If you were going to have a group choose that title, who would it be? Maybe people whose job it is to make sure their clients have the best possible experience, in the most enchanting possible place, at an affordable price that makes them want to come back? How about the 600 members of the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO)?
The trade association of those 600 golf tour packagers from 60 different countries (that book 85% of the international golf tour business) has just voted Hilton Head Island the 2016 North American Golf Destination of the Year at their annual awards dinner in Tenerife, Spain. Each of those tour operators, whose very livelihood depends on creating happy customer experiences, casts a vote for their favorite destinations in five regions of the golf world, based on customer satisfaction, the quality of the courses and accommodations, the value for the money, the professional conduct of the hosts, accessibility to tee times and support from the local tourism industry.
And Hilton Head Island was voted #1 in North America! Ahead of, well, you know who they are, some other terrific golf destinations.
The award is further confirmation of Hilton Head’s recent renaissance of golf from all perspectives, whether it be the variety of layouts designed by Palmer and Nicklaus, Dye and Jones, Fazio and Hills, and a similar variety of pricing options available, to the re-grassing of the famed Harbour Town Golf Links (host of South Carolina’s only PGA TOUR event, the RBC Heritage every April) this past summer, to course condition improvements Lowcountry-wide, to the nine-figure expense of re-designing and upgrading every one of the Island’s beachfront hotels that give visitors 12 miles of pristine beaches to enjoy before and after their rounds, to the cooperation each golf course extends to each other and the hospitality each course extends to its visitors.
“Golf is part of the DNA of our destination,” said Hilton Head Chamber President and CEO Bill Miles upon receiving the award. “What sets Hilton Head Island apart is not only our long-standing tradition of golf, but the unique environment in which we play the game..and the commitment to preserving the natural beauty of our destination. It’s what makes it a place that visitors and those who love the game of golf return to again and again.”
Brad Marra, Vice President of Palmetto Dunes, who accepted the award with his crew in Spain, noted that the international golf travel audience is a still-largely-untapped resource for expansion of the Hilton Head Island brand and hopes the award reminds the rest of the world of Hilton Head’s continuing-yet-growing reputation as a golfer’s paradise.
And those of us who live and work here might want to continue to brush up on our currency and metric/yardage conversions and our “Welcomes” to Hilton Head Island in every language.