The Ultimate Golf Buddies Trip to Hilton Head Island
Longtime Golf Digest writer and Golf Channel reporter Jamie Diaz, when asked about South Carolina native Dustin Johnson’s stellar performance in 2020 and early 2021, said “his great is just better than everyone else’s great.”
When it comes to golf getaways, Hilton Head Island’s “great” still holds its own with any golf destination in North America. More than $200 million has been invested in upgrading “Golf Island’s” hotels, resorts and golf courses over the past decade.
Golfers crossing the bridge from Bluffton over Mackay Creek will find seminal course designs from the likes of Pete Dye, Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Rees Jones, Davis Love III, Bob Cupp and Arthur Hills, to name a few.
And with 16 Hilton Head Golf Island courses concentrated within the island’s 70 square-miles (and 10 off-island), the next round of golf is never more than a few minutes away. Because golfers can fly into, stay and easily play 36 holes a day with the spring forward to daylight savings time, Hilton Head Island sets up perfectly for a multi-day golf buddies trip.
Along those lines, here’s a four-day itinerary replete with world-class golf, spacious accommodations and delicious dining that’s easy to execute over a long weekend or even during the week.
Where to Play – Day One
Flights originating from points north often fly right over Oyster Reef Golf Club on the approach to the runway at HHH. Opened in 1982, this scenic Rees Jones-designed layout was recognized by several golf publications as one of the best new courses in the U.S.
Playing to more than 7,000 yards with a 139-slope rating from the tips, Oyster Reef continues to challenge low handicap golfers while appealing to players of all skill levels with its spectacular setting. Jones returned in 2018 to lead a full-scale bunker renovation project, restoring the course to its circa 1982 splendor.
Before teeing off, grab a much-needed bite to eat and a cold beer at the new LagerHead Tavern, which showcases Southern comfort food with a twist. Local favorites include slow-smoked Smithfield ham and grilled oysters plucked from the nearby May River.
Debuting in 2016, Atlantic Dunes by Davis Love III is the newest course at The Sea Pines Resort, forged from what was once the oldest course on Hilton Head Island. Originally the Ocean Course, Love Golf Design restored the property’s coastal aesthetic, restoring natural dune lines and adding coquina shells and native seaside grasses.
Double-up for 36 holes with an afternoon round on Heron Point by Pete Dye, formerly the Sea Marsh Course. Dye returned in 2014 to oversee a series of enhancements, including softening green surrounds and contours, enlarging several putting surfaces and adding new ornamental landscape.
Complete the Sea Pines experience with a morning round at famed Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage. This Dye/Nicklaus collaboration epitomizes Lowcountry course design replete with live oak-lined corridors, diminutive greens and Dye’s trademark bulkheads lining languid lagoons.
As you walk off the 16th green and toward the tee box on the par-3 17th, the Calibogue Sound comes into view with yachts and sailboats passing leisurely by. Harbour Town culminates with one of America’s most famous finishing holes, the par-4 18th playing into the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse.
Post-round, settle in for a signature cocktail at Links, an American Grill, in the stunning new Harbour Town Clubhouse. If it is remotely close to dinner (or not), order up one of Links’ signature filet, strip or porterhouse steaks.
The Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort is widely considered the island’s No. 2 pitcher, drawing upon a baseball analogy. Having opened in 1967 just two years before Harbour Town, the two courses’ histories are inexorably linked.
Jones’ former protégé Roger Rulewich updated the course in 2002, elevating the fairway on the signature par-5 10th hole for even better views of the Atlantic Ocean. Credited with designing the majority of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Rulewich spent considerable time reworking every tee box and green.
Before heading out for an afternoon round on Palmetto Dunes’ George Fazio Course, make time for a hearty lunch at Big Jim’s BBQ, Burgers, Pizza at the Robert Trent Jones Course clubhouse. Big Jim’s is open seven days a week serving three meals a day, making it easy for golfers to grab a bite whenever it’s convenient.
The George Fazio Course is Hilton Head Island’s only par-70, and with a slope of 144 from the 6,873-yard back tees, it’s considered by many to be the most difficult resort course on the island. With just two par 5s and a series of meaty par 4s, proper tee selection is paramount.
Where to Stay
For sheer convenience, it’s hard to top a rental home or villa at The Sea Pines Resort or Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. These vacation residences are fully-appointed with all the amenities of home, including flat screen TVs, washers and dryers, wireless internet and fully-equipped kitchens.
Dining and Nightlife
There are more than 250 restaurants on Hilton Head Island covering the spectrum from local watering holes to fine dining establishments. For a true taste of Lowcountry waterfront dining, check out Skull Creek Boathouse or Skull Creek Dockside. Hit the Main Street area for Italian at Frankie Bones or a dry aged steak from WiseGuys. And whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, do not miss the chance to visit Java Burrito for the region’s best “Fresh Mex” and espresso.
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 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.
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.
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