Golf, eats, beaches and beers: Best of Hilton Head not hard to find

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

HILTON HEAD, S.C. - It is 96 degrees in the shade even as the sun starts to dive behind the Low Country landscape of this bastion of summer golf. Back in the island's myriad of baby blue pools, thousands of tourists are sipping drinks and playing Marco Polo with their kids. The beaches are clogged with lily-white northerners and the tennis courts are teeming with weekend warriors working on their backhands.

But the golf course is empty, and somehow the solitude makes the bead of sweat dripping down your nose, the dozen mosquitoes buzzing around your ankles, and the painful sunburn on the back of your neck seem worth the price of admission. John Mellencamp might say that golfing in Hilton Head in July and August "hurts so good." Big Head Todd and the Monsters would chalk the experience up to being "Bittersweet."

Musical asides aside, summer is the time to take in some affordable golf in one of the East Coast's priciest golf destinations. $150 courses become $80 rounds in the morning and $60 in the afternoon. One hundred and fifty pound men in the morning become 80-pound men by the afternoon, but that is why God invented fried seafood and stout beer.

And fried seafood and beer is the name of the game at Captain Woody's Bar and Grill (843-785-2400), our choice for best neighborhood restaurant on the island. Actually, the grouper melt is the house specialty sandwich, but a fried seafood platter is available come supper time that includes shrimp, oysters, flounder, clam strips, scallops or crab cakes lightly fried and served with seasoned fries, cole slaw and hush puppies. The crowd is decidedly local, and most of them would like to keep it that way, so keep the Hilton Head shirts and hats in the suitcase.

Best place to grab a microbrew and chicken wings: The Hilton Head Brewing Company

Known as the "Brew Pub" to locals, the Hilton Head Brewing Company (843-785-BREW) was South Carolina's first brewery and restaurant post prohibition. It also happens to be home to the island's best wings and an assortment of pub fare that includes wood fired pizzas, burgers, and salads. Interesting twists include a weekend brunch that includes Brew Pub French Toast, omelets, and breakfast wraps; seasonal brews that will quench your thirst in the thick of summer or chill of winter; and a jukebox that is second to none for folk rock loving Gen-Xers.

Best place to spend $250 on a round of golf: Harbour Town Golf Links

Harbour Town Golf Links at Sea Pines Resort is the best - and only - golf track where you can drop an entire car payment on a round of golf. You know the story by now: modern Pete Dye design, home of the PGA's most popular Tour stop (the Heritage of Golf), and the faux lighthouse behind the 18th hole. What you may not know is that this hefty sum is not negotiable. Not in the summer. Not two hours before dark. Never. So it is up to you and your definition of disposable income as to whether or not this Dye dandy is $170 better than the Hills Course at Palmetto Hall. You certainly won't be disappointed with the overall design (strategic, crafty, fair, and borderline brilliant), but you may be a little miffed with the overall conditions (a few crispy greens and fairways).

Best place not to spend $250 on a round of golf: Eagle Pointe Golf Club

Eagle's Pointe Golf Club in Bluffton is priced to please the workingman, with rates dipping as low as $35 in the summer months after 3 p.m. With the sun setting around 9 p.m. and only mosquitoes and no-see-em's on the course, 18 holes in the late afternoon is more probable than possible. Love Enterprises and Associates, the design firm of PGA Tour player Davis Love III, cut the layout through inland pine trees and coastal bogs. Course conditions are well above average, there's a good mix of par 4's and a couple of memorable par 3's, and for the price, you actually walk away feeling like you pulled one over on them.

Best place to take the kids (of all ages) on a Tuesday night: Shelter Cove

Shelter Cove, located across from Palmetto Dunes, is already the family place to be any night of the week. But during the summer, a sneaky-awesome fireworks display erupts every Tuesday night above the harbor as live music bellows from the amphitheater and tourists stroll between restaurants and shops. It is also home to one of the island's best Mexican food joints, San Miguel's, where you can actually purchase a foot-long burrito stuffed full of seasoned ground beef and smothered with spicy chili. What's better than that?

Best place to hang out if you're under 35, single, without kids and scared to death of fireworks: Coligny Plaza

Coligny Plaza is the oldest shopping center in the island, but the folks that hang out there aren't - old that is. A pretty decent little nightlife has popped up, anchored by Steamer's Raw Bar, the Frosty Frog Café and Stu's Surfside. You can catch some type of live music almost any night of the week, but we recommend a cold long neck beer and a set from the Low Country Boil Bluegrass Band.

Best place to stay and play: Hilton Head Marriott Beach and Golf Resort

Snuggled right in the heart of Palmetto Dunes and its three outstanding resort courses, the Hilton Head Marriott Beach and Golf Resort is one of only two oceanfront hotels on the island. Marriott recently bought the place from Hyatt and wasted little time in spending $24 million worth of renovations on the property. The result is a top notch, full service hotel with two restaurants, an oceanside pool, suites, basic rooms, a fitness center, a gift shop and (most importantly) proximity to three upscale resort courses. Palmetto Dunes' Robert Trent Jones Course, Arthur Hills Course and George Fazio Course are on site at "PD," and the Marriott also has golf packages with neighboring Palmetto Hall and its two resort tracks.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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