It’s finally, officially summer, which means it’s time for that golf vacation you’ve been dreaming about. While a world-class golf destination like Hilton Head Island in South Carolina might not be on your immediate radar for, say, a four-day getaway, thanks to its exposure to the Atlantic and daily seabreezes, it’s a worthy spot any time of year.
Just for grins (with a side of grits), let’s toss out a sample itinerary of what on- and off-course treasures await you on this famous and friendly island, whether you’re looking at next month or next fall.
Arrive at charming Savannah / Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), less than an hour’s drive from Hilton Head.
Next, be sure to appreciate the striking vistas as you drive over the bridge onto the island. Check into your accommodations at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort. With three miles of pristine beachfront ideal for tossing a football or just relaxing in the sun, an award-winning tennis center and an 11-mile lagoon open to kayaking and canoeing, Palmetto Dunes is the perfect home base for your Hilton Head golf vacation. Oh, and did we mention it boasts three championship golf courses?
After settling into your villa, head over to the Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course for an afternoon tee time. The RTJ course is the most open layout at Palmetto Dunes, offering a nice opportunity to ease into the week(end)’s golf activities. Beware the winds rolling in off the Atlantic Ocean as they can provide a sneaky challenge for a visually inviting course. Rent Golf Bikes for a fun added twist.
Following your round, loser buys dinner at Scott’s Fish Market, conveniently located just outside the main entrance to Palmetto Dunes in Shelter Cove Harbour. This waterfront restaurant has been an island staple for almost thirty years and features fresh local seafood, hand-cut aged steaks and homemade pastas. Cap off the evening with a homemade Italian ice from Frosty’s.
Wake up bright and early for a spirted round at Planter’s Row, arguably the most challenging of the three Port Royal layouts with water in play on 10 of 18 holes.
Then, stop off at Chow Daddy’s en route to your second tee time of the day. This casual restaurant uses fresh, local and organic foods to create delicious dishes such as the brisket burger, traditional pork bun and fried chicken breast. Be sure to order some grilled buttermilk jalapeno cheese cornbread for the table.
After you’ve recovered from your food coma, continue the scenic drive to Harbour Town Golf Links, situated within The Sea Pines Resort. The iconic course hosts the PGA Tour’s only South Carolina tournament – the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing – each April. The crowning achievement of famed designer Pete Dye and design consultant Jack Nicklaus, this layout places a premium on finesse, imagination and shot making, rather than strength.
Following your round, take some time to visit the Harbour Town Yacht Basin, home to the distinctive red-and-white striped Harbour Town Lighthouse; a variety of stores and restaurants; and a full range of watersports. Multiple ice cream options make it difficult to say no to a pre-dinner dessert. If it’s a clear day, take a tour of the lighthouse for unparalleled views of the island and Calibogue Sound. Then, visit Sea Pines Beach Club for dinner accompanied by stunning vistas of the Atlantic Ocean.
Make the short trip across the bridge for an action-packed day in Bluffton. Begin your adventure with an early round at Island West Golf Club, which you passed on your way to the island from the airport. Island West was designed by Fuzzy Zoeller and is exactly what you’d expect from the major champion: fun and entertaining. The rolling, tree-lined course was built around natural marshland making it quintessentially low country. Grab a quick bite at the clubhouse Bar & Grill before venturing to your next stop: Crescent Pointe Golf Club.
The only public course in Hilton Head designed by Arnold Palmer, Crescent Pointe features elevated greens and tees unusual for the area. While the Signature Course offers generous fairways, challenging approaches to undulating greens test even the most skilled golfers.
After 36 stimulating holes you’re sure to be hungry, so stop off at Old Town Dispensary in Bluffton for good food and a relaxing atmosphere. Happy hour specials run from 4 -7 p.m. (Monday – Saturday) and include $1 tacos and $6 dozen wings. Featuring outdoor seating, fire pits, delicious food and the occasional band, OTD is the perfect place to fully embrace vacation mode.
Close out your trip with 18 holes at Shipyard Golf Club. The club boasts three distinct nines, all of which meander through tall pines, magnolias and moss-draped oaks. The Galleon Course – Shipyard’s original nine – requires accurate placement of approach shots into heavily guarded greens. The Brigantine Course’s water hazard-filled nine holes necessitate shot-making and a good short game to navigate slight doglegs and well-placed bunkers. Perhaps the most difficult layout, the Clipper Course requires accurate tee shots, well-measured approaches and a soft touch around the greens.
For lunch, visit Java Burrito Company, located just outside Shipyard’s entrance. A Mexican grill and specialty coffee bar, Java Burrito uses all-natural ingredients sourced locally with no artificial preservatives and no growth hormones. Order a burrito to eat at the restaurant and an espresso milkshake to go. Note: Java Burrito is closed on Sundays.
Then, head back to Savannah for your direct flight home and tell your friends about your epic vacation to “Golf Island.”