Destination Feature Hilton Head Island
Ask 100 American PGA Tour players to name their favourite annual stop, and the chances are that 99% of them will reply, without hesitation: “Harbour Town Links, Hilton Head.”
Luke Donald and Davis Love III, who have both enjoyed success there, love the place. It is one of the most iconic courses in the United States and hosts the RBC Heritage tournament, which always attracts a star-studded field. Located in South Carolina, it is overlooked by the famous red and white-striped lighthouse that sits behind the 18th green and provides probably the most glorious setting on tour. And you can play it too, without having to take out a second mortgage.
What you may not know is that the area is one of the best golf destinations in America, with more than 10 great golf courses within 30 minutes of all accommodation in the Hilton Head area.
Flights from the UK take 10 or 11 hours. You can land in Charlotte, Philadelphia or Atlanta and then catch a connecting flight, or you can drive from Charlotte (3.5 hours) or Atlanta (4.5 hours).
And there is a wealth of choice when you get there. You can spoil yourself in a five-star resort, or you can book self-catering accommodation. No matter which option you choose, you can be sure of a warm welcome from the locals, who understand the traditions of golf and love British and Irish golfers.
The climate is perfect, with great weather guaranteed from March to October. It is cooler from November through to March, but still ideal for golf.
Hilton Head boasts lots of sandy beaches, making it an ideal destination for both golfers and their families. You will also be blown away by the food – this is an area that specialises in seafood, with restaurants selling freshly-caught local produce.
Being America, they do things properly when it comes to golf. Book a round and you get a buggy, practice balls (proper golf balls, not the lumps of stone we are so often offered in Britain), iced water and 18 holes.
Courses in the area have been constructed under the eye of the some of the world's best designers, including Pete Dye and Robert Trent Jones, so you just know you are going to be spoilt for choice.
Harbour Town was built in 1969. Designed by Dye, with help from Jack Nicklaus, you get the feeling that it has been here for hundreds of years. It is not a monster, but it requires strategy – you can't just stand up on the tee and blaze away. Give this golf course the respect it deserves and it will reward you with a round of golf that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The Country Club of Hilton Head measures 6,919 yards from the back tees and was designed by Rees Jones and opened in 1985. It features 13 doglegs and water on almost every hole, as well as pot bunkers and grass hollows. The 12th hole is considered to be one of the most beautiful on Hilton Head Island – and that is really saying something.
Opened in 1970, Shipyard Golf Club’s Clipper/Galleon Course is considered the toughest out of the three course combinations at this resort, which has three nine-hole courses. The Clipper/Galleon combination delivers an exciting mix of long fairways, perilous hazards and ample risk and reward situations to allow optimal scoring. Shipyard’s original Clipper course demands accurate tee shots and well-measured approaches on the front nine. The back nine is characterised by greens that are slightly elevated and well protected by bunkers and gentle mounds.
If you have ever played a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course you will know that he places strategy above all else – he also wants the people who play his courses to enjoy them, to remember holes and experiences, regardless of their ability. It makes such a refreshing change. Settled on a gorgeous landscape of gently rolling terrain, thick woodlands and a chain of beautiful lagoons, the Golden Bear Golf Club delivers a sensational golf experience. The championship golf course is all finesse and strategy, and a must-play for anybody visiting this golfing paradise. Golden Bear flawlessly winds through the pristine and elegant community of Indigo Run and offers fairways with a generous landing zones and plenty of recovery room greenside. Each hole adopts a character all its own though the common factor is “strategy over muscle.”
Measuring 7,058 yards, Heron Point is a Peter Dye masterpiece. It is the result of a multimillion-dollar reconstruction project in 2007, out of which came a stunning transformation of The Sea Pines Resort’s original Sea Marsh Golf Course. The imagination and creative flair of Dye is evident at every turn on Heron Point. He reshaped the fairways of the original course, and the resulting mounds and hillocks keep players off-balance with dramatic angles and shifting elevations.
The movement is even more distinctive around Heron Point’s green complexes. A variety of obstacles lurk around the putting surfaces, and the greens are small and undulating. You had better bring your very best short game with you – if you do, you will go away loving Heron Point , which is regarded as the area's most exciting and exhilarating golf course.
The choices go on and on. What about William C Byrd's gem, Planter's Row? There are three courses at Port Royal, and Planter’s Row provides the best challenge, offering narrow, tree-lined fairways that lead to small, undulating greens. As water comes into play on ten out of 18 holes, players face a real challenge to “stay dry”. The par five fifth, for instance, requires golfers to carry the water twice. This is not a layout where you want to lose focus.
And you can't leave here without playing the Ocean Course, which measures 6,906 yards. It was built in 1962 and remodelled in 2001 and its breathtaking layout poses delightful challenges to novices and veterans. The Ocean Course embraces the traditional and classic principles of design and boasts one of only two holes on Hilton Head Island set against the Atlantic Ocean. The views will take your breath away – and that's a promise. An assortment of tees and strategic placement of lagoons and bunkers ensure the course will be challenging but playable for golfers of all skill levels. It has received ‘Beginner Friendly Course Certification’, so if you are a high handicapper, you know that a) you will survive 18 holes, and b) you will enjoy them.
If you fancy trying out this part of the world – and who wouldn't? - Golfbreaks.com can take care of everything, including flights, car hire, accommodation and golf. All taxes and resort fees are included, and there are no hidden costs. It really is the perfect, hassle-free golfing break in a part of the world you will always remember.
Hilton Head is already incredibly popular with American golfers. It won't be long before British players are seduced by its charms.
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