Hilton Head golf on a budget? Affordable tee times are possible if you know where to go
BLUFFTON, S.C. - Reports of the demise of affordable golf in Hilton Head are not greatly exaggerated. Roll into town come mid-March and early April and you aren't likely to find anything under $100. This situation can be avoided, however, if you pick your spots carefully.
"You can get a good rate down here, but it depends on where you are staying, where you are playing and what time of day and year," says Hilton Head-based golf course architect Clyde Johnston. "It is like Myrtle Beach, every course has a different rate structure. On the island, an $80 green fee is pretty common even in the offseason."
During the spring season - roughly defined as the first of March through the first of May - rates can skyrocket above $150 and in the case of Harbour Golf Links, $250. But a bevy of off-island courses offer sub-$60 rates during the summer and winter shoulder seasons that make affordable golf a reality in this Lowcountry haven.
Golf courses in Bluffton
"There are some really reasonable places to play in Bluffton," says Dawn Payne, marketing director at Rose Hill Golf Club [Editor's note: Rose Hill Golf Club closed down in January 2006]. "Sometimes you have to do a little research and other times you'll see advertisements at the gates to the course. It is pretty competitive."
Ironically, Johnston says that the proliferation of upscale private courses along the Highway 278 corridor has led to lower rates at local daily fee and semiprivate venues.
"The private courses take some of the golf away, because they offer you the chance to come down and play their course if you are remotely interested in purchasing some real estate," he says. "It's hard to turn down a free round at Berkeley Hall or Belfair."
When the "real estate speculation" comes to an end, however, it is back to the public tracks for most locals and visitors. So where are the deals? A number of courses in Bluffton and the surrounding area feature p.m. rates that dip below $60. According to Payne, Rose Hill has been targeting local play with one of the lowest rates around.
"We have been doing a special where they can pay $45 in the morning and get a cart, range balls, and lunch," she says. "That goes to $35 in the afternoon and then we have a twilight rate after 2 p.m. of $22."
And golfers who haven't played at Rose Hill lately will be pleasantly surprised with what they find. The West Nine on the 27-hole Gene Hamm designed course was upgraded last year with Champion Bermuda greens, a new irrigation system, and a series of bunker improvements. The East Nine is slated for renovation beginning in May and the South Nine will go under the knife next year.
"We know that some people have an opinion of this course based on the way it used to be," Payne says. "But we are a totally different experience now and this rate is designed to get golfers in to check us out."
The price is right at Island West Golf Club
Another affordable local course on the rebound is the Island West Golf Club, designed by Johnston and gregarious Champions Tour member Fuzzy Zoeller. The 18-hole track in Bluffton offers a morning rate of $59 and an afternoon rate of $39. Since opening in 1991, Island West has battled some conditioning issues. But Johnston says that the course's tee boxes, fairways and greens are usually in good shape.
"People seem to really like the course and the price is right in this economy," Johnston says.
One course that has raised the bar on affordable golf around Hilton Head is Eagle's Pointe Golf Club in Bluffton. The Davis Love III design is playable, well-crafted, and typically in excellent condition. It is also immensely popular.
"I think this is an awesome course for the daily fee golfer," says Eagle's Pointe first assistant Chris Thompson. "It is more player friendly than anything you'll find on the island, the greens are huge, and the price is right."
Afternoon tee times at Old South, Old Carolina and Crescent Pointe
For golfers wishing to step it up a notch, Old South Golf Links, Old Carolina Golf Club, and Crescent Pointe Golf Club offer afternoon rates in the $60 range. Old South and Old Carolina are Johnston designs and Crescent Pointe is from Arnold Palmer's design firm.
"On a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most expensive, I would say that Hilton Head is somewhere around a five this time of year," Johnston says. "Reasonable rates are not a lost cause here."
February 19, 2003