and of Hilton Head Island are best experienced while walking here. Those angles that Pete Dye wants you to play are also more visible on foot.
Every hole at Harbour Town leaves you wondering when you can come back and try it again. I was struck by how well the course pulls you into the experience and keeps asking questions about your game. The par 3’s here are particularly memorable and each tells a distinct story about Pete Dye’s design beliefs. From live oaks, to bulk heads, to doglegs and pot bunkers, there is always something between you and par. Navigating those obstacles is the fun part.
Walking around Harbour Town, I was again hit with the feeling of being somewhere special. The course winds through pines, palms, and creeks en route to a grand finale adjacent to the Calibogue Sound. The 18th hole, with its signature vistas of the Harbour Town lighthouse in the distance, is one of the great finishing holes in golf. Walking by the marsh, seeing the boats ferrying into the harbor while sorting through what club to hit to a tiny green, I was left with an overwhelming sense of place that is unique to America’s Golf Island.
After making a par I’ll never forget on the 18th, I capped off a bucket-list day with dinner at The Quarterdeck restaurant adjacent to the Harbour Town Lighthouse. Our group sat on the second story balcony and enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner surrounded by sunset views of the sound. Visitors and boats were going and coming all around us and I was delighted by the many treats overwhelming my senses. As I watched golfers across the inlet wrap up their rounds at Harbour Town I was struck again by the desire to get a few more swings in before heading home.
Day 3 Awaits!
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