One take on the greatest holes Hilton Head and Bluffton have to offer
This list isn’t right. It isn’t wrong. It’s just an opinion, and you know what they say about opinions. Everyone has one.
At the very least, here are 18 fantastic holes to play in the area, either for their design or the views from them. There are another 18 in the area that are equally good, and another and another. With more than 30 public and private courses lining one of the most beautiful places on earth, that’s 540 holes of golf and not a bad one among them. Really. Not one.
But with so many choices, how does one know where to begin? With lists like these.
Hole No. 1: 18th at Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island
With the Calibogue Sound on the left and the Harbour Town lighthouse in the distance behind the green, this hole is Hilton Head Island. Show a photo of it to any golf fan in the country and he or she will know it’s Hilton Head. Not only is it iconic, it’s a great par-4 hole where the wind off the sound makes every drive and approach shot unique.
Hole No. 2: 10th at Robert Trent Jones Oceanfront Course, Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head Island
The march up the par-5 10th hole is directly toward the ocean with the wind in your face. Just beyond the green, only a tiny fence separates golfers from sand castles. While putting, you’ll detect the faint aroma of coconut-scented sunscreen and hear the waves lap the shore. It’s one of the best ocean views from a golf course on the East Coast.
Hole No. 3: 6th at Oyster Reef Golf Club, Hilton Head Island
It feels like you can see forever across the Port Royal Sound, but really, it’s only Parris Island near Beaufort. It’s an unforgettable view — and kind of distracting when trying to pick out the flag on this downhill par-3.
Hole No. 4: 18th at the Arthur Hills Course, Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head Island
Finding the green is unusually challenging on this hole, not just with your golf ball but with your eyes. A mounded ridge hides the entire green if you’re slightly left of center. It’s a fun hole that you won’t forget. It’s a great finish for a course that offers a lot of challenges with rippled fairways, offset greens and well-thought-out bunker placement.
Hole No. 5: 8th at Old South Golf Links, Bluffton
This island green par-3 in the middle of the marsh is just one of many beautiful holes on this sometimes overlooked course designed by Hilton Head resident Clyde Johnston. Old South is one of my favorite courses.
Hole No. 6: 16th at George Fazio Course, Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head Island
The sea of sand that faces you from the tee is stunning. Sand is a key component of this course, but this hole goes aggressive with half a dozen bunkers right off the tee. Careful ball placement is the key to this hole (and course). They say the closing four holes are the toughest on Hilton Head. They just might be right.
Hole No. 7: 1st at Barony Course, Port Royal Golf Club, Hilton Head Island
The key to this hole is to map it out from the tee. Make sure your approach is from the right to the large, sloped green fiercely protected by water on the left and sand everywhere else. It’s a surprisingly in-your-face opener on the George Cobb-designed course.
Hole No. 8: 10th at Heron Point, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island
After a waste bunker-lined ninth hole, one thinks, phew that’s over. Then you get to the par-4 10th with a huge bunker in the middle of the fairway awaiting your drive. The oddly shaped green sets up from the right, but drops off on the left. That diabolical Pete Dye must have been snickering when he thought up this one.
Hole No. 9: 15th at Ocean Course, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island
The island’s original course gave us a glimpse of the possibilities with a hole that uses the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop. The par 3 is a little tight off the tee and breathtakingly distracting. No, the ocean doesn’t serve as a water hazard, but if no one is behind you, run over to the boardwalk for an eyeful of beautiful beach.
Hole No. 10: 6th at Hilton Head National, Bluffton
The par-4 hole wraps around a water mass on the right the entire length of the hole. A sharply sloped left side doesn’t give you a lot of leeway to get to the well-guarded green. It’s a standout hole on a beautiful course that doesn’t have a house in sight. It’s one of the most peaceful courses in the area.
Hole No. 11: 14th at Robert Cupp Course, Palmetto Hall, Hilton Head Island
This hole makes the list because of its green. It truly is a work of art. A collection of bunkers that escort you up to the left of the green is accessorized by more bunkers behind the hole. The attention to detail in the grand scheme of that hole is breathtaking. I can go on and on about the creativity and challenge of this course.
Hole No. 12: 11th at Eagle’s Pointe Golf Club, Bluffton
The par-3 hole is right next to Fording Island Road, but you’d never know it as you contemplate your shot over the marsh to the fairly deep green. Most people give it too much gas and find themselves off the back. While this course weaves among houses, it is a great test of shot making. Bring water balls.
Hole No. 13: 2nd at Galleon course, Shipyard, Hilton Head Island
I just love this sharp dogleg left. Its pacing is unusual, so figuring out distance is a formidable challenge when setting up your approach shot to the elevated green over water. The rest of the 72-hole complex is fraught with watery par-3s, if you like a little adrenaline with your game.
Hole No. 14: 7th at Crescent Pointe, Bluffton
This Arnold Palmer-designed course will give your golf bag a workout; you’ll use every club in it. Placement is everything on this course, especially on the seventh hole, which punishes long drives with a roll-off into the water. Enjoy the beautiful marsh views on the ninth, 17th and 18th holes. This is a creative, quirky course that’s a lot of fun to play.
Hole No. 15: 18th at Arthur Hills, Palmetto Hall Plantation, Hilton Head Island
With two Arthur Hills courses on the island, one at Palmetto Dunes and the other at Palmetto Hall, it gets a little confusing. Both are very Hills-like, with lots of undulations on the fairway and green and gnarly rough. Check out this par-4, which features an approach shot over the water to a very sloped green.
Hole No. 16: 13th at Arthur Hills, Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head Island
This par-5 requires you to think through every shot before you put the tee in the ground. Carefully work your way up the fairway with the objective of a perfect approach over a creek down to the green. It’s one of the most cerebral holes on the island.
Hole No.17: 3rd at Robber’s Row, Port Royal Plantation, Hilton Head Island
You can tell this is a Pete Dye course, but he must have been in a jovial mood when he designed it. It’s a thinking man’s course without too many surprises. For example, this par-4 is covered with bunkers from 140 yards in, but you can see them coming. Tiptoe your way to the deep but skinny green with bunkers on both sides.
Hole No. 18: 13th at Harbour Town Golf Links, Sea Pines Resort, Hilton Head Island
It’s the Mickey Mouse ears. They get me every time. This brilliant Alice Dye-inspired par-4, like the iconic island green at TPC Sawgrass, hints there are two designers of equal merit in that family. The massive rodent head-shaped sand trap surrounding the railroad-tie constructed green gave me a brain cramp trying to figure out how to get my ball up there. I love this hole so much.
So there you have it — 18 of the area’s finest. But no matter which holes or which courses you play, you’ll find excellent conditions, attentive and knowledgeable staff and a great day for your memory book.