Sunday, January 1, 2006
Island Treasures Southern Charm
Hilton Head IslandOnly 12 miles long and five miles wide, Hilton Head is a maritime jewel off the southernmost coast of South Carolina, about 40 miles northwest of Savannah, Ga. Remarkably, golf wasn’t introduced to this thickly forested barrier island until 1956 when the first course, the Ocean Course, opened. The course is in Sea Pines Resort, a 5,500-acre residential and recreational development pioneered by Charles Fraser, son of a timber magnate, who’s heralded as modern Hilton Head’s founding father.
Sea Pines Resort is a model of wise planning in a spectacular natural setting. Clean roads snake through a lush forest of pines and hardwoods that drape like huge umbrellas over widely spaced luxury homes and condominium rental complexes. The resort includes Harbour Town, a village of restaurants, shops and a circular yacht basin.
Sea Pines also has a large tennis complex and four other golf courses, led by world-famous Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour’s MCI Heritage, which is held every year right after The Masters. Created by Pete Dye with Jack Nicklaus consulting and opened in 1969, the course is a favorite among Tour professionals. The Heritage is the single biggest event on the Hilton Head calendar and a major draw for tourism.
Towering directly over Harbour Town is a 200-foot-tall, candy-striped lighthouse, the island’s most visible landmark. Visitors climbing to the top of the lighthouse are rewarded with a spectacular view of Calibogue Sound to the south and west and Harbour Town Golf Links’ signature finishing hole.
Just to the southwest is Daufuskie, a sparsely populated island popularized by Pat Conroy in his novel The Water Is Wide. Accessible by ferry or private helicopter, Daufuskie reflects a bygone era of the Old South. There are no traffic lights on the island, but it does have three of the best golf courses in the Hilton Head area. These include two courses at the Daufuskie Island Resort by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish, and Haig Point, a private Rees Jones product.
Hilton Head is warmed by the Gulf Stream. It has an average temperature of 70 degrees F that assures a year-round golf season. Plus, there’s no shortage of things to do on Hilton Head. The island has more than 200 stores, some of which are at Shelter Cove, the island’s lone shopping mall. There are over 250 restaurants on the island serving every type of cuisine, especially seafood fresh off the boat.
In addition to nature and boat tours, biking is very popular on miles of trails and the hard-packed sand beaches. Visitors to Hilton Head and its environs quickly notice the absence of billboards and other intrusive features of modern commercialism. Hilton Head’s nightlife is somewhat tame, for sure, as it’s primarily a family destination. And though a couple of popular dance spots and sports bars are sprinkled throughout the island, Hilton Head is designed to offer a respite from a frenzied world.
Golf Tips Selects Hilton Head Island’s Best Places To Play
Hilton Head proper is made up primarily of plantation-style communities. Some have resorts and all have private homes. In addition to Sea Pines, these include Palmetto Dunes, with three fine golf courses and two hotels, the Marriott Beach and Golf Resort and the Hilton Oceanfront Resort. Also, Port Royal Plantation includes the Westin Resort and three courses, which are ideally suited for casual resort play and outings. Hilton Head Plantation doesn’t have a resort hotel, but boasts one private and three semiprivate courses, including the Country Club of Hilton Head and Oyster Reef, both Rees Jones creations.
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