The Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort gives golfers is a salty breath of Lowcountry air

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. - Built in 1960, the Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort is the granddaddy of Hilton Head, the first built on the island. It has aged extremely well, with a bevy of creative challenges.

Sea Pines Resort - Ocean Course
The Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort, which dates back to 1960, is the granddaddy of Hilton Head golf.
Sea Pines Resort - Ocean CourseOcean Course at Sea Pines Resort - hole 10Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort - hole 16Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort - hole 1

The George Cobb-designed tract is well apportioned among four tees, from the forward Palmetto tees at 5,325 yards with a 71.1 rating and 124 slope for women, to the Heritage tees stretching out to 6,906 yards and a 73.4 rating and 142 slope.

Now that the numbers are out of the way, you'll find a friendly, open golf course with enough bunkers, water and interrupted fairways to keep you and your golf game sharp. Fortunately, the Ocean Course shares billing well with its surroundings, from the many water birds and alligators sunning on the banks of the lagoons (part of the water drainage system that made Sea Pines possible), to the oceanfront green on No. 15.

Crews worked hard to be kind to birds, earning the Ocean Course certification as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Water, not surprisingly, seems omnipresent on the course, showing up on nearly every hole. But it remains mostly in the background – an easy carry from the tees or to the side of a green. The greens are large, making them easy to hit, and they slope rather than undulate so the risk of putting trouble is dampened. It also helps that they are carved into five segments, so the information is there to place your shot. Every one has a thin roll-up alley to deposit less-than-perfect shots onto the green.

The Ocean Course is the one people in Ohio play in their heads in February, recalling the salty breeze, sun, palm trees and peace.

Sea Pines Resort's Ocean Course: Holes of note

No. 5 gives you a false sense of security off the tee for the par 4, but once you get a look at what's ahead of your second shot, life isn't so simple any more.

Going for the green from the left side means clearing water, then avoiding a cluster of bunkers next to the offset green. It's a hole to admire, regardless of how much swing experience it took to get there.

On the ninth, all of the fun is in the approach, which requires staying out of a bunker cluster across the fairway, starting at about 155 yards out to about 90 yards. Then it's up to an elevated green well guarded by bunkers and a mini-beach left, complete with palm trees. Go too far, and you're in the drink.

The 10th hole has a similar cross-fairway bunker assortment but after a tee shot over water. It's a sharp dogleg right with a backstop of bunkers if your drive is too long.

The par-4 13th has water across the front of the green but has a long, dry way around. The green is elevated, so if too long, you'll have a sharp pitch shot to get back in the game.

The 14th is a par-5 dogleg left with lots of bunkers to snare errant drives. The fairway itself goes on a crash diet, shrinking down to near nothingness near the bunker-surrounded green. Word to the wise, though, don't bet on the hole with John Cook Jr. He set a world record for carding two double eagles on the hole on the same day in 1990.

Then it's onto the course's namesake, the 15th par 3 that rubs right up against the ocean. Yes, there will be wind on this hole, thus the bunkers short right. Aim left. After holing out, admire the view. Few people can gaze at the ocean from a green.

Back to the course, a nice trio of holes brings you home. Sixteen is a dogleg right, with tees far above the fairway, a pond below and bunkers straight ahead. Mind the distance.

Holes 17 and 18 follow a lagoon, making water a steady fear with an added dose near the green on 17, with water on both sides. Strangely, the direct approach is from the right side over water, then up the entryway to the green.

The final hole adds 17 more bunkers on both sides of the fairway and a very thin landing area for your approach. It's a nice finishing par 5 for a very pleasant day on the course.

The Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort: The verdict

Clark Andrews, a 15-handicapper from Hilton Head, was hard pressed to pick a favorite hole. "It depends on the day. Usually 18 - but not today."

He likes the pace of the course. "It has plenty of hazards, but they are easy to avoid. It's a shot-making course."

The golf course was freshened up by Mark McCumber in 1995, leaving it neither too hard nor too easy.

It's an extremely pleasant, visually pleasing course that you could really tear up on a good day. On a bad day, you'll deposit many balls into the drink, because it's definitely a water course.

The Ocean Course reeks of its location on the beach, so if you want to shake off the cold North, this is definitely the place.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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