The Magic of a Golf Holiday to South Carolina
For more information, packages and destinations in South Carolina, visit https://www.golfbreaks.com/south-carolina.
South Carolina is widely regarded as being an essential golf destination in the United States, boasting exceptional resorts like Hilton Head and Kiawah Island. It's a paradise for golfers seeking a memorable experience. Last year, we showcased the state through the Up & Down to South Carolina Challenge, a hugely popular campaign that saw one lucky entrant drawn to win a trip for two and head across the Atlantic and discover why this special area has become so renowned.
It was certainly an attractive prize, including four nights at the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort with several rounds of golf, notably one of the revered Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage. Not to mention three nights at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, with golf, memorably on the Ocean Course, former host of the Ryder Cup and PGA Championship.
But there had to be a winner. Golfshake member Sam Ruddle is a regular user of the Score Tracker and follows the social channels, and he was the fortunate golfer who would embark on an unforgettable holiday. We caught up with him to capture his reflections from the trip of a lifetime, starting with his emotions after learning he had won.
"I was pretty shocked to be honest! I'd never even been to America before! I've played golf in Portugal, Egypt, Cyprus and I play a lot of scratch opens, so I'm a pretty well-travelled golfer. But it was great to get my first taste of America on some incredible golf courses," Sam revealed.
Designed by Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, Harbour Town is a favourite with players on the PGA Tour, and it was a thrill for Sam to have the chance to walk in their footsteps.
"It was great to play it so close to when they host the RBC Heritage, they’d already started putting up some of the stands, which meant you could get a feel for how intimidating some of the shots would be for the pros. By far the best greens I’ve ever played on! Even just to look at them, it was like putting on a snooker table without a single bobble. I didn’t have the greatest day off the tee to begin with, taking driver too often. But within a couple of holes, our Forecaddie Matt had an idea of distances everyone was hitting it and gave some great advice on shots to play/when to hit it. The last four or five holes were like playing a different golf course, with some incredible holes visually."
Additionally, Sam played the Arthur Hills Course and Robert Trent Jones Course, which provided a different sort of challenge.
"These were part of the hotel complex. We played the Arthur Hills on our first full day there and this was in fantastic condition. A great layout, with plenty of water to contend with – which you don’t spend too long looking for balls in as there were plenty of gators basking in the sun! This course set the bar pretty high in terms of quality of course for the rest of the holiday. The Robert Trent Jones wasn’t quite as well manicured and was a bit more open in places, so the locals said is a more enjoyable course to play – especially when playing badly like I was that day! This was the third course we played after Arthur Hills and Harbour Town, so we’d been very spoilt up until that point in terms of course quality and condition, so maybe we were being a little critical."
What of the accommodation itself, the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort?
"This was actually our favourite hotel we stayed in. The decor in the corridors of the hotel looked a bit like something out of the Flintstones, but once you were in your room or other parts of the hotel it was really nice. The room was huge and even had a full kitchen! The facilities were great, there were two heated pools, two outdoor Jacuzzis and an outdoor bar - these all got plenty of use on our days off/after golf! They were great for socialising and chatting to other guests, everyone was very friendly and there were lots of jealous golfers when I told them about our trip and that I'd won it! All the staff were brilliant and the breakfast which was included had a great choice. The hotel had a fantastic sports bar on site, which had over a dozen TVs showing something different on nearly everyone. I think we ended nearly every night in there! The hotel ran a shuttle bus which would take you up to three or four miles outside of the complex, this was great as just outside the complex was a major road which was lined with shops and restaurants for miles - so we were never stuck for places to go eat or check out on days off."
Heading to Kiawah Island, venue of the 1991 Ryder Cup, and where Rory McIlroy won the 2012 PGA Championship, there is a rich history to this resort, with Sam sampling the hospitality of the luxurious Sanctuary.
"Easily the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in, truly five star – service, food and architecturally. Unfortunately, the pool had only just started being heated the day before we arrived and it felt like it was early season here, so it wasn’t as busy and buzzy as the Omni. Then again, two hotels clearly cater for two different types of clientele. There were free shuttle buses which would take you anywhere on the complex. You’re a bit more penned in at Kiawah Island as it’s further away from the ‘mainland’, so you were restricted to eating at all the on site restaurants. All of which were fantastic to be fair, my highlight being Cherrywood BBQ & Ale House based at Osprey Point Golf Course – a huge list of nearly 100 beers to choose from! The one thing we felt was missing was a sports bar/bar, as there wasn’t really anywhere you could go for a drink in the evening with a bit of atmosphere."
But what of the course, known for its seaside feel and visually striking layout?
"A couple of friends went to the Masters a few years ago and they played the Ocean Course while out there, so they gave me some info on that course," Sam added. "The last six holes were probably the best finish to a course I’ve ever played. This course probably had the most British feel to it, with it being more links than Harbour Town in my eyes. We got paired up with a couple of guys who had played there a number of times before, so they were great pointing out where some of the pro tees were and it was amazing to go back to these tees and see what they’re faced with. A couple of us even took on the challenge of playing the 17th off the pro tees – only a 230 yard par 3 over water – and I’m happy to say I made the green, but three putted! It was be great to watch the pros play the course on TV and have a better appreciation of the difficulty of some of the shots they’ll be playing."
Just to cap things off, Sam played the Jack Nicklaus designed Turtle Point on Kiawah Island.
"When we told people we were playing The Ocean Course and Turtle Point, they said we’d chosen the two toughest courses on the Island – they weren’t wrong! This is certainly not a bombers course, I don’t remember there being a single hole which was perfectly straight. If there wasn’t water coming into play off the tee, then you could almost guarantee it would on your approach to the green. It was in fantastic condition and well worth playing."
Clearly an unforgettable experience, Sam gave us an assessment of the overall trip to South Carolina, and why it should be on the list for every golfer.
"It was the holiday of a lifetime. Four of the courses we played are easily within the top ten I’ve ever played. I’d heard that the southern states were known for their hospitality and it was definitely proved during our stay. Not just the staff, but all the people we met and spoke to either also playing golf, or in and around the hotels.
"The whole holiday was one big highlight! But ignoring the big two courses we played, I’d definitely recommend to anyone visiting Hilton Head to play the Arthur Hills Course and on Kiawah Island, play the Turtle Point Course.
"Some of the best golf courses you’ll ever play and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet."
It's the magic of a golf holiday to South Carolina. For more information, packages and destinations, visit https://www.golfbreaks.com/south-carolina.
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