Drink in some of Hilton Head Island's best ocean views from the golf course
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Depending on the person, the thought of a sea breeze conjures up feelings of relaxation or adventure, a day lazing on the beach or piloting a sailboat into the waves.
For even luckier people, it evokes memories of a great shot close to the pin, taking into account that sea breeze and not being distracted by the ocean that's right there.
Two Hilton Head Island golf courses offer beachside greens and a third resides next to Calibogue Sound, just a long iron from the Atlantic Ocean. These are views you don't want to miss.
Robert Trent Jones Course at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort
The RTJ is an intriguing track fraught primarily with bunkers on the front nine and water hazards on the back. But it's that bounty of Atlantic eye candy from the 10th green to the 11th tee that sets this course apart. There's nothing else like it on Hilton Head Island. Your march up the par-5 10th hole is directly toward the ocean with the wind in your face, the ocean shockingly close. Just beyond the green, only a tiny fence separates you from sand castles while you're trying to putt. You detect the faint aroma of coconut-scented sunscreen and hear the waves lap the shore.
"What we hear is it's one of the most breathtaking views on the Atlantic coast," said Brad Marra, director of golf for Palmetto Dunes. "I believe people come to Hilton Head to play the Robert Trent Jones Course and the 10th hole specifically. It's the most popular course on the island."
Because it's a par 5, the ocean gawking doesn't slow down play and the view stays with you to the 11th tee. There, you'll have the wind at your back and that last glimpse of the ocean tugging at your concentration as you tee it up.
"Really, there are two oceanfront holes," Marra said.
The rest of the course doesn't disappoint, keeping you on your toes as holes skip to and fro over lagoons and bunkers pop up in your path.
Ocean Course at Sea Pines Resort
Sea Pines Resort, which claims the southern tip of Hilton Head Island, has two courses with famed water views. The Ocean Course at Sea Pines is Hilton Head's oldest course and one of the most pleasant, player-friendly courses on the island. There are four regular tees, plus junior tees that launch from about 150 yards out. It's a relaxing course, perfect for the family to enjoy together. It's certified by Audubon International, which makes it a bird-watching adventure, as well as a golf game.
The best part, though, is its 15th hole that sits right against the beach, making the par 3 play longer than what's on the card. If no one is behind you, run up to the boardwalk after you hole out and steal a few seconds of beach time.
"It's extremely special and important to us that one of our golf courses is on the ocean and Harbour Town is on Calibogue Sound," said Cary Corbitt, director of golf for Sea Pines Resort.
"The element of the wind always play into those holes," he said, and the scenery will play with your concentration. "It's just so beautiful."
Harbour Town Golf Links
Harbour Town Golf Links has spent 43 years as the annual host to the PGA Tour for the Heritage tournament. Its iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse at the end of the par-4 18th hole along Calibogue Sound instantly identifies it as Harbour Town.
"Among the national and international winners, they continually praise the golf course and the difficulty of playing along Calibogue Sound," Corbitt said.
It's not technically the ocean, but your brain and your golf ball can't tell the difference.
While the 18th might get all of the TV attention, the par-3 17th plays right to the sound, too, putting the wind in your face and a really, really big water hazard behind the hole. It's a thrilling hole.
"Our signature photo for our Ocean Course is No. 15 and our signature photos for Harbour Town is the 18th with the lighthouse and the Sound, and 17."
There is a lot of great golf on Hilton Head Island, but these are some holes that are travel postcards turned into reality. So book some breathtaking views into your tee times. It's a rare combination that you won't forget.