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To The Hilt

 Hilton Head Island Boasts Two of the Finest Oceanfront Resorts in the Nation

By Glen Turk, Senior Editor, Midwest Golfing Magazine

One of my favorite movie lines is an underrated gem from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. As Indy first gets off the boat in Italy in an attempt to find his father he simply regales “Ah, Venice.” The connotation of the line clearly conveys that 18th Hole Harbour TownVenice is one of his favorite destinations in the world. In a blatant copycat move as I stepped off our tour bus on Hilton Hilton Island in South Carolina I passionately whispered “Ah, Hilton Head,” as a precursor of the great golf and accommodations to come.

Situated at the very southeastern tip of South Carolina, Hilton Head Island is home to 27 golf courses, an amazing statistic since the island only measures twevle miles long by five miles wide. Of those 27 courses, the two hallmark properties are Harbour Town Golf Links at The Sea Pines Resort and the Robert Trent Jones Course found at Palmetto Dunes Resort.

Most of you are well aware of Harbour Town Golf Links if you’ve followed the RBC Heritage Classic on the PGA Tour. The Pete Dye/Jack Nicklaus collaborative design has hosted a Tour Event for 44 consecutive years and is highlighted by massive railroad ties, ingenious bunkers, overhanging tree-lined fairways, and undulating, tour-speed green complexes. Any time you have the opportunity to play a Tour stop you must take full advantage and Harbour Town Golf Links is no different. “Playing a course the pros play is the best way to understand what they face on one of the PGA Tour’s tightest courses, yet one of the Tours’s most delightful stops,” stated Dave Zunker, Associate Director of Sales and Marketing at the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Visitor & Convention Bureau. “Visitors enjoy everything the pros enjoy, including Hilton Head Island’s relaxed atmosphere, its family friendly amenities, and a wide variety of top-notch restaurants for “foodies,” concluded Zunker.

The par-71, 6973 yard layout is short by PGA Tour standards, but a stern test for any golfer that doesn’t have his/her name on their bag. MGM recommends playing from either The Dye Tees, which measure out to 6603 yards, or the Sea Pines Tees, which come in at 6040 yards. With nearly every hole surrounded by trees and/or sand or water hazards, it’s paramount to find the fairway in order to attack Pete Dye’s diabolical green configurations. After playing the course for the first time and seeing some of the challenging pin placements, I truly believe Brian Gay’s 10 shot victory in 2009 (he shot 20 under par for the week) is one of the Tour’s top 5 tournament performances in the last decade.

Holes of distinction on the front nine at Harbour Town include the 200 yard par-3 4th and the 332 yard, par-4 9th. The course’s opening par-3 features water left and trees deep and right and requires a pinpoint shot just to find the putting surface. The 9th maybe one of the most claustrophobic holes on Tour as huge trees overhang both edges of the fairway and features the smallest green on the property.

The inward nine provides golfers with three of the most recognizable holes in golf – period. The 373 yard, par-4 13th comes complete with a 100 yard long fairway bunker down the left side and a banked greenside bunker unlike anything I’d seen before. I purposefully dropped a ball as close to the bank as possible to see if I could flop one on the green. I would have sat there all day until successful, but fortunately for the group behind us I did it on my first try.

The course finally opens up to daylight on the par-3 17th – a 185 yard hole that can play from three clubs less to three clubs more depending upon wind direction and intensity. Behind the green resides the Atlantic Ocean in all her glory, a body of water that only becomes more prominent when making the right hand turn to play the 18th. The 452 yard, par-4 finishing hole boasts the largest fairway on Tour at 70 yards across and features a panoramic view of Harbour Town’s famous lighthouse from start to finish. The lighthouse also doubles as their logo and is one of the most memorable vistas to end a round! Combine that with the fresh smell of ocean air and it’s no wonder Harbour Town is listed as one of the top 20 public courses you can play in America by every important golf publication. The Sea Pines Resort also offers Stay and Play packages that include playing privileges on their other two properties, Herron Point by Pete Dye, and The Ocean Course by Mark McCumber. For more information on Sea Pines and Harbour Town, visit www.seapines.com or call 1-800-955-8337.

Only a well hit driver away from Harbour Town rests Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort and three top-notch courses designed by Arthur Hills, George Fazio, and Robert Trent Jones. The Jones 18 gets most of the accolades and features the signature 550 yard, par-5 10th, replete with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean just behind the green. “When the Atlantic Ocean is only about 10 yards from the green – as it is at the 10th hole on the Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes, you’re guaranteed incredible views and some serious golf challenge,” stated Zunker. “I personally love that course because of the combination of the 10th, 11th and 12th on RTJ – a kind of Amen Corner on Hilton Head Island. It’s almost a sure thing you’ll be hitting into a breeze on the par-5 10th, so you can use that breeze to crush your drive on the relatively short par-4 11th. And then the full-carry over the lagoon on No. 12 completes the package,” explained Zunker.

Ten of the 18 holes are heavily impacted by water and on most days the prevailing wind creates a crosswind that must be adjusted to, not fought. If you need help with your wind-cheater shot, MGM suggests partaking in the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy, led by former PGA Tour player and top ten South Carolina instructor Doug Weaver. Daily clinics, Ladies Only, and Family Golf Schools are just a few of the many options Doug and his talented staff provide. To request a complete schedule of lesson packages, call (843) 785-1138.

Palmetto Dunes is so much more than just an amazing 54 hole golf destination that offers first-rate golf instruction. Being right on the Atlantic has a host of advantages as guests have the option to take kayak, canoe, and in-shore fishing charters through Palmetto Dunes Outfitters division. Dolphin cruises, nature tours, championship tennis courts, and upscale boutiques are also available at a resort where boredom is just not an option. For more information on Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, log on to www.palmettodunes.com or call (800) 827-3006.

What started with an “Ah, Hilton Head” ended with a vat of memories thanks to two of the finest oceanfront resorts the east coast has to offer. It’s amazing what an island the size of a Super Wal-Mart can provide. For more information on all that Hilton Head Island has to offer, visit www.hiltonheadisland.org.