A Triumphant Ending: Five of Golf Island’s Best Finishing Holes
As the saying goes, it’s not how you start, but how you finish. The adage certainly applies to golf course design, where many modern architects save their best holes for last. This is, after all, the opportunity to leave golfers with an indelible memory of their experience that day.
Featuring golf courses designed by Pete Dye, Clyde Johnston, Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones, Rees Jones and many more, Hilton Head Golf Island boasts some of America’s best (and most famous) “home holes.” Here are five closers that keep golfers coming back for more.
- The 472-Yard Par-4 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort
Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus both wanted Harbour Town Golf Links to end with a dramatic flair. After all, it was designed with a nationally-televised PGA TOUR event in mind (then the Heritage Golf Classic, now the RBC Heritage). Their vision was fulfilled with the 472-yard par-4 18th.
Undeniably, the setting along the Calibogue Sound steals the show, as does the Harbour Town Lighthouse looming in the background of the green. But the hole’s strategy is also compelling. Players are lulled into a false sense of security off the tee with a nearly 100-yards-wide landing area.
The approach shot, however, is a different story. Tournaments have been won and lost on this beguiling second shot, which requires a precise iron strike to a small green closely guarded by the sound to the left and a bunker in front. There’s room to bailout right, but the chip shot back towards the water is a knee-knocker.
- Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III, Sea Pines Resort
Namesake Davis Love III, brother Mark Love and lead architect Scot Sherman of Love Golf Design did a masterful job reimagining what was once the island’s first layout, the historic Ocean Course. Atlantic Dunes’ coastal aesthetic, replete with native grasses, coquina shells and the restoration of natural dunes, is nothing short of brilliant.
The par-4 18th caps an unforgettable experience on the island’s newest venue. The longest two-shotter on the 7,065-yard circuit at 462 yards, a fairway bunker to the left guards the shortest, most open route from tee to green. The subtle green complex is set amid bunkers and dunes with a languid Lowcountry lagoon running along the right side.
- George Fazio Course, Palmetto Dunes
The George Fazio Course at Palmetto Dunes isn’t just the only par 70 course on Hilton Head Island, it might be one of the most difficult in the Lowcountry. Because of its level seven-zero par, the layout is chock-full of brawny par 4s, like the 462-yard 18th. Not only is this finishing hole long, it demand precision on both the tee and approach shots.
The drive requires a short, forced carry over a sprawling bunker to a tight target zone that does increase in width the longer and straighter golfers hit it. The second shot is where many a match is won or lost. The narrow, elevated green is flanked by bunkers on either side, and there’s mot much green to work with for players who end up in the sand.
- Old South Golf Links
The closing hole on this Clyde Johnston design playing along the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway is the longest hole on the course, and there’s not even a close second. Weighing in at 550 yards from the gold tees, the 18th is a true three-shot hole for most players.
The home hole demands a forced carry off of the tee over a stretch of coastal marsh. Ancient live oaks guard the right side of the hole as it opens up a couple hundred yards down the fairway. A creek dissecting the fairway at the 100-yard marker, forcing the “layup or go for it” moment.
- Oyster Reef
Like his father Robert Trent Jones Sr., legendary golf course architect Rees Jones is known crafting challenging courses that offer “hard pars and easy bogeys.” The par-4, 461-yard 18th at Oyster Reef is a shining example of this philosophy.
A strong dogleg left, No. 18 is protected on the left by two classic examples of Jones’ “finger bunkers.” A generous fairway landing area belies the level of difficulty required on the approach shot. The putting surface appears diminutive when viewed from the fairway. Bunkers on the right and rear protect the green from pin-seeking second shots.
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.
For easy access, 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 www.AA.com.
Delta Air Lines Airlines also offers nonstop and one-stop service to HHI via its Atlanta (ATL) hub with connections from 200+ cities worldwide.
Photo Credit: Rob Tipton
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