Head to Hilton Head Island to find a better golf game

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- This isn't just a great location to play golf; it's also an ideal spot to improve your golf game.

Sea Pines Golf Academy
Respected instructor Skip Malek heads up The Golf Academy at Sea Pines Resort.
Sea Pines Golf AcademyPalmetto Dunes Golf AcademyHarbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines

The golf resorts, clubs and facilities around Hilton Head Island feature some of the best instructors and golf schools in the country. And they operate at premiere facilities. From the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort to the Golf Academy at Sea Pines Resort, local golfers and visitors alike can make real improvements in a well structured pleasant environment.

The golf schools and instructional facilities handle players of all levels, and they have one common goal -- to help you enjoy the game of golf more.

"If I had a theme of what I try to do, it's to make people players," said Doug Weaver, who heads the Palmetto Dunes Golf Academy. "The idea is not to have a perfect swing, but to allow them to be the athletic golfer they are, keep their personality and be the best player they can be."

Weaver, who played on the PGA Tour and in two U.S. Open tournaments, directs an extensive program based at Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort, which features three golf courses. His operation includes 11 golf instructors and a variety of options for players. The academy provides individual instruction as well as group clinics, and Weaver conducts a clinic every Monday afternoon on Palmetto Dunes' Robert Trent Jones Course.

Weaver was mentored by the late Harvie Ward, who also taught Payne Stewart and was most famously chronicled in the book The Match, which tells the story of a legendary match in which Ward and Ken Venturi faced Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson at Cypress Point. Weaver recalled how Ward, even in his 60s, could beat younger tour pros straight up in casual matches and that he never asked for strokes.

Weaver tries to pass along that wisdom in his teaching. They don't skip the fundamentals at Palmetto Dunes, but it doesn't get bogged down in mechanics.

"I want that guy who shoots 90 to shoot 80 without worrying about that perfect swing," Weaver said. "I want that guy who shoots 80 to say, 'Hey, I can be a better player without being so wrapped up in a perfect golf swing.'"

Golf instruction at Sea Pines Academy

The Golf Academy at Sea Pines Resort has some pretty impressive credentials as well. Skip Malek, the director of instruction, is one of the most respected teachers in the country and has taught at Oakmont in Pennsylvania, Coral Ridge Country Club in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Pine Needles Resort in North Carolina.

Malek and his staff conduct individual and group lessons with a maximum student-to-teacher ratio of 3 to 1. Like at Palmetto Dunes, custom fitting is part of the curriculum. Instructional programs also include rounds of golf, which can be played on the famous Pete Dye-designed Harbour Town Golf Links, home of the PGA Tour's Verizon Heritage.

Malek said it starts with creating a comfortable learning atmosphere. Lesson programs are tailored to each student.

"Everyone gets plenty of attention," Malek said. "We adapt to all levels of players. We can help anybody."

Malek is particularly proud of his school's putting instruction, which focuses on a big problem for most players -– aim. His school also has a successful system for putting distance control.

Other lesson programs in the Hilton Head Island area

Palmetto Dunes and Sea Pines are homes to two of the country's premier golf instruction schools, but they aren't the only options among the Hilton Head Island golf scene.

Most of the other resorts in the area also include instructional packages headed by well qualified instructors. For example, Roben Sutton, who has more 30 years experience and is a life member of the PGA of America, offers lesson programs at Hilton Head National Golf Club in Bluffton.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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