Hilton Head Golf Island celebrates the season with the 50th playing of the iconic Heritage Classic at Harbour Town Golf Links. For visitors seeking some helpful local knowledge, here are nine “Insider Tips” that will show you “How Do a Golf Trip on Hilton Head Island.”
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, SC — Another classic Masters is in the books. Now, the PGA Tour takes a deep breath of relief and heads south for second half of one of golf’s most popular 1-2 punches.
Golfers have long said the transition from the buttoned-up Masters at Augusta National to the laid-back, relaxing vibe of the RBC Heritage Classic on Hilton Head Island, S.C., has been among their favorites of the year.
The first Heritage Classic was played on the brand-new Harbour Town Golf Links during Thanksgiving weekend in 1969 and was won by none other than “The King,” Arnold Palmer. This victory by the aging champion of the people truly helped put Hilton Head Island on the map.
For the first five years of the Heritage history the tournament was contested in November. It briefly moved to September in 1973; then to March in 1974 — two weeks before The Masters. In 1983, however, the Heritage finally moved to April, the week after the Masters, where it has remained to this day.
For those arriving on Hilton Head Island for the 50th playing of the RBC Heritage — or simply to enjoy all this island paradise has to offer — here is a quick, 9-hole list of insider information designed to expand your knowledge of the Golf Island’s numerous offerings.
No. 1 — Hilton Head Island is the largest “barrier island” off the Atlantic coast between Long Island and the Bahamas, covering 42 square miles — 12 miles long and 5 miles wide at its widest point. Manhattan is the largest barrier island on the east coast. Hilton Head Island’s perennial subtropical climate makes this beauty an ideal setting for golf, which is why Hilton Head Island boasts more golf per capita than anywhere in the country.
No. 2 — Hilton Head Island is shaped like a foot and its major resort developments are comprised of gated communities. The Sea Pines Resort, home of Harbour Town Golf Links and two other storied layouts, is located at the “toe,” or the south end of the island. Located at the “heel” — meaning mid-island and north end — are Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort with its Robert Trent Jones, George Fazio and Arthur Hills courses, and Port Royal Resort with 54 holes designed by Pete Dye, George Cobb and Willard Byrd. Each course is unique in its own right and a must play on any Lowcountry bucket list.
No. 3 — Nearly every renowned golf course architect of this generation has representative work on the island. Along with the names above, add the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Rees Jones, Davis Love III and Robert Cupp among many others. Just a smooth 9-iron from Sea Pines on the south end is Shipyard Plantation, which offers 27 holes designed by Cobb and Byrd that can be played in a trio of 18-hole combinations. Each 9-holer — Clipper, Galleon and Brigantine — has its own merits, but there is one constant: water comes into play on nearly every hole. Nevertheless all 27 are imminently and enjoyably playable.
No. 4 — There are more than a million rounds of golf played on Hilton Head Island every year. While some of the top courses are private, Hilton Head Island has earned its reputation as one of the world’s finest golf destinations, because of its outstanding public and resort courses that will satisfy the palate of even the most selective golfer. Palmetto Hall Plantation features two memorable golf courses designed by Hills and Cupp. Hills sculpted a layout so popular and strategic that it serves as the site of many of the area’s top tournaments, while the Cupp Course is known for it striking geometric bunkers and greens, not to mention its challenging design.
No. 5 — Hilton Head Island boasts plenty of culture and nightlife, and fancies itself more sophisticated and upscale than its neighbor four hours to the north, Myrtle Beach. Following a round or two of golf, locals and visitors often hit the numerous bars and restaurants on the south end, although Hilton Head’s north end has emerged as a nighttime hotspot of its own. Before hitting one of the many outstanding restaurants on the north end of the island, golfers love challenging one of the two courses by Nicklaus and his son, Jack II, at Indigo Run Plantation. Winding through forests of pine and oak and along freshwater lowlands, the Golden Bear Golf Club, which debuted in 1992, is open to the public.
No. 6 — Hilton Head Island is well known for its six miles of bike lanes and more than 60 miles of paved shared-use paths. In addition to being a fun and healthy way to experience the island, biking is also great for the environment. An important part of Hilton Head Island’s culture, biking significantly reduces congestion and vehicular traffic. Take a leisurely ride along the beach, or easily bike to dinner and shopping. At Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, you can even play 18 holes at one of its three courses aboard a revolutionary new “Golf Bike” or take a spin in one of its 4-person golf carts.
No. 7 — Hilton Head Island is rich in history. Captain William Hilton, whose original landing spot was in what is now Port Royal Plantation, discovered the island in 1663. Several miles north of Port Royal is Hilton Head Plantation, the second-oldest private gated community on the island occupying almost 4,000 acres. Hilton Head Plantation offers a wide variety of golf with a quartet of gorgeous layouts: Oyster Reef Golf Club, Country Club of Hilton Head, Bear Creek Golf Club — all designed by Rees Jones — and Dolphin Head, designed by Gary Player and Ron Kirby.
No. 8 — Historically, Hilton Head Island has been a convenient drive destination for many from the North, South and Midwest. However, you can now get here even faster. JetBlue Airways operates non-stop flights from Boston (BOS) and New York City (LGA/JFK) to Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV). Allegiant Air also flies non-stop from Indianapolis (IND), Cincinnati (CVG), Baltimore (BWI) and Pittsburgh (PIT), among others cities. Fourteen other locales offer non-stop service to SAV including Chicago, Detroit, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
No. 9 — Golf on Hilton Head Island is truly a year-round choice for recreation courtesy of the island’s invitingly warm climate. Some locals consider the spring and fall to be the most delightful seasons to take to the tees, but value can be found both in the winter and summer months. For visitors, a variety of custom golf and resort packages for small and large groups are worth investigating. The “Golf Island” has made planning your golf vacation very easy through the launch of a brand new website — HiltonHeadGolfIsland.com. Marvel at our 30-plus golf courses, browse our custom resort packages and attractive rates, and see all that Hilton Head Island has to offer away from the links. Planning your dream golf trip is just a click away.